The Strain: Third Rail Review

In this near penultimate episode of The Strain, a vampire hunt in the subway makes up for the shortcomings of annoying kids.

Bit of a mixed bag this week as the stuff that worked really, really well and the stuff that didn’t got simultaneously annoying during this almost penultimate episode of The Strain.

Okay, let’s deal with the elephant in the room here: Zack and Mariela. As Eph, Nora, Fet and Setrakian attempted to find and slaughter the Master in his lair, our heroes had no choice but to leave young Zack and addled Mariela to fend for themselves.

Zack wins The Walking Dead season two Carl Grimes award for bad decisions, as the youngster has no clue how to properly deal with a demanding dementia patient that is off her meds. The episode certainly established that young Zack has a good heart, but was it really necessary to head out to buy cigarettes just to appease Mariela? Plus, when Zack was in the abandoned convenience store, two people, clearly not vampires, entered the store. In response, Zack hid in the store’s basement, probably the least advisable place to hide. Yeah, yeah, I get that he’s just a kid, but the bad choices the show had him make just to create a sense of danger and drama just weren’t feasible. I’m not buying a kid who has actually seen vampires would venture out of his really secure safe house to be nice to an addlepated old woman.

The sequences with Carl, erm, I mean Zack, were not the show’s best moments, in fact, they were abrasive and unnecessary, and distracted from the main plot, but they did lead to the kick ass arrival of Gus who saved young Zack’s bacon.

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While the Zack stuff fell on its face, the Gus scenes worked on so many levels. Gus finally arrived home to find his beloved mama and not so beloved junkie brother both transformed into vampires. From episode one, it was pretty clear that Gus’ poor mom would be transformed by her already parasitic junkie son. It was also clear that mama was Gus’ Achilles heel and for his adventure to truly begin, he would have to be freed from his responsibilities at home.

The plot did tip itself off very early but that did not prevent the moment from being impactful. Gus indeed killed his brother but was greatly affected by it, proving that family was the most important thing to the street tough Gus. He did not kill his mama but was able to separate himself emotionally from her transformation and leave her behind. Now, Gus is on a warrior’s path, a path where a brilliant combatant who has a grudge against the vamps will be able to become humanity’s soldier. When he appeared to save Zack, there was almost nothing left of the street criminal persona, now, Gus was all hero. Well, a hero who took a very gleeful delight in decapitating his asshole newly vamped landlord, but hey, it’s the small pleasures.

As for the main event, Nora, Eph, Setrakian, and Fet versus the Master. Well, things could have gone worse for our heroes, as they are all still alive, but it seems that slaying the Master will be an uphill battle at best and a sheer impossibility at worst. First off, the sequence of the crew of vampire killers having to crawl through a tiny tunnel while being pursued by vampires was abjectly terrifying. It was like a race for survival inside a birth canal. The rest of the hunt through an abandoned subway tunnel was gripping to the extreme. With the scattered belongings of freshly transformed vamps underfoot, the third rail serving as a constant danger, and sleeping vampires at every turn, the tunnel pursuit was as tense as it comes. Setrakian got a bit Captain Ahab-y losing his signature cool when he got close to the Master.

Speaking of the Master, I’m not fully sold on his look. When he is in the shadows, cloaked and robed, scurrying about, he is one of the scariest monsters on television, but when you see him in all his monstrous glory, he’s kind of…cute. His size makes him threatening, but he has chubby cheeks, red hamster eyes, and a darling overbite. You kind of want to pinch his cheeks instead of slicing his head off.

Eph came face to face with the Master and came very close to losing his life; it was only the quick thinking of Fet and Eph’s own technical knowhow that saved him as Fet introduced the Vasiliy built and Eph perfected UV strobe bomb. The Master did not like it and retreated. The confrontation with the Master caused Setrakian to lose it in a powerful scene as all the years he had lost and all the pain he had suffered at the hands of the vampires bubbled up inside the usually controlled old man. As Setrakian smashed the Master’s coffin, the coffin Setrakian was forced into building at a Nazi death camp, a lifetime of rage and loss was on display and the question was presented, how will the hunters survive if Setrakian loses control?

Of course Eph has his own challenges as he constantly heard the voice of his lost wife in the Master’s lair. We know from last week that Mrs. Goodweather is under complete vampire control and this is something Eph will have to deal with moving forward. Or Zack will if she goes looking for her son. Only Nora, the woman who once flat out refused to go down the path of vampire killer is in complete control of her faculties. And the always-steady Fet, of course. 

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So less kids making dumb choices and more vampire hunting will help The Strain finish strong. As we closed this week’s episode, we see that the hunt through the tunnels was only the tip of the iceberg as, to get to the Master, the hunters must wade through about 1,000 vampires—something the suddenly utterly obsessed Setrakian is willing to do.

So annoying forced drama did not fully derail a terrifying set piece as The Strain continues to impress even when it goes in some questionable story directions.Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for all news updates related to the world of geek. And Google+, if that’s your thing.


3 out of 5