Wait. That was the season finale?! Well, dammit. I guess it wasn't a bad episode — in fact, it was one of the better episodes of the season — but all my hopes that the series was just biding its time for an insane final act were in vain.
I'm not trying to be an asshole when I say "The Master" should have been the fifth episode (I mean, no more than usual). We got some pretty good action, and Team Eph-igy (I'm workshopping some new names for Team Vampire Hunter; please feel free to add your suggestions in the comments) had a final fight with the Master. But with the exception of Eph and pals wounding the Master and learning one interesting bit of information about him, nothing was really achieved by anybody.
Which is aggravating, because people have not been achieving things for most of the entire season, and I thought the finale would bring some change to the status quo, but nope — the team's all still alive, the Master is wounded but still out there, all the vampires are running around, and people in NYC and the country seem to still be completely oblivious to the mouth-tentacle vampire plague loose in America's most populated city.
And like most of The Strain's episodes before it, the characters have to make some ridiculous decisions and contort themselves in bizarre ways in order to keep this not-at-all complicated and not that interesting plot plodding along, while never advancing. For instance: The Master has to decide to move into Bolivar the Goth-Vampire's top-floor apartment, even though it means abandoning the protection of his massive army of vampires, while a group of humans is trying to kill him. For the Eph-Fect, it means going to attack The Master with the exact same damn plan ("Get 'em!") and even less preparation than their attack two episodes ago, but also bringing little Zach along, even though Eph thought it was a great idea to leave him alone in a pawn shop full of loaded firearms that same episode (to be fair, Eph is now worried Vampire Kelly will find Zach, although how the fuck Kelly is supposed to know where Dutch's apartment is is beyond me). And the newly rejuvenated Eldritch has to meet with the Secretary of Health, who has suddenly decided ignoring the wholesale death of American citizens for the mysterious benefit of one old rich white dude is a Bad Thing, so Eldritch tosses her off a hotel without any consequence whatsoever and apparently somehow he also gets to appoint the weaselly CDC guy the new Secretary of Health to do his bidding and keep NY from being quarantined.
It all culminates with a semi-cool battle at the Goth-pire's apartment, as Fet and the lesser characters fight the small assortment of minions the Master has kindly brought along, as well as Eichorst. Eph and Setrakian fight The Master, although Setrakian loses his sword again almost instantly; then Eph has the good idea to break all the windows in the top-floor room to let the sunlight in, and kill the Master that way. That's when the Master tosses himself out of one of those windows — yes, into direct sunlight — and crawls away to safety.
The Master can survive in the sun! Eph, Setrakian and the others are dumbfounded at the discovery, and yeah, it's kind of a surprise, but no one's going to compare the Red Wedding and The Master Can Survive Sunlight Even Though He Doesn't Particularly Care for It in terms of jaw-dropping finales. Actually, the bit I was more interested in was all the minions, who immediately leave when the Master hits the sun… but they all walk backwards out of the apartment. Why? I have no idea. It's extremely weird.
But what of the fabled Spec Ops Vampire Ninja Squad, you ask? They do appear, thank god, but they don't actually connect with Eph or the other main characters, so they and Gus just get a few scenes to themselves. Of course they have to waste two scenes to get to the good stuff, but finally things get insane, as the SOVNS lead Gus into a room with verrrrrrry dramatic lighting, revealing three vampires tied to moving dollies who are apparently dreaming and shouldn't be woken up, and then the head SOVNS tells Gus he has been chosen to be the SOVNS "day-warrior" (because I guess they saw the 20 or so seconds of Gus killing vampires at the dock, but not the part where he foolishly opened the container in the first place? Sigh). The SOVNS leader talks about someone — presumably the Master — who has broken an ancient pact, which is why they've assembled to kill their vampiric kinfolk, which means there's a whole crazy vampire society which should be interesting if The Strain manages to get into it next season. At any rate, Gus still has to be paid to do this job, because Gus is a horrible person.
