THE STRAIN: 14 Plot Holes and Questions that Plague the FX TV Series

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FX‘s The Strain wants to give the viewer a mirror image of the world they will find or could find right outside their door. That reality has horrific elements superimposed on it but its base is supposed to recognizable (e.g. work life, social life, home life, and history). After episode three of its first season entitled It’s Not for Everyone, I can say that this reality has gone from strained to silly. The bowstring snapped with It’s Not for Everyone, probably never to be restrung or in anyway tightened again. There are fourteen reasons below surrounding how this happened, larger questions, and curiosities that beg the question Why?:

1.) The Clandestine Autopsy

The body of the pilot, what he became, and the autopsy could have been of the two pieces of evidence the fast response CDC Canary Team had been waiting for and they did the most remote, unintellectual thing with it.

They autopsied the body with no one else present. A hospital filled with medical personnel, people with expertise in fields the CDC Canary Team were neophytes in,  and they called no one.

Why didn’t they secretly call down the other doctors that had been working on the pilot, the pilots’ nurses? The Dean of Medicine for the hospital?

How did keeping what the pilot became help Canary Team when they had been looking to legitimize their claims since the first episode? The very thing that they did not do would have ameliorated their cause in the most beneficial way.

By showing people what the pilot became, by having unbiased witnesses with other medical opinions and from different backgrounds (the other doctors and nurses), this would have bolstered their case considerably.

It was like George Lucas circa Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace wrote this deleterious plot (i.e. Senator Palpatine wants the senate made aware of the Trade Federation’s blockage of Naboo yet orders the deaths of the very people that would expeditiously bring that message to the senate) and then from that fruit-from-the-poison-tree, expanded upon it, compounding the plot and real-world logic degradation point by point.

2.) The Cell Phone Autopsy Footage

What happened to the autopsy video that The Canary Team recorded in the basement of the hospital in It’s Not for Everyone? Who has seen that video? Why record the autopsy and then not show it to anyone? This plot point was completely dropped after it transpired. It literally was never mentioned again. Once again, the very evidence that would prove Dr. Ephraim Goodweather (Corey Stoll)’s claims he does nothing with. Not only him, the other members of The Canary Team, and the writers of The Strain did nothing with it either. Instead of forwarding the video via email to the medical staff at the CDC for visual analysis and feedback, Dr. Goodweather decided to keep critical evidence in his pocket.

3.) Lab Work after the Airport

Neither Dr. Goodweather nor Dr. Nora Martinez (Mía Maestro) thought to bring the dead pilot’s body, the samples they took, or the giant tongue upstairs to the hospital’s medical laboratory for analysis or study? No one called the lab people at the CDC to come to hospital to pick up samples? Where are the Canary Team’s operational personnel, the back-end people, the interns that do the rudimentary, everyday work?

The writers of this show would have the viewers believe that these operational people do not exist. That the Canary Team works 24/7 and does their own lab work, even though such a protocol would grind the three of them into the ground and would be an impossible work load.

If the Canary Team didn’t trust the CDC because of its upper management, why not take it to a reputable private lab or to the police laboratory so that a chain of evidence was established and once again, other professionals were able to see the body, the evidence, and what they had found?

Some would argue that the reason that they did not bring it to the CDC was because Dr. Ephraim Goodweather was on leave (or suspension). I would counter that argument with the fact that his second in command, Dr. Nora Martinez, was not on suspension. Why didn’t she call to have samples or the body brought to the CDC for analysis in their labs?

Certain CDC scientists on Syfy’s Helix, who preformed clandestine research, knew enough to bring it to their colleagues when they reached a certain knowledge point. The Canary Team reached and past that point during Not for Everyone and did nothing, nothing plausible at any rate.

4.) The Pilot Freezer Body

Before the events of Occultation happened, why didn’t Dr. Goodweather tell Dr. Everett Barnes (Daniel Kash), the director of the CDC, about the body in the freezer (why didn’t Dr. Goodweather personally drive the body over to the CDC labs himself?). If Dr. Goodweather had, he would never have been arrested. Dr. Goodweather brought the phone recording to the CDC to show to his boss during Runaways. Why not the pilot’s body? What not the samples he took from the body? That would have been definitive proof.

5.) The Father and Daughter Bodies

Why didn’t Dr. Goodweather and Dr. Nora Martinez bring the bodies of the little girl and her father to the CDC?

The girl’s body at the house would prove that the government did not take the bodies like the cover store suggests but rather that it came home of its own volition (or was driven there) and transformed.

All Dr. Goodweather had to do was call the police and the CDC. He did neither.

