The title of this article incorrectly calls the first episode The Box and in actuality the title was Night Zero. The Guardian Liberty Voice Entertainment section apologize for any confusion this may have caused.
The FX summer horror offering of The Strain, first episode titled The Box, is a gripping Guillermo del Toro adaptation of the trilogy’s first book. The show seems to do a good job of following its source material and as a special treat to the horror-fan, Andrew Divoff (Wishmaster 1997) plays an uncredited cameo as an Air Traffic Control supervisor in the pilot episode.
Events have been changed around, mainly in order to get rid of awkward, and pace destroying, backstories. Although one disappointing “change” is the shift of emphasis from Eph’s devotion to his son Zack, to his not wanting a divorce from wife Kelly.
In the books, the two are already divorced. To be fair to the adaptation, Matt, who is married to Kelly in the book, is introduced as well and apparently he is just as much of a prig in the series as in his literary form.
As in the first chapter of the book, the plane lands at the airport and it is declared a “dead” aircraft. Dr. Goodweather is attending a meeting with a counselor about his marriage with Kelly and he is called out, mid-meeting to attend the silent jet.
He arrives to find that other federal agencies are claiming jurisdiction. After a brief “showdown” the CDC gets priority and Eph, with his assistant Nora, get to enter the plane. Again, the show’s makers have opted to speed things up here and both the CDC officials enter with “black light” on their first journey. This shows disturbing amounts of something glowingly deposited on the inside of the plane.
The FX adaptation of The Strain, episode one: The Box is, so far, pure Guillermo. The atmosphere inside the jet is gripping as the audience follows Eph and Nora in their search. When survivors are found, the urge to jump is undeniable.
The continuing rearrangement of scenes in the television version does nothing to detract from the information needed by the viewer to follow what is happening in the plot. The Master is even introduced, at least the huge, floating and very fast-moving thing with the extendable fang looks as though it is meant to be the “big bad” from the book.
Before the box of the episode’s title is retrieved from its hiding place, the audience get to meet Gus, the criminal who runs errands for the “vampires” and Jim, Eph’s other assistant meets Abraham Setrakian.
Thus far, all the actors, including the non-credited Andrew Divoff, are giving their character’s the right amount of realism required for this incredible tale. Even the peripheral character’s feel real in the responses to the events.
Sean Astin, as Jim Kent, seems a little wasted but David Bradley seems set to take over as the “new Jim Hurt” with his depiction of the new world Dr. Van Helsing, Setrakian. Corey Stoll is a believable Dr. Goodweather and Mía Maestro seems to fit perfectly as Dr. Nora Martinez. Another actor worthy of praise is Miguel Gomez with his role of the small time hood, Gus.
Jonathan Hyde (who has made a career out of playing unpleasant characters in films) plays the uber-rich Eldritch Palmer who is a partner with the new parasitic denizens of New York. Again, as in other instances there are some small changes from the book, but overall, these work well for the show and its continuity.
There is another introduction to the series that is not in the book and that is the “go=between” who is smoothing the way for The Master to take over New York. This character is not in the book and feels like a “Stephen King-ish” sort of mechanization tacked on for the TV show. Again, this does not detract from the storyline enough to matter.
At the end of the pilot episode of The Strain: The Box, the Guillermo del Toro directed segment was gripping and it introduced all the main players and got rid of a few peripheral ones and set up just who is on what side. The show is just as entertaining as the book and will no doubt become a summer favorite. The Strain airs on Sunday’s courtesy of the FX network.
By Michael Smith