Quick Reviews of “Extant” and “The Strain”

I was trying to figure out what to write about this week. I needed a break from fan-casting, so I decided to review another TV series… or two. I say “another”, but technically the only other series I’ve reviewed here up ’til now is “Star Trek Continues”, and that doesn’t air on TV (regular or cable). I will be reviewing the upcoming “Gotham” and “The Flash” series in separate posts in the next few weeks. But, for “Extant” and “The Strain”, I think I’ll keep my comments relatively brief, so I can cover both in one. I suppose I could have waited until both series were completed, but a) I’m a few weeks behind in viewing them and b) I have other things planned through the end of the year. It just made more sense to squeeze these reviews in now. So,…

Extant promo posterOn the night I publish this, “Extant” will air its 12th and penultimate episode, but I will have only watched through episode 8. I am enjoying the show but still wondering how it all fits together. Some threads are coming together, but others aren’t quite there. (For example, I’m wondering if Ethan will “go bad” or if the “offspring” will make some connection with “him”. And, what’s with this Odin guy and his little group? What is Femi Dodd’s agenda?) I guess that’s a good thing, that they keep us guessing and (hopefully) coming back for more. Gradual revelations and plot twists-n-turns will do that.

Halle Berry is pretty good in the lead role, and even when she isn’t doing anything particularly dramatic, she’s certainly easy on the eyes! (Sorry if that sounds mildly sexist, but you know the ladies enjoy watching a handsome, hunky guy like Goran Visnjic, too.) I’m still not sure about pairing Berry with Visnjic, though. I don’t have a problem with interracial couples. But, these two characters just don’t feel like a happily married couple. (Of course, her having been away for 13 months, plus the current events in their lives, would understandably have put a lot of unusual stress on their relationship.) Young Pierce Gagnon as “Ethan” is adorable — and potentially scary. Hiroyuki Sanada is good as Yasumoto, though the role is disturbingly similar to the one he just played in “Helix”. The rest of the casting is fine, too.

The tech seems pretty cool. Beyond the voice-controlled home security systems and self-driving cars, I mean, which are beginning to become available now in real-life. The prosthetics, robotics, and especially the A.I. is obviously waaaay beyond anything we’ll have anytime soon. Also, given how often they send up manned space missions, I’m guessing they’ve made several advances in that area, too. Btw, anybody catch how far in the future this is supposed to take place? I don’t remember hearing or seeing a year mentioned, but I’m guessing it has to be 40-50 years or more from now.

“The Strain” is a bit different. While I have only watched the first 5 episodes, so far, I already know how it’s going to turn out. Well,… sort of. I discovered and read the first book (that the show is based on) several months ago, so it’s fairly fresh in my mind. (Hazy on a few details, of course.) This is both a blessing and a curse. I enjoyed the novel by Del Toro and Hogan and was pleased to find out it was being adapted for television. However, as I feared, they have made so many changes — some understandable, some less so — that it is rather frustrating to watch.

The Strain promo posterOverall, the casting is fine. No major complaints there, though I would have preferred Jesse Rath as Gabriel Bolivar, and it’s too bad that John Hurt had to be replaced as Abraham Setrakian. Character-wise, I’m darn sure I remember Ephraim’s boss at the CDC being much older and not such a jerk in the novel. I also think the characters of Vasiliy Fet and Gus have been written to be much more, er, aggressive than they were originally. Why?

What bugs me most is the different pacing that the writers/producers took for TV. Several things have occurred or been revealed much sooner than they were in the book — for example, the medical examiner’s discoveries of new organs in the victims’ bodies (and what happened to him), Ephraim & Nora’s discoveries of the worms, the confrontation with Capt. Redfern (which originally only involved Ephraim, I think), the first view of The Master, the “reveal” of Jim’s involvement, etc. Speaking of The Master, that “appendage” of his is HUGE! In fact, all of the victims that have “turned” have them. In the book, the new organ grows in the throat but the thing that shoots out of the mouth is much smaller.

On the whole, I’m still enjoying the show, and I’ll watch it to the end, which I presume will take us through the end of the first novel. But, it just annoys me when so much has(?) to change when adapting a novel to the small- or large-screen. I know, I know. Some of it really is necessary to keep the different elements of the story moving for the TV audience. That’s why I’m “tolerating” it and not complaining (too much) when some characters and subplots are missing, merged, or otherwise modified or when the locations for where certain scenes occur are altered from the book. But, sometimes, it’s like they change things just to annoy me! :/