The Strain – The Master Review
"More of the Same "
After a highly uneven first season, The Strain
fizzles out in its final hour with an underwhelming episode. “The Master” is not the epic, action-packed blowout that many of us thought it would be, or hoped it would be, really. Instead it is just another episode plagued by the all too familiar narrative tropes and expected character work that has prevailed throughout the season. Like many episodes before it, the hour follows the group of idiots as they make a plan of attack, set out to execute it and are somehow unable to carry out said plan of attack to full effect, all the while disparate storylines continue to unfold with varying degrees of success. The presence of notable plot developments and fun moments, of which there are a couple, isn’t enough to overcome the anticlimactic story, which is again bogged down by painfully trite attempts to reach emotional depths that just don’t resonate.
The story beats that make up the bulk of the hour are much too familiar to create a truly engaging storyline, let alone a successful finale. The climax of the episode centers around yet another battle against the vampires and yet another meeting with The Master. Sadly, this kind of confrontation was done more efficiently and entertaining in past episodes like “Creatures of the Night” and “The Third Rail” in which the interesting settings coupled with the inexperience of the characters provided tension and suspense. By now, the group has come up against the vampires so many times that there is little interest in the violence and almost no sense of danger. Not once did it seem that any of the characters was under real threat.
The lack of surprising elements made for a really lackluster battle sequence and while it was fun to see the Eichorst and the rest of the vampires retreat in their creepy backwards walk, that single element does not make up for the disappointing way The Master was able to escape. Yes, it is quite shocking to see him just scurry away in the sunlight, but it is an incredibly lame way for him to get away especially seeing how the other characters just stood back and watched it happen, never trying to prevent his getaway. And the way the series and the episode seemed to be shaping to something major only worked to build expectations that were not met by the big
revelation. Which was, lamely, that The Master doesn’t just instantly die when coming to contact with sunlight.
On top of that disappointing “climax” the storyline had to devote a criminal amount of time to the Goodweather family drama, which is unquestionably the weakest aspect of the series. The writers had created some interesting tension with Kelly and the idea that she might be transformed into an Eichorst-like vampire. However they don’t follow through with that and just have her appear as a regular zombie-vamp in order to traumatize Zach and make Eph drink again. And we are supposed to care whether or not Eph falls off the wagon? We have never even been led to invest in his sobriety; one scene in an AA meeting does not communicate a person’s struggles with alcoholism in a meaningful way. This is another shorthand, a signifier of his tortured state that the writers can employ without really investing any work in building character. Therefore it is impossible to care about him and his issues, they just end up draining all the fun out of the show. I hope he dies of alcohol poisoning.
Because there was some fun to be had in the hour, primarily with Eldrich Palmer who really brought the insane amusement that fits The Strain
so well. When we last saw him we were led to believe, as was he, that he had been turned, however it seems that The Master had merely restored his health and not
given him the gift of immortality. This doesn’t really sit well with Eldrich and he begins to act out in deliciously crazy ways. Having been abandoned by his right hand man and teamed up with Eichorst, Eldrich quickly becomes one of the most intriguing villains of the series; not that he had ever been a “good guy” or anything, but he certainly had never gone so far as to throw a lady out of a high-rise balcony. Which I believe we can categorically say was pretty awesome and perhaps the best moment of the entire episode. This is the kind of batshit crazy level that the show should always be operating on. And we find out more about that mysterious vampire militia and what they want with Gus. In another interesting development we are introduced to the “ancients”. What their importance is isn’t exactly clear, but it is compelling to learn more about the twisty, insane mythology and it definitely sets up potentially enjoyable storylines for the future.
ends its season still saddled with many of the faults and misgivings that plagued it in its early stages. While the story progresses and embraces some of the fun, camp elements of the genre, the characterization and some of the performances haven’t entirely caught up to it. The show has a serious character problem with Eph that they are clearly comfortable to ignore. While other characters have proven to be more entertaining to watch, there is an insistent need to keep him at the center of things. A move to the ensemble would definitely be a good direction to take the show into its second season. What did you think?
- The dialogue continues to grate; they never did get better at writing for the characters. It is as if they took entire passages from the books and transcribed them into the scripts without any alterations. Jeez, that spiel Vasiliy gives about the prohibition was just painful, so much needless and annoying exposition. It is one thing to read such description and exposition in a book, where it can absolutely become engrossing and transformative, but it is another coming out of a character as stiff, wooden dialogue.
- What the hell happened to Regina King?!