The Strain Season Finale Review: The Master
The first season of the series that redefined TV vampires ends with a whimper as our vampire hunters get to the boss level on The Strain.
It’s not that the season finale of The Strain was bad, it’s just that, well, nothing was resolved. There is a large group of big baddies haunting this series. From the still dopey-looked Master, to the most loathsome villain on television, the Nazi vampire Eichhorst, to the race traitor Eldritch Palmer, to dickless rock star Gabriel Bolivar, this show is loaded with evil. One of the vile regulars could have gone down in flames to give viewers of The Strain some sense of accomplishment for the heroes they have grown to love. But nope, nada, no dead vamps, no resolutions, no victories, not even small ones, just more tragedy and sacrifice as The Strain continues to spread.
First the good stuff. This show looks amazing. Some of the visuals are pure Guillermo Del Toro, artistic shots of burning cityscapes, surrealistic, moody, dramatically lit tombs and basements, sewers and tunnels, this series certainly knows how to frighten. Everything looks great and the cast sells the hell out of everything, creating an atmosphere of pure believable terror. The scene this week of Eph and Setrakian giving Zach a sword, preparing him for the coming battle with the Master and his hordes could have been utterly ridiculous. Zach is ultra cute, there is nothing in that kid’s cherubic face that could convince anyone he could actually harm a vampire. But Corey Stoll, David Bradley, and even little Ben Hyland each were totally convincing during the scene. Bradley played up the respect he had for the boy entering the hunt and Eph’s heart breaking as he watched the kid’s innocence ebb away as he clutched the sword. It could have been comically cheesy, but the cast nailed it.
Now it wasn’t the action or the characters that caused the finale to be disappointing, it was the story choices. None of the good characters are rewarded, not even in a little way. The action was fantastic. The entire episode seemed like the final level of a really kick ass video game, and I mean that in a very respectful and positive way. The whole episode dealt with Eph, Zach, Nora, Setrakian, Fet, and Dutch tracking the Master to his lair, located under the club owned by Bolivar. Fet continued to be awesome, opening a manhole cover and flooding the tunnel with sunlight, trapping a huge group of vamps in a small corner of a sewer. Fet effectively removed a huge group of the Master’s foot soldiers from the proceedings. But how was Fet to dispatch hundreds of vamps trapped by the sun’s rays, surely he couldn’t’ just stab each one, right? Yeah, Mr. Fet brought dynamite.
While our heroes were entering the sewer, a place that Fet was more than comfortable in, we got to visit Palmer and Eichhorst as they made sure the CDC was in their corner. In a terrifying scene, Palmer tossed a government official off a balcony while Eichhorst made sure the head of the CDC, Eph’s former boss, played ball. These past two episodes have really made Palmer an utterly repulsive villain, a man who sold out his entire race just for a few more years of life. Palmer is such an evil bastard that even his loyal man servant, Fitzwilliam, abandons him, leaving the Master and Eichhorst as Palmer’s only allies. Fitzsimmons still has a role to play, one must assume. Will he join with Eph and the others or will he join that other group of vampires currently involved with Gus? We don’t know, because the show ends with no resolutions. For anyone.
As the boss fight begins, Setrakian, Eph and Zach enter the Master’s lair while Dutch, Nora, and Fet hold off the vampires outside, including Bolivar and Eichhorst. The action was incredibly choreographed and gripping as I was loathe to see any of the heroes die. Fet, of course, held his own and even Dutch proved very useful in a fight. Setrakian finally had the Master cornered with Zach and Eph busting out windows to let sunlight leak in. Setrakian had the Master, but he kept freakin’ hesitating, screaming battle cries and giving tense looks instead of delivering the killing blow. It wasn’t intense, it was irksome. The big reveal was that the master could not be killed by sunlight and was able to escape. With the Master injured and in full retreat, the vampires, including Eichhorst and Bolivar, retreated by creepily walking backwards, away from the heroes.
The battle was over, the good guys got some licks in, but nothing happened, nothing changed. The vampires were weakened, the Master hurt, but the plague continued. To add insult to injury, on their way home, little Zach feigns an asthma attack so his father will stop at their home. When Eph grabbed an inhaler, Zach grabbed his photo album so he has something to remember his mom by. Of course, Momma Goodweather attacked and was held off. Does Eph kill his wife; does Zach pull a Carl Grimes and take out his mom? Of course not, she just kind of goes away, because why shouldn’t every plot thread dangle till next season?
There were no resolution or real answers for Gus either. Last episode, Gus was abducted by that other group of militant vigilante vampires. This week, Gus learns a bit about who they are. These soldier vamps serve an ancient council of semi-comatose ancient vampires who wish to stay hidden. These vamps want Gus to serve as a human agent and go against the rebels led by the Master. It seems The Strain will wait for next season to resolve everything. While I don’t want to seem entitled, it still would be nice to have some closure after such a heart in throat, intense season. While having no closure is annoying, if next season features a vampire civil war, I’m down like D-Lo Brown, baby.
Don’t get me wrong, I love this show; I love the cast and the writers, the creators and the special effects. It is a perfect series to counter the sex vamps of True Blood and Vampire Diaries. It’s a series that is not afraid to bring the grue and it knows how to scare. But the finale failed to give any satisfaction and while it looked amazing, after such a harrowing season, their needed to be some sense of closure for at least some of the heroes. All we got was a big, fat “to be continued.”
All that said, I look forward to next year. Between the next season of The Strain and the release of Crimson Peak, 2015 could be the year of Guillermo Del Toro. I am so happy The Strain exists and will be back to curdle my horror hungry blood even if the final episode left me a bit cold. The show opened with an ill fated plane arriving in JFK Airport, but it was the show’s creators that failed to stick the landing, although they crafted one Hell of a journey.
Thanks for reading Strainers, see you guys and Eph, Setrakian, Nora, Fet, Gus, Zach, the Master, Eichhorst, Fitzsimmons, Dutch, Palmer, and dickless Bolivar next year.