6.) No Hospital Quarantine

The Canary Team did not quarantine the hospital after they found what the pilot had become. Why? They didn’t know who he had come into contact with before they found him. He could have bitten numerous people before finding his way down into the basement.

7.) Jim Kent Not Being Fired Immediately

Jim Kent (Sean Astin) not being immediately fired after admitting to Dr. Goodweather and Dr. Nora Martinez that he violated a potentially hazardous quarantine for financial gain was narrative lunacy. In the real world, Dr. Goodweather would have fired him on the spot. With Dr. Goodweather being on leave, Dr. Martinez should and would have. In The Strain‘ verse, leaving a purchasable traitor as one of a three member CDC team, with continued access to sensitive information and materials, is no big deal.

8.) The Canary Team Members

Dr. Martinez

After seeing what she saw in the hospital basement and at the little girl’s house, she doesn’t file a report with the CDC, attempt to quarantine anything, doesn’t have the body in the hospital freezer shipped back to the CDC, nothing. The next day she doesn’t go to work (after the horrors of what she saw the previous day and knowing that there is a growing outbreak) but did go to coffee shop for a coffee.

In It’s Not for Everyone, Dr. Martinez cried about how she and the rest of the CDC were supposed to be trying to save “these people” (the people on the plane and people in general), not kill them. If that were true, why was she entirely derelict and incompetent in her duties as a scientist and as a member of the CDC before the clandestine autopsy, during  it, and especially after it?

Jim Kent

He admits to both members of CDC’s Canary team to compromising a quarantine, letting cargo of unknown origins through, being bribed by an outside corporation, and neither Dr. Martinez nor Dr. Goodweather have him immediately fired or taken off their team. He can’t be trusted, shouldn’t be a CDC employee anymore yet nothing happened to him. Why?

Dr. Goodweather

Dr. Goodweather is a…a….walking, talking contradiction. What can I say about him that hasn’t already been said? What would get him the result he desires in the quickest way he doesn’t do. It’s not his fault, it’s The Strain‘s writers that have made this doctor a nincompoop. If he did what a normal scientist would do that worked for the CDC, The Strain would be far more scientific and CSI-thorough with Dr. Goodweather as its head guru. FX does not want a vampire show like that. They would rather it be like Blade: The Series instead, e.g. highly entertaining, easily digestible, and commercial.

9.) No adherence to Field or Office CDC Protocols

The Canary Team had no one in the CDC that assisted with their lab work, they didn’t file written reports, (after the plane quarantine) they stopped taking samples for analysis at the CDC, they didn’t ship infected corpses to CDC labs to be studied, they didn’t consult with other doctors about the infected corpses, they didn’t fire an employee that intentionally violated a quarantine for money, etc.

10.) Dr. Goodweather’s Arrest

Two people knew that Dr. Goodweather didn’t kill the pilot. Where was their testimony? One they couldn’t find (Dr. Martinez) but Jim Kent could easily be found. Why didn’t he tell his boss and the FBI that Dr. Goodweather was innocent?

Why did the FBI think the pilot’s body was in the body bag on the video? Where was their proof of that?

Why didn’t the FBI search the hospital for the pilot’s body? They saw Dr. Goodweather drag a bodybag into the basement. Why didn’t they search the basement for the body? That is basic police work not to mention sub-basic (if there is such a thing) FBI work.

Why didn’t Dr. Goodweather show the cops the footage he had shot on his phone? That is visual proof of the validity of his “story.”

Dr. Goodweather had two videos on his phone: the autopsy of the pilot’s body (with the voices and images of the two other witnesses) and Abraham Setrakian (David Bradley) and he doing battle with a vampire in an outdoor shed. Dr. Goodweather had clear evidence in his pocket (or in FBI custody) and did not even attempt to clear himself with it. Why?

11.) The FBI

The FBI agent in Occultation slapped Dr. Goodweather, a suspect, regarding a crime they couldn’t prove happened (they had video of a bodybag being dragged, no body, yet there were two eye-witnesses that would back up Dr. Goodweather version of events. Make sense to you?

Why didn’t Dr. Goodweather automatically say: “Lawyer”?

The FBI wouldn’t go to any of the plane passengers’ houses like Dr. Goodweather suggested? Why? There was no reason for them not to. Where were their investigative procedures? These FBI special agents were as incompetent as the police detectives on Dexter, they were written that badly, their actions dictated by plot necessity, not real-world behaviors.

12.) New York City Bureau of Pest Control Exterminator

Vasiliy Fet (Kevin Durand) saw the vampires in the sewers and told no higher authorities. Why? He told other exterminators casually without giving them a real warning.