I guess I should say "Well, looks like the good stuff will happen in season 2!" but I feel like I've been saying "Well, looks like things are going to pick up next episode!" for like the last four episodes. And if the finale has proven anything to me, it's that The Strain doesn't have much of anything to add to the vampire genre, and what it does have — namely the SOVNS — it's doling out as little of as possible. I had grand expectations of season two starting with the world as a vampire apocalypse, and the Eph-Men leading a group of survivors against the new, dominant vampire species. But now I think season two will just be more of the same, where the Eph-Bomb (okay, sticking with this for now) fight The Master and his Minions, but don't ever achieve anything or real significance, while the world still seems ridiculously oblivious to the fact that there's a bad plague of tentacle mouthed killers in New York.
That's not the worst show in the world, but I always thought The Strain was going to be more than that for some reason. Maybe my disappointment is all because I thought The Strain had a fresh take on the vampire genre. Instead, it just has vampires with mouth-tentacles. Yes, the mouth-tentacles are unusual and mildly interesting, but once they've been shown, that's all the vampires have to them, really.
See you in season 2! Or not! I'm getting paid to watch it, so seriously, don't feel like you have to.
• I have bitched about nothing happening in a lot of The Strain's episodes, and I know some of you have disagreed with me. I think the fairest way to judge whether I'm right is to check the "previously on" segment and see how much the show feels we need to remember from the episode. I believe the only prior footage of the penultimate episode was Eldritch drinking vampire juice and getting better.
• Speaking of Eldritch, he's as pouty as a four-year-old that he hasn't been wormed by the Master yet, and Eichorst talks to him almost exactly as if he were trying to soothe a sullen child. It makes it hard to take Eldritch seriously as a villain.
• Watching Eph, Fet and Setrakian all "plan" their "attack" over cups of coffee was charmingly goofy. But it did kind of suck away all the tension of the upcoming finale fight to watch them leisurely sipping their beverages, too.
• So I know Eichorst wasn't in direct sunlight in the hotel room with the CDC guy, but it looked like it was bright enough in there to discomfort a vampire. Yet Eichorst had no problems. Was this foreshadowing The Master's powers, or a shitty continuity error? I seriously don't know.
• I know Nora and Setrakian gave Eph a pep talk about readying Zack for war and all that, but when Setrakian handed that kid his sword he looked like he was immediately going to jam it in his eye.
• Oh, Eph finally saw Vampire Kelley when Zack tricked him into going home for a minute. Kelly popped by, Eph shot at her, Kelly just kind of walked away. Does this mean Kelly is not just a mindless zombie, or is this just some bullshit rewriting the rules of vampire attacks so Vampire Kelly can show up next season? Again, with The Strain, I seriously don't know.
• And why does Vampire Kelly get to be the one vampire that gets to keep her hair? (I know why, it's just very clichéd).
• Hey, remember how in the first episode, the show mentions Eph was an alcoholic, and then in the second episode he goes to an AA meeting, and then it never comes up again at all until the finale, when Eph mentions he's an alcoholic when finding the secret passage to the speakeasy and then getting handed a drink from Dutch, which he pours in a plant (which is kind of shitty to do to Dutch, but whatever)? It's all build-up to Eph taking a drink after their new botched mission tonight. I think The Strain wanted this to be some kind of devastating character moment for Eph, but given the fact that he was only shown having one drink, and this was immediately after they blew saving the world again and after shooting his wife, it didn't particularly look like he was jumping off the wagon.
• Next Sunday, The Walking Dead comes back. If you gave up on it during its troubled/crappy first three seasons — and I wouldn't blame you if you did — last season was really, genuinely, very good, and I have equally high hopes now. Yes, you'll have to trade vampires for zombies, but honestly, The Strain's vampires aren't significantly smarter than TWD's zombies.
• I will not miss seeing the promos for American Horror Story. Two-headed Sarah Paulson freaks me right the fuck out.
• I somehow managed not to use "The Zero Eph-fect" In my headline. You're very welcome.
• Fet calls vampires "munchers." I honestly feel this sums up pretty much everything you need to know about The Strain.