Science of The Strain
While the strigoi aversion to sunlight, silver and running water are an existential bane imposed upon them through their accursed origins, some of those effects (among others) nevertheless mimic processes observed in nature and are partly amenable to scientific explanation. However, the equivalent reactions found in nature are supernaturally exaggerated when applied to strigoi, in accordance with their otherworldly and accursed natures. The dramatic outcomes exhibited by the vampire would require extraordinary levels of energy under normal or natural circumstances.
- 1 Viral Agency
- 1.1 Experimental:
- 2 The Sun
- 3 Silver
- 3.1 Collodial Silver
- 4 Undead Condition
- 5 The Hive Mind
- 6 Trivia
Viral Agency [ edit | edit source ]
Infiltration of the vampiric virus upon a cell
Both the book and televised series only allude to, but do not describe, the viral agency. That is, the nature of the viral disease or infection behind any transformation of vampire hosts. While typical viruses are relatively simple in that they possess specific functionality, the strigoi virus exhibits unusual complexity for a retrovirus, which is a virus that can integrate its DNA and transform the host rather than merely hijack the cellular machinery to replicate innumerable copies of itself.
This multi-functional ability suggests it belongs to the class of giant viruses , that is, it contains a significantly larger genetic code base than typical viruses. Such capacity for functional complexity affords a broad scope for rewriting disparate regions of a host’s genetic makeup, resulting in systemic transformation of the organism.
The retroviral transformation may be achieved by the infusion of “the white” from the vampire throughout the host body. This fluid would act as a methylating agent, which weakens the rigid adherence to genetic instructions involved in cell function, inducing pluripotence in cells, that is the ability to transform into special types of cells. These resulting stem cells enable the reprogramming of its underlying cellular machinery. Although the process of runaway or unregulated methylation often leads to formation of cancers, the intervention of overriding instructions can redirect the expression of genetic material for the creation of new organs. For instance, the stinger is a new organ created by the strigoi virus. It is a six foot long tentacle-like appendage, that shoots out of the strigoi’s mouth and is for feeding.
In this manner, the strigoi virus would use its own genetic instructions to repurpose functions in the host towards vampiric ends. It is possible that the worms contain additional payloads of raw genetic material to augment the instuctions carried by a strigoi virus. Immortality can be practically derived from the indefinite regeneration of cellular structures through continual presence of “the white” and virus operating in vampires.
Experimental: [ edit | edit source ]
Through the wonders of genetic engineering, it is possible to mate select micro-organism to produce off-spring with desirable characteristics, which is known as artificial selection (as opposed to natural selection, where off-spring are created without the interference of man). In this case, it was bred with the following traits : 1) Minimal deleterious effects to Humans 2) Fatal to Strigoi yet transmissible to the rest of its cohort population. This process was used to produce a bio-weapon which is neurotoxic. That is, it was created to feed on cerebrospinal fluid, which prevents cells from communicating with each other, as well as other strigoi.
[Any “scientific” logic given on the show will have to be interpreted and incorporated.]
The Sun [ edit | edit source ]
In ‘The Strain’ saga, the sun is a symbol of the Face of God and an anathema to vampires, shown as a highly energetic thermal excitation of the vampire molecular structure due to sun exposure (literally burst into flames). Sunlight radiates energy at a wide range of frequencies, including ultraviolet (UV) rays that damage genetic material, or DNA, to inhibit cellular reproduction necessary for the propagation of pathogens.
While strong UV rays from the sun scarcely makes it through the atmosphere, it can be artificially generated by specialized lamps. Ultraviolet, in the higher frequency range such as Ultraviolet C rays (or UV-C for short) is especially favored as a means for combating vampires. Strong UV rays, which disrupts bonds at the molecular level, is naturally effective against microbes and would have comparable effects on vampire pathogens.
As depicted in ‘The Night Eternal’, the wrath of the Face of God was also expressed in the destruction of the ancient cities of Sadum and Amurah (also known as Sodom and Gomorrah):
“God’s face was revealed and His light burned [the cities] in a flash.” (from ‘The Night Eternal’)
Nuclear power, compared to other energy generation methods, comes closest to the output of the Sun. Nuclear fission, the means by which we derive nuclear power, is the process of breaking apart atoms to release large amounts of energy, which is sufficient for annihilating vampiric sites of origin, thereby eradicating their strains. This disintegration at an atomic level would thoroughly scour traces of the vampiric essence or matrix imprinted into the sites.
