Guillermo del Toro’s ‘The Strain’ Hunts for Thrills, and Lost Viewers, in Season 3

Can the FX drama recapture its mojo after a promising start?

Guillermo del Toro‘s battle for humanity is back on.

Darker, dimmer and featuring cinematography definitely inspired by a graphic novel, “The Strain’s” third season opener didn’t pull any punches when it came to showcasing just how deeply the Stirgoi have now infiltrated New York. The new season of this horror series picks up with the same chaotic situations as season 2 but just a few days later, with the major characters only slightly worse for wear.

Eph, whose drinking has come back in full force – especially since his son Zach was kidnapped by his Strigoi mother Kelly in last year’s closer – is still on the rocks as he searches for the son he’s sure has now been turned. Of course it’s quickly revealed that both Kelly and The Master have greater plans for Zach, which will come as a shame to those viewers who loved to hate on child actor Max Charles for his dark and broody turns last season. What that effect has on Eph remains to be seen, but with Nora dead he becomes the city’s only hope to develop that long talked-about bio weapon and potentially fry some creepy vampires into oblivion.

That is unless last season’s big quest – the search for the Lumen – finally pays off this year. Currently it sits in the hands of unlikely allies Quinlan and Setrakian, which doesn’t lead to much interesting story unless you’re the type who likes to watch characters flip through pages of a Harry Potter-esque book (it’s hard not to compare David Bradley to his Potter role in these situations). The producers promised recently that the tome can indeed be photocopied, which may help move the story along as The Master continues his own hunt for the thing, but until that point it seems as though most of the tension comes from Quinlan’s allies giving him grief about working with humans.

Then there’s fan favorite Fet, who has never had a problem fighting these “munchers” with as much gusto as possible. He’s upgraded from a piece of rebar this season in terms of weaponry, and seems to be enjoying a newly acquired position of power. Or at least as much power as one can have in these types of situation. With Dutch away from the Scooby Gang (at least in the premiere), it’s his scenes with new full-time player Justine (Samantha Mathis) to watch for. The pair share a certain chemistry that may never be explored, but with so much warfare going on it doesn’t seem like romance should be anyone’s priority anyhow.

Instead, there are small hints that themes of power and the corruption that comes with it will shape some of the social commentary of the season, leaving viewers to wonder who the good guys of the bunch actually are. Adding to that complexity is the ongoing question of whether these Strigoi are actually gone for good, or if there’s possible salvation for their human hosts. It’s actually kind of reminiscent of Hershel’s barn on “The Walking Dead,” except on a much smaller scale.

It all adds up to a season that FX executives are probably hoping draws back some of the original viewers after the series lost roughly 40 per cent of key demos last season. It’s a tricky thing to achieve, given the highly serialized nature of “The Strain” and all of the competition for eyeballs out there, but the producers are confident they’ll be able to at least tell the ending they’ve hoped for. One thing for sure is that won’t go down at the end of the third season the way they’d originally pitched, since Carlton Cuse and co. are already talking Season 4. That means they think there’s plenty of Strigoi story left to tell, and this third season is all about setting it up.

We shall see.

“The Strain” runs Sundays on FX.