“The Strain” definitely has potential to become FX’s “The Walking Dead,” but the premiere was a bit shaky. Some of the characters are cliché, some of the acting is flat, and you could argue that the series is basically “Dracula” with worms. But at least Guillermo del Toro’s monsters are gruesome, ghoulish, and quickly growing in number.
Because of the premiere’s weaknesses, the bloodthirsty undead aren’t the only characters who steal the show; some of its inanimate stars also get a chance to shine. The show’s best props serve as comedic relief, creep viewers out, and provide us with important details about the characters wielding these props. Here are our five favorite.
1. The Goth Rocker’s Wig
One of the few survivors of “Parasitic Worms on a Plane” is an arrogant, long-haired musician with guyliner and black lipstick. Gabriel Bolivar (Jack Kesy) probably has a cult of anarchist fans who would gladly let him infect them with his wiggly parasites. But there’s a plot twist: He’s just a poser wearing a wig. Bolivar has to take off his Halloween costume hairpiece when he gets quarantined by the CDC. The goth rock Rapunzel is committed enough to his dark, devil-worshipping character to cut himself “for the fans,” but he’s too lazy to grow his hair out. Bolivar is just a son of a Baptist minister who’s in it for the chicks, so why bother? Without his wig, the pale rocker’s slicked-back hair and dark makeup make him look rather Dracula-like.
Bolivar’s bad wig might be a nod to another wig on the show. Bald and beautiful actor Corey Stoll rocks a lush rug with a widow’s peak to play CDC worker Dr. Ephraim Goodweather. Unsurprisingly, the wig isn’t getting much love, and FX even gets accused of “baldism” in a Screencrush.com hate piece about the hairpiece titled “Let’s Talk About Corey Stoll’s Terrible Hairpiece in ‘The Strain.’”
2. Abraham’s Cane
It quickly becomes obvious that Holocaust-surviving, thug-fighting Abraham Setrakian (David Bradley) is a badass, but his cane-sword puts an explanation point on this character trait. I’m guessing the weapon is made of silver because Abraham has seemingly opened up a pawn shop just to collect the shiny stuff. The precious metal might be one of the few things capable of taking down Del Toro’s vampires. The monsters have been modernized, but some of the old mythology is still relevant.
Abraham’s sword has a snake-like (worm-like?) handle with a wolf’s head on the end that symbolizes his role as a hunter. Unfortunately, when the grizzled vampire slayer tells the CDC crew that he knows what killed all the people on the plane, the presence of his sword just makes him look like a crazy old coot.
3. Abraham’s Organ
Well, the Van Helsing of “The Strain” is just a tad crazy – it’s definitely not normal to treat a heart-like organ full of worms like a pet goldfish. We learn Abraham has encountered “the strain” before when he feeds his own blood to the tiny inhabitants of the body part in a jar, which he keeps in a secret room in his pawn shop. But why does he talk to the organ and call it “dear?” Did it belong to someone he lost to the plague? If it did, he’s obviously the show’s Michonne with his weird pets and cool sword.
We encounter a similar worm-infested organ later on when it pulsates along to the beat of the song “Sweet Caroline.” This is why you should never perform autopsies while listening to cheesy music – you won’t be able to hear the undead creep up on you.
4. The Coffin/Cabinet
The imposing coffin that carries the master vampire tells us a lot about the evil lurking inside it. It’s nine feet tall, ancient-looking, and covered with carvings of creepy skeleton creatures. From this we can deduce this is a massive, ancient monster whose presence signifies the coming of death and destruction. However, the monster isn’t the most sinister thing inside the coffin – those masses of wriggling parasites are capable of causing a lot more chaos than one giant creature.
The coffin also sets up a reverse-gender Mulder and Scully situation with Eph and Dr. Nora Martinez (Mia Maestro). Eph thinks the cabinet with a latch on the inside is just a fancy cabinet full of dirt (hasn’t he heard of Dracula?), but it’s obvious Nora is going full Fox Mulder when she encounters Abraham. Judging from the show’s preview of future episodes, Eph isn’t going to be a skeptic for long.
The coffin becomes part of a pretty cool magic trick when its inhabitant makes it disappear right in front of a security camera. Speaking of its inhabitant, it’s a squid-like, blood-slurping monster that disguises itself as a pile of dirty rags. And it scuttles away like Dr. Zoidberg from “Futurama” after treating its victim like a human juice box.
5. The Red Ball
“The Strain” doesn’t spare children and it’s always extra-disturbing to see a little kid doomed to become a creature of the night for all eternity. Somehow little Emma makes her way home after being infected and escaping the area where the bodies are quarantined, and she still clutches the blood-red ball she had on the plane while getting a hug from her elated Papa. The toy in her hand makes her seem like the same scared little girl, but its red color is striking against her blue skin. Unfortunately, her happy reunion with her father is probably going to be short-lived.
Are you going to stick with “The Strain,” or do you think the premiere was as weak as its wigs?
Photo: Gage Skidmore
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