I don't know that it makes up for the interminably slow and lackluster season so far, but I do know for the first time ever I can genuinely say I'm excited to see what the hell happens next week.
Before the ending — and I'll get to that in a bit, if you're one of those ridiculous people who reads TV show recaps but doesn't like to be spoiled — I was ready to say "For Services Rendered" was the best episode of The Strain so far, but snidely. I mean, now that everybody has vampire problems, checking in with the myriad characters is no longer the chore it once was. But then Eph and Team Vampire hatch a plan so stupid a four-year-old would have rolled his eyes and then somehow still managed to fuck it up, and I assume The Strain just had to maintain some level of crap.
And then, the final scene. And now it's the best episode so far by far.
But let's recap. Horrible Lawyer Lady's husband comes home, and he's Tyrol from Battlestar Galactica! He's accosted by vampires, freaks out and runs inside his house, and is immediately eaten by Horrible Lawyer Lady who has become Vampire Lawyer Lady (great sfx work on her, by the way).
Related: Remember how HLL's housekeeper basically kidnapped her children because she was sure her boss was sick in a Satan-y kind of way? Well, at home, she's chided by her actual daughter, a nurse, and forced to return her employer's kids. They are all somewhat surprised to see Tyrol bleeding out on the floor and a variety of vampires, including VLL, looking for their next meal. They're trapped!
Also trapped: Gus, in prison with his tubby friend, who has a bad case of Vampire Worms. Shockingly, the prison system does not seem concerned with the well-being of this ill prisoner. Oh, and Edritch stops by to remind everyone he's dying and force us to wonder what the hell the Master is doing by forcing him to wait for his immortality. Don't worry about it.
The main thrust is Team Vampire Hunter, consisting of Eph, Nora and Setrakian, whose new plan is "Kill the Master." After a verrry gratifying conversation where Eph quickly notes how horrible it is on every level to call the dude "The Master" besides the fact that killing the original host should do nothing to the other parasites because science doesn't work that way, Setrakian confirms he knows it works because he's seen it before. Also, there are about a zillion vampires in New York City now, so if it doesn't work, they're fucked anyways. It's a pretty good scene.
To get to the Master they have to get to Eichorst, which means they need one of Eichorst's minions, which means Jim/Samwise. Eph huffs a little, but they head to Jim's Hobbit-Hole, where they convince him to travel with Frodo to Mt. Doom to call Eichorst and blackmail him into meeting him at Penn Station. (Jim's sick wife learns that Jim basically doomed an entire city, and, rather than being appalled or finding it heartbreakingly sweet, she is kind of miffed and gets in a taxi. Almost as if the script wanted to get the character out of the way for some reason. Hmm…)
Here's where the problems start. The "plan" for getting to the Master in its entirety: "Follow Eichorst from Penn Station to… wherever." That's it. That's the whole plan, neither taking into account Eichorst's vampiric powers — either his ability to move and hide really quick or sense others, like people following him — or that fact that perhaps "The Master" is more than 300 yards away and Eichorst might notice he's been followed at some point. The hilarious part is that Eichorst doesn't even need to resort to his vampire powers to screw up the plan, because Eph and Nora lose him almost instantly. Setrakian fares a little better in that when Eichorst pulls the old "step-inside-a-subway-car-and-then-step-out-right-as-it-closes" he manages to exit the subway car as well, but Eichorst still knew where he was the entire time. In fact, Eichorst is about to infect Setrakian when Eph miraculously turns the right corner and shoots Eichorst in the leg, forcing him to hightail it out of there.
And then. AND THEN.
Remember the housekeeper and her nurse daughter and the two Vampire Lawyer Lady's kids, huddling in their house, about to be sucked dry by vampires? Well, VLL is about half-second away from draining kid #1 when a bolt flies through her head. She crumbles to ground. The other vampires soon fall victim to the same; headshots fired with impeccable precision. The terrified humans slowly peer up from their hiding spot and see…
A FUCKING VAMPIRE SPEC OPS SQUAD. By which I mean they are heavily armed, dressed all n black, and most importantly, THEY ARE VAMPIRES THEMSELVES. THEY ARE VAMPIRES KILLING VAMPIRES.
The leader at least can talk, although I'd presume they can all reason like Eichorst, and in a clearly genuine but still totally creepy way tries to console the kids despite his pasty white flesh and rat teeth. He makes sure they weren't touched or infected and them sends them on their way… except for the nurse, who was barely wounded. He quite pleasantly asks her to hold on, and then shoots her in the head to the absolute terror of her mother. The end.
Look. I haven't read the books, partially so I can enjoy the show on its own merits, and partially because the show hasn't made me that interested in them. So I know nothing about who these guys are, what they're doing, why, or, most importantly, how. But I do know they have been the first thing in The Strain to make my jaw drop. They're weird, they're unique, and they're fascinating. I'd be resentful that we had to watch Gus slowly steal a car for an entire episode instead of letting us hang with these guys but I don't actually mind — THAT'S HOW AWESOME THESE DUDES ARE.
Now, having giving us the craziest fucking development in the show, I feel almost 100% certain that next episode we will not see them at all. The show has been… let's say methodical, and I have to imagine they're going to dole out these badasses sparingly. But man, I can wait a few episodes to find out their deal.
Like I said, I'm excited now.
• Oh, Setrakian has a few more flashbacks, where we learn that Setrakian was forced to carve the Box at Eichorst's command, while in the concentration camp. More entertainingly, a drunk Eichorst accosts Setrakian and starts slamming God, democracy, freedom, etc. — the kind of speech only Nazis can pull off. He's basically Christoph Waltz Jr. from Inglourious Basterds, and it's excellent.
• Vampire Lawyer Lady is immensely more likable than Regular Lawyer Lady. That probably goes without saying.
• So the vampire apocalypse seems to be a nonstarter, doesn't it? There were about 200 people-turned-vampires on the plan that were supposed to infect their friends and families and then rampage during the eclipse, right? But the only result is that some people are wearing surgical masks. No one seems to be at all concerned about all the murder than presumably happened.
• Eichorst tossing himself onto the side of the moving train to escape Team Vampire Hunter was so goddamned silly, but it was also great. The Strain could use more nonsense like that.
• So why is The Master waiting to turn Eldritch? And again, what makes the difference between the thinking, talking vampires like Eichorst and then all the other zombie-like vamps? I do hope there's an actual answer. And that we get it.
• Man, Tyrol does not have luck with marriages, does he?