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The Strain – Last Rites Review

"A Semi-Fun Set-Up for the Finale"

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As the penultimate episode of the season, “Last Rites” is a capable hour of The Strain that picks up considerably in its last moments, setting up some potentially fun drama for next week’s finale. After failing to defeat The Master by ambushing his underground lair, Setrakian and the gang retreat to his place and set out to attack him with the use of more underhanded methods, courtesy of the recently returned lady hacker. As a result, the episode does not possess the suspenseful, and creepily tense atmosphere of its predecessor, however it does provide us with some much-anticipated developments and fun, surprising moments.

Beginning with what might be the most satisfying death of the series so far. To say that many viewers were anticipating the moment of Mrs. Martinez’s demise is an understatement. Finally, we are free of the incessant nagging, the unwelcome melodrama, and the hackneyed portrayal of a person suffering from dementia. Is it a bit cruel and unfeeling to be so happy that an elderly character was gruesomely killed off? Maybe. But was that character a complete waste of space and airtime whose only function was to add unnecessary drama and conflict and had no redeeming qualities? Absolutely. As a character whose sole purpose for existing was to flesh out Nora’s background, her death was inevitable. Besides the supposed emotional beats the character facilitated, she had nothing else to offer in terms of narrative progression.

And while it would probably have benefited the show if Mrs. Martinez hadn’t appeared at all, it is encouraging to note that the writers took a departure from the source material in killing her off this early. They perhaps saw that the character was just not working and adjusted appropriately which is deeply reassuring and gives us hope that they have the capacity to fix more of the show’s more grating problems. So it was a definite plus that Mrs. Martinez got attacked (by the elusive Bolivar no less) and Nora was forced to deal with the situation and move on in a considerably short amount of time. Mrs. Martinez was a far too irritating character for us to really care about the emotional implications of her death, so Nora’s emotional turmoil didn’t really come across as affecting as the writers would want, but the episode did an adequate job in addressing Nora’s struggle in a speedy manner.

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Lady hacker makes a triumphant, albeit implausible return to the pawnshop with a plan to sabotage the vampires’ reign of terror. As the most enjoyable female character in the show, it was a good move to bring her back, regardless of the ridiculousness of the entire internet hacking, transmission broadcast nonsense. In order to move on with the show it is necessary that we suspend all disbelief when it comes to the media blockage storyline, it might be the silliest plot point on the vampire plague show. However it does allow for our wonderful group of dummies to gain a small triumph against the very powerful Master and trigger a threatening retaliation that forces them to abandon their safe haven, advancing the narrative and building up to a prospective show off for the season’s final hour.

Another good thing that does come from it is lady hacker, who is (like most of the characters on this show) a pile of clichés barely held together to form a character, but who somehow manages to come across as human. Props go to Ruta Gedmintas, who plays lady hacker and does a good job with the subpar material/dialogue. There is an ease with which she goes about the character that makes her performance believable and not over the top like so many of the actors in the show do. Plus she has good chemistry with Kevin Durand, I’d much rather watch her flirt with Vasiliy than whatever is going on between Nora and Eph who have absolutely no chemistry.

And finally we get to see the return of the benevolent vampires. Easily the most fascinating development of the series, these seemingly “good” vampires made their appearance back in the seventh episode and have not been mentioned or seen since. And while their involvement in the episode is minimal, their appearance is certainly the highlight of the hour. In a quick, exciting scene, they make their presence known, kick vampire ass and inexplicably take Gus hostage. They continue to be a mysterious force at work but seeing where their story cut off, it is more than likely that we’ll get to learn more about this intriguing band of vampires in the season finale. That alone is incentive enough to anticipate next week’s episode. And yet, we can also look forward to the newly vampire-ized Eldrich who was last seen basking in the glory of immortality under dramatic rainfall. His scenes with The Master were full of campy, over the top fun that works so well in The Strain. May the finale be chock full of such shenanigans.

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Despite the multiple “good” things that happened in the episode, “Last Rites” doesn’t come together to form a great hour of television. Instead it is an hour that showcases a series of fun, disjointed moments that offer satisfying developments independent of one another which are then interrupted intermittently by a disappointing flashback story that doesn’t do much to inform the story being told or uncover anything we didn’t already know. Though the last few moments do build to an exciting peak and position the characters in intriguing situations for the finale, the rest of the episode falls flat almost entirely. There is a lot of meandering before we get to the fun, kooky stuff the show does best.

What did you think?

 

Final Thoughts

  • The flashbacks were pedestrian this episode. Once again the writers are trying to make us invest in this decades-long feud/hardship between Setrakian and Eichorst and The Master, but it all comes across as tedious and unnecessary. The vampires are so powerful and seemingly unstoppable that it makes no sense why they feel so threatened by this particular human. And the reasons behind their conflict are not clear enough or convincing enough to explain why exactly they haven’t just killed him. They have certainly had plenty of chances to get rid of Setrakian, but haven’t done so for reasons unknown.
  • It was fun to see Setrakian yell at Nora for being annoying.
  • Mini-Eph was hardly in the episode, so that’s a plus.
Rating
6.8
Pros
  • Mrs. Martinez is Gone!
  • "Good" Vamps Comeback
  • Lady Hacker Returns
  • The Master Campiness
  • Minimal Mini-Eph
Cons
  • Weak Flashbacks
  • Media Blackout Nonsense
  • Disjointed Narrative

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