Hello all ye TV fans out there! This is The Divine One with coverage from the 2014 ATX Festival down in sunny-and-hot Austin, Texas. On the closing night of the festival, I had the privilege of attending a panel for a trio of FX shows, with one bombshell in particular: The Strain. Better yet, FX’s latest pilot comes from the mind of supernatural bad-ass goblin and demon-creator, Guillermo del Toro. If you’re afraid of the dark, you ought to just go back to watching reruns of The Bachelorette. Sorry, dogs.
Season 1 Premiere
Our story begins with Dr. Ephraim “Eph” Goodweather (House of Cards’ Corey Stoll), who works for the CDC and is dealing with a big mess of court-appointed family counseling. His now ex-wife claims his work is more important than their son, because, oh, you know, curing a disease and trying to save the human race isn’t all that big a deal.
After a plane decides to go all “Decepticon” — with the likes of 206 dead, and only a Lost-handful of survivors — Goodweather is joined by fellow CDC agents Dr. Nora Martinez (Alias’ Mia Maestro) and Jim Kent (LOTR’s Sean “Mr. Froto” Astin). Together, they discover an enormous, ancient wooden box carved with intricate designs and filled with soil in the aircraft’s cargo.
Yeah. Welcome to Pandora. And who wants the box? No one but a gang of suit-wearing creepers who keep their penthouse headquarters at near, freezing temperatures.
We’re making Fox Mulder proud over here.
Based on a trilogy of books written by del Toro and Chuck Hogan, The Strain brings the dark and strange to the small screen in abundance. Without the likes of any unnecessary spoilers, if you call yourself a fan of del Toro there’s every reason to watch this show. The writer/director’s signature tension and surprise from the unknown is here. Throw in his traditional blood and gore, and those with a light stomach will surely be…(get the drums ready)…strained to their couch.
When it comes to characters, Eph is an arrogant and cocky SOB– yet driven and smart– so I can actually see many audiences gravitating towards this Tony Starkesque mixture. Still, I’m more intrigued by the role of antiques dealer Abraham Setrakian (Harry Potter/GoT’s David Bradley). He’s that old wise man that tries to warn everyone of the forthcoming ANCIENT EVIL! There’s a rich mythology at the root of The Strain (akin to, say, Sleepy Hollow) that will most likely drive the story from week-to-week to keep the viewers tuning in.
I was literally on the edge of my seat when this was previewed at the festival, hoping for more each time the show “faded to commercial” until the credits finally appeared. And although there are more questions at this point of the game than answers, I’m damn excited to see how they all splat out.
The Strain premieres on FX Sunday, July 13.
Season II Premiere
Last summer FX delivered The Bridge, a tasty political drama based on the Danish/Swedish TV show of the same name (or Broen/Bron). This follow-up season to one of The Divine One’s favorite shows of last year — and that’s certainly saying something — seeks to aim towards the more progressive wayside of the shared U.S.-Mexican borders. Believe it or not, it’s a world, this side of the WWE manager Zeb Colter and his “We the People” movement of course, that hasn’t been explored as much as you’d think. With the first season based on the European version, former Cold Case collaborators Meredith Stiehm and Elwood Reid have branched out in this second season with their own set of stories.
With the serial killer threat in the winds a month-and-a-half later, Marco Ruiz (Demian Bichir) is still dealing with this devastation that said cereal-killa has brought to his life. C’mon man! We want our badass cop back in the game! He and now former partner and El Paso police officer, Sonya Cross (Diane Kruger), are still not working together as she continues to focus on the incarcerated felon that murdered her sister. Meanwhile, in the oddest journalistic pairing ever, reporter Daniel Frye (Matthew Lillard) and Adriana Mendez (Emily Rios) are fully trying to uncover clues from The House of (Drug) Lord money found last season.
As much as I enjoy how all of the characters revolve around one particular story, I love even more that The Bridge isn’t attempting to duplicate the same idea. Kruger and Bichir both appear to lose the ability to function in the real world without their jobs to distract them. Better yet, the addition of the coolly venomous Eleanor Nacht (Franka Potente from The Bourne Identity/Conspriracy) — whose role I will not give away — is a vicious enigma…
To summarize the Season 2 premiere, The Bridge progresses like time has barely passed, and that’s with flipping the formula right upon side its head. If you miss this treat, you should be slapped right upon the side of your head too.
The Bridge returns to FX on Wednesday, July 9.
Season 1 Premiere
After spending some time south of the border, FX now takes us to the Middle East for their newest series.
The drama centers on Bassam “Barry” Al-Fayeed (Adam Rayner), who lives in America with his wife, Molly (Jennifer Finnigan), and their children, Emma and Sammy (Anne Winters and Noah Silver), but has come back to Homeland for the first time in 20-years — due to a haunted past as the son of dictator Khaled Al-Fayeed (Nasser Faris). Cue up the Persian remix of “The Godfather” theme.
Through many brief flashbacks we get a glimpse of the brutal examples Barry witnessed as a child of his father’s rule. So why did this guy come back?! I guess this guy really wants to get away from the Kardashian’s…
While Tyrant introduces many subplots, such as one powder keg of excitement focused on Barry’s brother Jamal (Ashraf Barhom), the entire show is based on Barry coming back and I’m so not convinced as to why he does. He clearly has no interest in connecting with his family and can’t wait to leave, yet…he’s there. And as great of an actress as Finnigan is, her constant needling of him to explain his love and reason for distance makes me wonder how they ever got married in the first place.
Isn’t it obvious that she could’ve just Googled his father and found out how he’s a pretty horrible man? And since we are set in the Middle East, how is it that everyone speaks English? In all, this makes the scenes especially without the family feel inauthentic. How do they get it right with The Bridge with the Spanish language, but here it doesn’t matter?
Tyrant airs every Tuesday night at 10pm on FX.