'The Strain' Team Talks Kinetic Season 3, Endgame Plans

A big twist last season proved the FX series isn't beholden to the books, which will continue.
Michael Muller/FX
'The Strain'

FX vampire drama The Strain is set to return for its third season on Aug. 28, though where the third season finds the show in its run has changed over the years.

"When we first sold it, we sold it as a three-season show," executive producer Carlton Cuse told reporters Tuesday at the Television Critics Association's summer press tour. "Then we did talk about five seasons and now, as we are beginning to work on the fourth season ... we're in the process of trying to figure out creatively how many more episodes we have. We're sorting that out right now."

At least from Cuse's perspective, it sounds like producers assumed that whatever decision they make on the show's ideal duration, the network will let them take that time. FX CEO John Landgraf presented at press tour earlier in the day, so we couldn't ask him to confirm.

One thing that fans of Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan's three-book series will have noticed increasingly is that the Cuse-driven TV series isn't beholden to the source material all that much anymore. The second season, for example, concluded with the death of a major character who survives the events of the books.

"There's a lot of back and forth." Hogan said of the creative process in a TV writing room. "Sometimes some ideas get hold."

That big death was, apparently, one of those ideas, though Hogan couldn't explain how or why. However, Cuse promised, "Season three, it pays off immediately and throughout the 10-episode run."

One payoff has been that even audiences who think they know the story no longer know what to expect, and the same is true for actors who might have read the books and assumed they were going to be around for the full run.

"It's literally Christmas or Doomsday," actor Kevin Durand said of the experience of reading scripts. "We have no idea whether the next episode is our last or not and it certainly makes it more visceral, especially if you like your job."

Cuse added, "Really, we set this thing in motion and we're looking to tell the best version of this story without feeling like the books are an impediment."

So what were producers able to say about the third season? Well, first of all, viewers will notice a new opening credits sequence and a new title score.

"This sequence was actually done in-house by some guys that work at FX and we love it," Cuse explained. "A good credit sequence should set a mood or a tone for the show and we think of The Strain as this graphic novel with horror and it felt like creating a title that was emblematic of that would really give the audience a sense of context that's what we're doing. The show's meant to be sort of this fun, pulpy, horror-thriller, an enjoyable ride, and I think that the title sequence does a great job of conveying the essence of what the show's about."

Viewers also will notice that the third season of The Strain is only 10 episodes after 13 apiece for the first two, which Cuse maintained was a production choice.

"We made a 10-episode season instead of a 13-episode season and that was at our request," he said. "We felt like this particular season we really wanted the kineticism of having a shorter season in which we were telling our story."

The third season also begins with an extended recap of the events of the previous 23 days of increased vampire infestation in New York City, presumably allowing new viewers to check in if they're yearning for undead-related carnage without pesky context, though Cuse agreed, "Obviously I think it's a richer experience if you've seen the first two seasons of the show."

He teased, "In this season, we're fighting for the fate of New York," promising "epic sequences."

The Strain returns Sunday, Aug. 28, at 10 p.m. ET/PT on FX.