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master the strain

Master the strain

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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.
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.

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.”
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.
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.
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?
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.

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.

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.

Also, The Set and Fet CDC Hacker Girl Connection (feat. Kid Blank Stare) isn’t comprised of trained warriors, so in that sense, of course the fight scenes themselves aren’t going to be impressive. However, that sort of flies out the window when you have these untrained warriors getting head shots with ease and chopping up vampires like they do it every Sunday after brunch. Even Dutch is an expert shot, and Dutch is a drunk computer nerd who throws the remote control at a television when it doesn’t work.

Let’s move on to literally anything else. Sorry Gus is going to drag you and your mysterious vampire gang down, Quinlan.
Stray observations:

“You planning on eating Mexican, tonight?”

“Nothing is written that cannot be changed”? If The Strain can manage to change nearly everything about this first season, then maybe I’ll believe that.
Maybe I’m the soulless one. After all, I don’t have a child and don’t have that emotional connection. Yet, I have a mother, and I didn’t have the intended reaction to the death of Nora’s mother’s. Nor did I have the intended reaction to the reveal of Kelly as a vampire in this episode. I’ve been close to people with drinking problems, and yet I didn’t feel anything but laughter bubble up inside of me as Eph dramatically took that swig of booze.
As previously mentioned, the “final” battle between the gang and The Master was always going to come to the same conclusion: They could never beat The Master. But the problem in all of this is just how glaringly obvious that fight choreography, as well as action direction, is not the show’s strength. The show doesn’t exactly have a strength, but making the fight scenes look good is simply not a task the show is up to. Director Phil Abraham appears to be of the opinion that an action scene looks better with perpetual zoom-ins, despite every piece of evidence to the contrary (the action scenes themselves).

“Wassup? You brought your homeboys?”

Going into “The Master,” the series is building up to a “final” battle, even though there is zero chance of a firm conclusion to that chapter anytime soon, unless the show wants to switch to a “life after vampires” narrative so quickly. Considering how much no one is putting the pieces of the puzzle together (though, surprisingly, Gus is able to and says the “v” word almost immediately here), there wouldn’t be a lot going on in that world, so that would probably be out of the running. But there’s never any way The Master is going to be taken down by the end of this episode. That’s the problem when you have a Big Bad that is the only one for the entire series. They’re not going down for a long while, and the audience has to live with that, even at its most absurd. In that way, The Strain is a lot like a majority of The Mentalist, and The Master is a lot like Red John.

There is almost nothing more The Strain than the first season of The Strain ending with a mission statement voiceover, just when enough time has passed to forget that it employed the art of the voice over 12 episodes ago, in the pilot. Out of sight, out of mind: That is the way of The Strain.