This review contains spoilers.
4.10 The Last Stand
And in the end, it was love that saved humanity. Love, and a generous helping of Star Wars allusions.
So where to begin? For the past four years, The Strain has been a capable and consistent horror series. It hasn’t broken into the cultural zeitgeist like The Walking Dead or become as conversation-starting as American Horror Story, but even though it flew under the horror radar a bit, The Strain always delivered compelling and intense storylines and heaped platters of wonderful, wonderful gore. And now, we must bid farewell to our heroes and the strigoi as the final battle with the Master is finally fought as a bunch of broken people save the always-somewhat-broken human race.
We begin our farewell to The Strain by paying tribute to our heroes. I have to say, The Strain wrapped up and I feel very satisfied with the bows tied around each of the heroes’ narratives. I guess we should start with Eph and Zach. The strenuous father-son relationship of the Goodweathers has been the core of The Strain since the first episode. It seemed like the relationship would never be mended after Eph killed Kelly Goodweather in front of Zach and in response, ‘lil Zach set off a freakin’ nuke! I mean it’s hard to create a paternal bond after your son brings about nuclear Armageddon. But this week, the bond is reformed, and the recreation of that bond saves humanity.
Let’s backtrack. Eph, Dutch, Fet, Quinlan, Gus, and Roman decide that if they are to defeat the Master and the strigoi with the nuke, they must lure the Master to the weapon. Of course, Quinlan is more than happy to engage the Master in combat in order to spring the trap, but one of our heroes must be present to trigger the device. The always selfless Fet volunteers much to Dutch’s horror. It seems our finicky Dutch now wants to explore a relationship with Fet even though she abandoned that road a few seasons back. Now that we are at the end of all things, Dutch tries to convince Fet not to give up his life, but we know Fet, and it’s always duty first for this NYC exterminator. But Dutch did not need to worry because it is Eph that takes the plunge and goes to set off the nuke and take down the Master.
During the struggle (and believe me kids, this was one kickass final moment of Strain action as the shooting, stabling, smooshing, squelching, biting, and dismembering were all delivered in full force one last time), Zach ends up in the same place, miles underground, as the final Quinlan versus Master confrontation. Sadly, Quinlan is beaten horribly and destroyed by the Master, ending thousands of years of unlife for the Born. Listen, I love Quinlan and it was tough to watch the good strigoi go down like that, but it was also necessary to show one last time just how overwhelmingly powerful the Master truly is. But Quinlan gets in one last shot and rips out the Master’s stinger. Injured, the Master stops Eph from setting off the nuke and pukes a tonne and a half of worms into Eph’s mouth because I guess The Strain had to make me puke in my own mouth one last time. The Master’s stomach soup also included the fateful red worm and yes kids, Eph becomes the Master! But not for long because in a Darth Vader moment, Zach turns on his Master and sets off the nuke and saves humanity.
Now, is Zach redeemed? I’d say no. He was a selfish little prick who stood by while countless innocents were killed. He even willfully killed a young girl he had a crush on. Zach was broken and horrible, but isn’t a good portion of the human race the same way? Wasn’t his father? So to save the deeply flawed and sometimes downright evil human race, a deeply flawed and broken boy sacrifices himself to nuke the Master. Humanity saved. It is a very satisfying ending as Zach does one final decent thing in his petulant shitty life. He dies for us all.
Eph’s fate was suitable as well as he too was very broken. Eph was a man sometimes decent man that was also filled with selfishness, addiction, and appetite. His dense love for his shitty son caused the death of many people including the brave and never to be forgotten Nora Martinez (we’ll never forget you Nora!). But Eph was willing to kill himself to take down the Master and this final act of selflessness perhaps inspired Zach to finally do the right thing.
Eph and Zach were not always good people. But the rest of our heroes were flawed but fundamentally decent. Dutch may have been responsible for taking down the internet, but she was a key member of the group that finally destroyed the Master. Dutch lives. Fet may have been cold to the point of inhumanity at times, but his willingness to never give up leads humanity to victory. Fet lives. Gus may have brought the Master into New York, but his never ending battle against the strigoi allowed Eph and Zach to strike the final blow. Gus lives. Heck man, even Roman a dude that seemed to be destined for a Red Shirt like demise, even he lives.
We get some nice falling action to finish the finale where we learn that Gus will go on to help refugees impacted by the strigoi while he searches for his beloved Anya. We learn that Fet and Dutch reunite and may even explore that seemingly once star crossed romance. We learn that the remaining strigoi fall quickly without the Master. However, I can’t help but think that the final Setrakian versus Eichhorst confrontation should have been saved for the finale. I love how Setrakian defeated the Nazi, and I think the moment where the bottle of blood thinner hits the floor would have been a perfect exclamation point for the final episode. After all, it was the struggle between Eichhorst and Setrakian, between Nazi and Jew that was the through point of The Strain. Finishing the series with Setrakian’s final beheading so he doesn’t turn strigoi would have delivered a sense of completion to the series. Having that moment a few episodes ago kind of made it feel like Setrakian was getting pushed out of the way so there wouldn’t be so many moving parts in the finale. But Setrakian’s demise was poetic and Eichhorst went down with him, so we forgive this hiccup.
And we say goodbye to The Strain, a series that never flinched, that always delved into a richly developed mythology to present a complete story that spans continents and centuries. I will miss this series and all involved because at the end of the day, even if The Strain did not echo across the cultural landscape, it began and ended with a satisfying, wet and gruesome tribute to the human spirit. The Strain is over, we can all take a long hot shower and wash the gru off, but the fun memories of horror TV done right will remain for a very long time.
Read Marc’s review of the previous episode, The Traitor, here.