One of the problems with The Strain is that for every step forward, it then takes a leap back. Last week’s “The Third Rail” was a great hour that worked on all fronts, particularly when it came to its monsters. While “Last Rites” had some great creepy moments (including an always welcomed appearance by the Master), it floundered — as it often does — when it revolves around anything deeper. But, it also teased the cloaked man/vamp again, as well as some other dark portends for the finale. Hit the jump to answer the ad for antisocial anarchists.
For instance, Abraham’s backstory continuing to 1967 filled in some things about his character. He had a pretty wife, Miriam, who had a leg brace, and he was still on the hunt for the Master (a quest of which she was fully aware and supportive of). But as soon as any character says, “I’ll quit after this one,” you know that only is that not going to be true, but something really bad is going to happen to those he loves meanwhile. And so, naturally (and unfortunately), on his quest to ferret out a nest of vamps clustered under some Albanian ruins, he falls into a trap set for him by Eichhorst, and must crawl out of the well slowly and with bloodied fingers.
Returning home, he found his transformed wife, and beheaded her (though kept her heart). All of this was tense and emotional (and even a little scary, like when the strigori in the cellar spoke with the Masters’ voice), but it was also completely undercut by the horribleness of Abraham’s aging makeup and false hair. The eyebrows, the goatee, the wig and fake wrinkles … it was so distracting that it made the wigs on The Americans look Emmy-winning, and Ephraim’s wig the Sistine Chapel of hair. What on the Earth? How can the strigori look so incredibly creepy and dead, and the Master so hauntingly visceral, but a damned wig looks like something a dog pulled out of a drain?
Speaking of wigs, Ephraim got his moment on TV, and squandered it pretty royally. By wasting time talking too much about his autopsy, he forgot to tell people how to protect themselves from the strigori coming to get them. It’s all fine and well to acknowledge that some kind of plague that turns humans into projectile-wielding killing machines is upon the population, but without saying how to protect oneself from it, what is even the point?
The creepy flirtation between Vasiliy and Dutch (him flirting with the secretary was cute, but him leering and basically licking his chops over Dutch is pretty gross) had her talking a little bit about her background, which didn’t really fill in any information about her that we couldn’t have guessed. Her magical hacker abilities are still not fully explained, although, they don’t really have to be. But the show makes a point of saying a lot of tech shit so that it sounds plausible. A lesson learned early with The Strain, though: stop trying to pretend there is a logical basis here for anything.
The death of Nora’s mother by Bolivar, and Eichhorst showing up out of nowhere with a host of thug strigori all happened so fast that it’s unclear exactly what happened. How did the pawn shop have such an easy breach of security? Mrs. Martinez died so quickly, no one even had time to react except for Nora (how, for instance, did Zack feel about what he just witnessed?) The moment Nora had to behead her mother was very emotional, especially since it was her coming to terms with that necessity after Jim. But it triggering Abraham’s own memories, and his having to say goodbye to Miriam’s heart — which he had kept preserved all of these years — was also a difficult moment (particularly in light of the speech and apology he had given earlier, to explain his passion for killing the Master).
“Last Rites” had some interesting elements, but it didn’t come together particularly well. Instead of following the trajectory of the last few episodes, it felt more like one of the series’ first, which is not a good thing. On the other hand, it teased a new chapter for the heroes, as well as the return of the cloaked figure (who has captured Gus), which should make for a great finale.
Episode Rating: B-
— Carlton Cuse co-wrote this episode, for what it’s worth.
— The cuts to the horse as Abraham explored the dungeon were kind of oddly hilarious. Horse entrails, however, were not.
— The Master knows how to arrive in all of his fast-motion creep style. And it looks like he has given to Eldritch what he gave to Eichhorst; eternal life as a higher-functioning strigori. Why does he always choose old white men, though?
— “You have abandoned all that love. But it will still not be enough” – Eichhorst.
— “The daughter is the mother and the mother is the daughter” – Nora, discussing her mother. Her mother needed to go, and it was probably a mercy for her, but still. Like I’ve said in the past, the show’s portrayal of her dementia was one of its most realistic and difficult aspects.
— Gus’ storyline in this episode was largely filler, until he was captured by the cloaked guy.
— Dutch: “I specialize in passionately destructive relationships.” Vasiliy: “The best kind.”