Fet finds people in his office changed. Why doesn’t he call the police? Why doesn’t he show any authorities their burned bodies? When they do not show up for work the next day or go home, people will notice.

13.) Dr. Goodweather’s Phone Virus Proof

Dr. Goodweather’ was desperate to get his wife to leave town in Occultation and to believe him when he said that this virus was more dangerous than any before. Why didn’t he show her the proof of his assertion with the video footage on his phone? He had the proof in his pocket yet he didn’t use it. Why?

Answer: because if he had, she would have actually done what he asked and left town. The writers made Dr. Goodweather stupid in that moment so that he would still have something at stake in New York City other than his own life.

14.) The Religious House Wife Murder

When Ann-Marie Barbour (Alex Paxton-Beesley) summary executed a unrepentant lout of a neighbor via her “turned” husband, the reality of this TV series took a big hit. Who sentences a person to die for striking the family pet, in such a horrible way, over something done weeks-if-not-months ago? It was such a goofy plot point. It felt more like a cartoon or a badly written slasher film *cough* Texas Chainsaw 3D *end cough* than a high-end vampire TV series.


I am fully aware that The Strain is entertainment, popcorn entertainment, and nothing more. I get it: “Don’t put too much thought into the nuances of the show. Turn your brain off. Don’t analyze it.” I hear the counter-arguments before they are even made. I just wish The Strain was smart entertainment.

It is the plot holes and inconsistencies, like the above, that seriously hurt The Strain. The writers create drama by defying logic and the basic procedures of it’s on-screen professionals. The drama within the series would be far more exciting if the writers stayed within the bounds of reason and professional protocols.


About the author

Rollo Tomasi

A Political Science and MBA grad who started FilmBook during an eCommerce B-School course in 2008. Cinema and TV addict. Former writer at Empire Movies, Blogcritics, and Alternative Film Guide. In addition to writing for FilmBook, he also edits the copy published on the website, manages its writing staff, manages the back-end operations, site finances, its social network accounts, and works with publicists, actors, and companies on press coverage and promotions. He has also created ProMovieBlogger.com and Trending Awards.com.

  • Golden J. Williams Jr.

    Good Science Fiction Drama is best viewed when your brain is turned off and no analytical discussion is employed. Don’t we have enough REALITY SHOWS (farce), THOUGHT PROVOCKING and TRUTH IN MOVIES on the tube as it is? The Strain is good old fashioned, mindless “SCARE ME” entertainment! I know the characters are going to do stupid stuff; THAT’S THE APPEAL!! If I wanted to think and rationalize I’d read a book or step out into the neighborhood streets.

  • “Good Science Fiction Drama is best viewed when your brain is turned off and no analytical discussion is employed.”

    If that is true, that is sad. Good Science Fiction should be thought-provoking.

    “The Strain is good old fashioned, mindless “SCARE ME” entertainment!”

    I know. I told myself that.

  • J Jett

    i agree with EVERY word in this article. the show has so much potential but is wrecked by some of the worst writing since UNDER THE DOME.

  • HelenBackAgain

    “When they do not show up for work the next day or go home, people will notice.” Not in the world of this story. The ENTIRE NYC MEDICAL EXAMINER’S OFFICE WAS WIPED OUT, and nobody noticed! For at least a full day!

    Might wanna add that… 😉

  • Good point Helen. I will add that one in.

  • HelenBackAgain

    Cool beans. This was a good read – thank you!

  • Omesh Singh

    15. The four survivors of the plane incident go home, and after displaying signs of BEING SICK, no one contacts the CDC.

    16. Gabriel Bolivar’s manager witnesses his transformation and Bolivar’s attack on the consulting urologist. She hires a cleaner (to conceal the crime) instead of the police and CDC.

    17. Matt: “Hey! Did you do this?!” – Matt’s colleague is attacked at work. Matt (unarmed) decides to confront two dangerous and violent assailants.

    18. New York, one of the global financial centers, is cut off from the rest of the world by a cyber terrorist attack. Global corporations don’t seem to mind… the President doesn’t seem to think this calls for a state of emergency.

  • If I was to update this list now, it would increase from 14 points to over thirty.

  • Grant Yardley

    (I have seen the first few episodes)
    You missed the biggest one. Why did the “overlord” kill everyone on the plane? He got on the plane in secret, could have got off the plane in secret and started turning people. He could have turned a hundred people on the street in a radius of 20 Km (or miles, whatever) with exactly the same effect and ZERO risk.
    Converting/killing people on the plane was a stupid, unnecessary risk (may be explained later)

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