The Strain: Last Rites Review

Here is our review of tonight's penultimate episode of The Strain.

Tragedy abounds as we hit the penultimate episode of the most unflinching horror drama on television.

And I really thought that Mariela Martinez was going to find a way to help our group of vampire hunters. I really thought that through her dementia clouded brain she was going to find a way to help her daughter Nora, the brilliant scientist who has sacrificed so much for her doddering, chain smoking mother. The Strain surely wouldn’t kill two Latina mamas in two subsequent weeks, right? Yeah, yeah they would as Carlton Cuse, Chuck Hogan, and Guillermo Del Toro prove to be three very wonderfully sick human beings as Mariella met her demise this week on The Strain.

Poor Mariella, she was kind of finding her way out of the fog a bit. She was not in the way this week and was kind of pleasant other than her chimney smoking. Well, she need not worry about lung disease because Gabrielle Bolivar, the goth rock star vamp we haven’t see in a few weeks, took care of Mama Martinez with one quick thrust of his stinger. That sudden, shocking, and brutal death was Nora’s moment of transformation. So many have been sacrificed since the vampiric plague hit New York City and Nora has been an almost unwilling participant in the vampire cleansing. She has been begging for a way to cure the vampires without killing them. She was not the warrior, she was the combat medic, willing to fight if need be but wanting to find humane solutions.

Nora became the warrior this week when, with a primal scream, she sliced her bitten mother’s head off. There is so much meaning to this moment; a moment where a woman of medicine became a woman willing to do what it takes to save her city even if it meant profaning her mother. This moment was foreshadowed earlier in the episode when Nora told Eph that in life the daughter becomes the mother. Nora was Mariela’s only tether to reality, and with one sword swipe she showed her mom just how much she loved her. Setrakian witnessed the moment and was reminded of his dark past.

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This episode, Setrakian’s flashback took viewers to 1967, to Albania to a time when Setrakian was happily married but still pursuing Eichhorst and the vampires. He soon learned it was impossible to be a husband and a hunter. When Setrakian tracks a nest down a well, he is trapped in the pit by Eichhorst and fears the worst as his wife is unprotected at home. We saw the heart in the jar in the present and now we know how it got there. Just like Nora, Setrakian had to slice the head from his loved one who was turned by the vampires as a cruel punishment to Setrakian. I’m not sure how this season is going to end, but I really hope we see the violent death of Eichhorst. The former Nazi has reached Governor levels of repulsive. Every time he refers to Setrakian as the Jew or by his concentration camp number, my skin crawls.

Speaking of villains, this episode also brought us the next stage of Eldritch Palmer’s story. Palmer got the ball rolling arranging for Eichhorst and the Master’s arrival in New York, and this week, we found out exactly why. Palmer, who is like the live action version of Montgomery Burns, was dying. He knew the Master’s blood would give him a second chance at life. Rewarding his service, the Master (who is still the cutest lil’ vampire overlord) gifted Palmer with a single drop of his tainted blood. So think about that, Palmer sold out his entire species for a tiny drop of undead blood, for an extra few years Palmer willingly may have ended the human race. At least Eichhorst is loyal to his race.

Part of Palmer’s plan for vampire domination was shutting down the internet. This episode, the lady who helped him do it, the beautiful hacker Dutch, was finally given some back story and character depth. Dutch set up a hack that allowed Eph to broadcast over America’s Emergency Broadcast System (y’know, the this is only a test eeeeeeeeeeeeee thing).

Eph got the message out but we never found out the consequences of doing so, as that was the moment Bolivar attacked and our heroes had to make their daring escape. Turns out, Dutch is a pretty rich character filled with a fascinating back story of learning electronics at her father’s knee and the hard life she had to endure after her father’s death. I just wish, if Dutch was to play such a vital role, that she was introduced and fleshed out earlier. It’s a shame that such a well realized back story seemed so tacked on. Well, Dutch is making up for lost time as she has become an integral part of the hunters, and her chemistry with Fet is steamy and palpable. Now, if only Fet knew what team she plays for.

Finally, we have Gus. Gus’s journey has taken him to places most unexpected. Remember that faction of paramilitary vampires we met a few weeks back, the ones that dispatched that lawyer chick from the plane? Yeah, well those hoodie wearing ghouls now have Gus.

Gus has become quite the vampire killer and knows that if he is going to continue his hunt, he is going to need weapons and cash. So he jacks that gangbanger from a few episodes ago, the one that tried to undercut Gus on a stolen car. Gus forced the banger to give him cash and weapons, but he also saw a bigger potential score.

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When Gus was at the hood’s office, a man entered with a sack of cash and paid the banger to move a large shipping container for him. Gus took a look inside and sure enough, it was filled with vamps ready to spread the infection beyond New York. Gus did his best to take them out, but there were too many. That’s when the undead cavalry arrived, saving Gus and tossing him in a car. Now, one would assume if they wanted Gus dead they would just have killed him, so what do these vampires want and whose side are they on? There is so much going on between Eichhorst and Setrakian, with Eph and his still prowling wife, with Dutch and Fet, Palmer and the Master, but it’s Gus’s tale I am dying to see play out, Gus and those mystery vampires.

Well, we finally know what’s in Setrakian’s jar. A heart that was the only remnant he had of his old life and now, the old man had to leave it behind. The contents of the jar were the consequences of his Ahab-like actions. We now fully understand Setrakian and that Nora could be on the same path.

One episode to go and what a hell of a ride it has been. If the finale matches most of the season, this climax should be one for the ages.

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3.5 out of 5