Hunting down and fighting monsters is what The Strain does best, and “The Third Rail” was an excellent showcase for it. As the gang assembles in order to attack the Master in his lair, chaos and looting carries on all around them. But the rag-tag bunch on the hunt, as well as those left back at the pawnshop, have a difficult time with one another. The vampirism also claims another victim close to home. Hit the jump for why, “you’ve been waiting for this your whole life, haven’t you? Well congratulations on the vampire apocalypse.”
The Strain has done a great job of revealing different aspects of its vampires slowly. We know that there are three basic tiers: The Master at the top, his humanoid servants (like Eichhorst) next, and on the bottom, a legion of baby vamps who are under the Master’s control and unable to reason. We also have seen the various points of transformation, from infection to the painful metamorphosis and loss of humanity, to the eventual, horrible, zombie-esque creatures who have only a lust for blood. In “The Third Rail,” the baby vamps were also shown nesting together — sometimes a few at a time, and on other occasions, hundreds upon hundreds of them.
Though Abraham was, per usual, ready to march forth regardless, his passionate zeal to kill the Master made him lose his perspective at the sight of so many nesting vamps. The small crew is unprepared to take them on, and were narrowly able to even enter his lair all in one piece. But seeing Abraham lose his cool was an important moment, especially regarding the depth of his anguish that the Master was within his reach, only to flee after Vasiliy dropped the UV light bomb. But was he, really? He was controlling Abraham with that high-pitched whine just like what happens to those who are transformed. That combined with Nora’s mother saying he had a black soul leads one to wonder … is Abraham strictly human?
As awesomely fun and gruesome and terrifying as the group’s journey into the subway was, “The Third Rail” had two other very strong storylines this week (a rare episode where every element worked). In the pawn shop, Zack was left with Nora’s mother Mariela, and The Strain‘s portrayal of Mariela’s dementia/Alzheimer’s is a surprisingly realistic aspect of the show. She’s confused, difficult to get along with, easily upset and confused, and lashes out often. Poor Zack handled her as well as he could, but “The Third Rail” created a fantastic sense of suspense when he went searching for cigarettes for her. His venture could have ended very badly in a number of different ways, but he survived — and is learning.
Zack’s appreciation for Abraham’s books and weaponry shows he’s ready to do what he needs to, possibly even more so than his sentimental father, when it comes to fighting the strigori. He is able to survive the trek to the basement of the convenience store, but then watches a couple get eaten. His survivalist instincts don’t allow him to linger on that for long, and his runs into Gus on the way out, returning to Mariela (who, despite a great tease, is just fine).
Gus’s mother, on the other hand, is not. Like with Kelly, The Strain did great work showing how devastating the transformation of a loved one is. Gus killed his brother Crispin with little hesitation, but did mourn for him. Not as much as he did for his mother, although he left her “alive,” taking his aggression out instead on his landlord (which led to that great head bouncing scene). He is the missing link for the group, and will hopefully be able to find them soon. He’s another warrior who is clearly able to do what he needs, even when it comes to his own family.
Because of the way its narratives all came together well, in addition to its frights, “The Third Rail” was an even better hour than the insular “Creatures of the Night.” Like that episode, it had a monster-movie feel to it, and that’s a very good thing. Keeping hacking off those heads, heroes.
Episode Rating: A+
Musings and Miscellanea:
— Another great thing about “The Third Rail”: humor. The opening scene with them trying to set off the light bomb, and Vasiliy not only joking about a rock concert but shouting “fire in the hole!” was perfect.
— Having to crawl through that tiny, dirty, dark hole is basically my nightmare scenario. The strigori who came after Vasiliy almost ended me. Great direction there.
— More great shots: the head coming down the stairs, the electrified strigori, and the Master’s creep-face. I love that he is shown, and there is nothing about his visceral nature that is a disappointment. Freaky to the max!
— I like that Crispin as a vampire still enjoyed watching soccer.
— Gus’s pain over his mother’s transformation was such a great (and really sad) scene, and I’m glad it didn’t go so far as him having to kill her.
— Corey Stoll‘s wig was truly ridiculous in this episode. Someone get him a comb at least. (Or is it linked to how bad things are getting for humanity? Is it a metaphor?)
— So is Dutch coming back, or …? Not that I’m really looking forward to it, but some more gender balance would be nice. Also, I like her sparring with Vasiliy more than Ephraim, just because Eph is such a dick (although, again, in “Third Rail” it was also kind of funny).