Silver [ edit | edit source ]
Silver releases free molecules or ions of the element when in contact with water and organic fluids to become biologically active and interact with amino-based products. It is absorbed and metabolized by the humans, binding with metal-attracting proteins that transport zinc, and excreted through the liver and kidneys with little side-effect unless an allergy to silver exists. Silver acts as an absorbent for, that is it captures, sulfur as mentioned in the Season 1 episode “For Services Rendered”:
“Silver is known to interfere with sulfur bonds in bacteria.” – Nora Martinez
While silver poses low toxicity and risk to humans, certain bacteria and possibly fungi may be genetically susceptible to silver interfering with their enzyme production. A similar biological reaction to silver may be supernaturally present in strigoi. Regardless of the debated status on the medical effectiveness of silver, the retention of silver in the body associated with chronic intake of colloidal silver would prove disagreeable to vampires.
Collodial Silver [ edit | edit source ]
Prophylactic against Strigoi Worm Infestation: The following passage speculates on the usage of Colloidal silver in order to acquire immunity to the Strigoi Worm, the symbiote organism that can infect individuals that comes in contact a Strigoi vampire. The worms can tunnel directly into the skin, leaving the victim helpless to stop it. The question here is how effective would a dose of colloidal silver be against such an attack.
Tolerance and Optimum Dose : Colloidal silver (silver suspended in liquid medium) has been marketed and used for many years as antiseptic agent and is apparently well tolerated. Continued and excessive use however leads to a condition known as ‘blue man syndrome’, where the user’s skin will eventually turn grayish blue. Since colloidal silver absorption appears to be cumulative, research is necessary to determine the optimum dose required to repel the worms, hopefully without having to take on the complexion of a smurf.
Undead Condition [ edit | edit source ]
The vampire host body plausibly would not survive the virulent biological change due to rigor and trauma involved in the radical and rapid transformation. Essentially, the host dies to be reanimated as a strigoi. The notion of vampires having to create life by taking life (instead of procreating) or reading the host ‘s memories like a book is consistent with the vampires as automatons or philosophical zombies, which are hypothetical beings containing no consciousness but are otherwise indistinguishable from sentient beings.
Although physiologically complete and functional, the entity that emerges from such a process of zombification would require external direction or motivation. Such forces actuating the body can be construed to arise on two orders: at the level of the worms and at the level of the Ancients.
To puppeteer this undead state, neurochemicals would have to be released by the worms to regulate a variety of pathways in the host, from metabolic to motor, like an eminently more subtle and fine-tuned version of frog limbs being galvanized in a laboratory. Various behavioral overrides can be observed in the natural world with a diverse array of behavior-altering parasites.
The worms appear to be linked to the Ancients as a throng or army of miniature transceivers (which transmit/receive signals) channeling their wills. When either an Ancient or its infesting worms die, control over the hosts ceases and the vampires becomes inert bodies, effectively “dying” again.
The Hive Mind [ edit | edit source ]
As automatons, vampires would be equipped with means for being remotely controlled by the Ancient, either through a specialized organ or through the worms themselves, directed by exchanges of a typically pheromonal or bioelectric nature.
The high levels of fidelity required for information governing the complex, real-time behavior in vampires rule out the slow rate of pheromonal transfer as a means of response (In other words, how do these creatures talk to each other). Accordingly, use of the electromagentic field is to be expected. With the case of electromagnetic communication, developing equipment to fix on the source of transmission is relatively simple, thereby tracking and intercepting a controlling Ancient.
A point of criticism arising with the controlling of vampire hosts through conventional propagation of signals is that, when an Ancient is destroyed, all of its strain instantaneously disintegrates and not merely deactivated. This obliteration is not consistent with stoppage or breaks in electromagnetic transmissions or even pheromonal emissions, unless the vampire hosts possess a self-destruct mechanism in their biological makeup. It ought to be critically noted that the televised series has depicted dead strigoi exposed to daylight without evidence of disintegration, particularly when Justine Feraldo displayed the suspect remains during a live press conference.
Lastly, entering the realm of metaphysics and stretching the limits of information theory (comprehension and transmission thereof) or philosophy of mind (capabilities) consideration of the angelic origins of strigoi suggests an alternative notion, where vampires are imbued with an overarching directive or sentience. Given that angels are pure mind or spirit, these intelligences constitute some information field shared among the Ancients and their strains (imagine something resembling the fictional “intrinsic field” in Alan Moore’s ‘Watchmen’.) Once the information source or matrix is destroyed at a site of origin, the essence of all vampires bound to that strain deconstructs, resulting in their physical disintegration.
While the strigoi aversion to sunlight, silver and running water are an existential bane imposed upon them through their accursed origins, some of those effects (among others) nevertheless mimic processes observed in nature and are partly amenable to scientific explanation. However, the…
‘The Strain’ Died As It Lived; Paying Way Too Much Damn Attention to Zach
Let’s talk about the highs and lows of the frustrating but satisfying final season.
Be aware there are spoilers for The Strain, through the series finale episode ‘The Last Stand’.
R.I.P. The Strain. The wild, four-year ride through the Nazi-tinged vampire apocalypse came to a close with the finale, ‘The Last Stand’, an episode that showed off some of the best and worst qualities of the uneven series. It’s hard to imagine that anyone would argue against the statement that The Strain‘s fourth and final season has been its best. Based on the series of novels by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan, and shepherded to screen by showrunner Carlton Cuse, the FX series had a well-earned reputation as a slow-burn horror yarn. Pulpy with purple writing and sticky with first-rate prosthetic gore, The Strain was like a B-movie in weekly installments; a Technicolor-tinged apocalyptic soap opera that often frustrated as much as it delighted with a series of inconsequential arcs that always seemed to leave our heroes right back where they started.
But Season 4 remedied a stunning amount of ills. Riding off the game-changing consequences of the Season 3 finale, which saw the resident little shit, Zach, unleash an atomic bomb in New York City, the fourth season was propelled by a time jump, advancing its characters and narrative beyond the cyclical squabbles and dalliances that dominated the second and third season. The Strain finally changed the game for real, and unleashed the vampire apocalypse series fans waited to see since that infected, ill-fated plane first touched down all those episodes ago in the Season 1 premiere.
The payoff was abundant. The humanist allegory that was long present in the Holocaust flashbacks and Nazi parallelism moved to the forefront as our heroes wore identifying armbands, guarded by machine-gun toting Strigoi in the streets, or worse, were shipped off to experimentation camps while the Strigoi put their death farms into practice. At last, the show’s thesis felt full and present.
The Strain was not only infused with new energy and urgency, characters were allowed to shake loose from the shackles that kept them roaming in tiresome narrative circles from the beginning. Eph finally saw through his delusions of grandeur and righteousness, learned humility and what it meant to be the hero rather than just grandstanding as one. Fet left behind the emotional drama of his prickly emotional relationships with Dutch and Setrakian and teamed up with Quinlan to become the unleashed, Strigoi-hunting badass we always wanted to see. Dutch was freed of the reductive, regressive bisexual tropes and allowed to become the hero of her own story free of romantic entanglements. With Jonathan Hyde in the role, the Master was the most charismatic and frightening he’s ever been. And Setrakian’s long war with Eichhorst ended in spectacular fashion with a heartbreaking but gratifying final showdown that took them both out. When the team finally reunited, they felt like whole characters again. It was satisfying and it teed up an exciting final battle.
That, of course, is what makes it so frustrating that the series ultimately biffed the landing in ‘The Last Stand’ when it hands the biggest moment of heroism to its most hated, despicable character; the little murderous mophead and eternal pain in the ass, Zach. Let’s back up a moment. After being chased out of their hideaway (by Zach’s treachery), Eph and the gang concoct a last-ditch effort to bring down The Master for good and save New York at the same time. Quinlan, counting on his father’s need to defeat him in combat, planned to trap the Master underground, where Fet would be waiting, ready to lay down his life, and trigger the nuclear bomb that would save the day. “Before I detonate the warhead, I’ll probably say something clever and cool like Bruce Willis would say,” he quips when Dutch and Eph try to dissuade him from the suicide mission.
No such persuasion was necessary, however. In the chaos of battle, Zach ends up underground and in the blast range, and Eph takes Fet’s place at the last minute, plummeting down the elevator shaft for one last standoff against the Master and Zach. After a very superhero-esque battle between Quinlan and the Master, Quinlan is defeated, but not before he rips a giant wormy mass out of the Master’s throat, gloating “I’ve won.” The Master stomps the hero’s head in as a response, but it’s good death for a fan-favorite. Now, it’s all on Eph to trigger the bomb, but Zach hears him make his move and fires a warning shot before steadying his gun on his father. The Master tells Zach to finish the job, but he can’t pull the trigger. “He’s still my father,” he says in his first moment of unearned redemption, firing on the Master instead.
The Master moves to attack Zach, and Eph’s paternal instincts take over, charging on the Master to save his son (even though he knows he has to blow them all up — don’t ask.) That ends with Eph getting the ol’ mouth-full of worms from the Master, who transfers his consciousness once again, this time into the body of our weary anti-hero. Before the transfer is complete, as the worms work their way through him, Eph awakes and shares a bonding moment with his son. “We won, Zach,” Eph says. “Because of you.” Not really, but OK. “I wish I could spare you this,” he says as he arms the bomb, but before he can trigger it, the transition completes. The Master controls Eph now, gloating that he and Zach can finally rule together now. “Dad, are you still in there?” asks Zach, hugging the monster that was once his father. “Because if you are, I love you.” He presses the button, launching the bomb and saving the day.
I’m sorry, but what the shit? Look, I get it. I get the narrative symmetry. The boy who nuked New York out of rage at his father now saves humanity out of love for his father. On paper, it’s nice. There’s poetry in his redemption. In practice, however, it doesn’t work because it feels wholly unearned. The Strain has spent the last four years charting a path for Zach to villainy. He started as the woeful winy apocalypse kid, everybody’s least favorite character in the genre, but at a certain point, his path became distinctly darker. Tiresome and petulant, foolishly devoted to his mother even after she becomes a monster, even after he sees her kill, Zach was just consummately hateable and the writers found new ways to make him more evil and unlikeable with impressive regularity. Rarely has an audience been so united in their hatred for a character as The Strain viewers were in their unrelenting rage toward Zach. He went from an unlikable kid to a true monster, letting his mommy issues transform him into the worst kind of strigoi collaborator, and ultimately, um, committing a war crime. At a certain point, I stopped being annoyed at the character and started being impressed by what a contemptible antagonist the series had created.
That said, there is no path so dark, no deed so dastardly that a fictional character can’t be redeemed from it. That is the magic of storytelling. A well-crafted fiction can wring sympathy for even the most despicable of characters, but in order for a redemptive arc to work, the journey has to be treated with as much integrity and honesty as their path to corruption. Zach’s redemption was not. I feared the story might veer this way when the penultimate episode honed in on Eph and Zach’s troubled relationship, but when Zach betrayed his father again, Eph was finally ready to let go and Zach was again affirmed as an ultimate traitor of humanity. Except for one line. “I’m trying to save your life!” Zach cried as his father locked him up and walked away, telling his son to live with his choices.
If he had time to live with his choices it might have worked. That encounter planted the seeds for a change of heart, compounded by Zach’s newfound horror when the Master started executing every human in New York, but Zach probably killed just as many innocents in his nuclear tantrum so the horror rang false, and those seeds needed at least a few episodes if not a full season to germinate. With only one episode to cement that change of heart, the transformation rings false and to be perfectly honest, watching Zach become the savior of the human race felt a bit like reaching the punchline of a four-year trolling. It’s a bit like if J.K. Rowling reached the end of the Harry Potter saga and decided last minute that Draco Malfoy should defeat Voldemort, or if Joffrey survived all of Game of Thrones and suddenly decided to stop murdering prostitutes and take down the Night King. It just didn’t work.
The good news is that if Zach’s redemption felt like a cheat, The Strain‘s series finale ultimately got a lot right around that misstep. Above all, in an age where TV loves a good ambiguous ending, The Strain offered real closure. Months later, we catch up with our surviving heroes and Fet tells us in voiceover that the world is recovering. Without the Master, the Strigoi were easily defeated. Roman took all that gold after all and helped rebuild the city. Gus spends his days helping refugees return home, hoping to find the girl he loved and helped escape. Dutch puts her big brain to use bringing the internet back online, and Fet becomes a police officer, roaming the streets with a cheeky grin. “When the rats returned, I knew the city was going to be okay,” in a delightfully on-brand bit of closure for the character. As he walks through the city, he runs into Dutch and the two hug, smiling walking off into the distance as Fet reminds us that love saved the world. It’s a bit saccharine, but it feels earnest, and it’s a fine way to leave our heroes behind; literally walking into the sunset.
Looking at the macro picture, The Strain final season was a definitive high note. There are other grievances to be found — the Occido Lumen, for example, could have been clipped from the series and made almost no difference. But after two seasons of sloppy footing, the show finally found the propulsive, largely coherent narrative it needed and made the right strokes to wrap up its characters with integrity. Except, of course, for Zach. But on the other hand, isn’t it just like Zach to ruin everything at the last possible moment?
What did you think of The Strain‘s finale? Was the fourth season a proper send-off for the vampire apocalypse? Sound off in the comments with your thoughts.
The good, the bad, and the ugly of The Strain’s finale and how the series’ best season yet dropped the ball by putting its worst character first.