There are some season finales that require threads to be tied up, because there are clear arcs that need to be completed before moving forward. Others spend most of their time dealing with either the fallout from a climactic penultimate episode, and/or setting things up for the next season. Very few essentially act just as a regular episode that then introduces a lot of new items to be addressed next year; and often when they do, things feel unfinished. In the case of “The Master,” though, it was perfect.
The Strain‘s entire first season has felt like a prologue, setting up this strigori-ridden world, building up the mythology of the vampires, and assembling our band of heroes to help fight them. Because of that, “The Master” did exactly what it needed to do to make viewers want to return for the next chapter, without feeling like we wasted time on the first. Hit the jump if you are planning on eating Mexican tonight.
Those who have been following my recaps since the start of the season know that when it comes to the monsters and mythology, I have no complaints with The Strain. Everything else can feel off, and often downright campy, but the monsters work.
The Strain has done a great job all season of slowly revealing a variety of aspects about the rise of the strigori. For the most part, we followed Ephraim’s journey of seeing the first affected, all the way up to the revelation of the Master. Along the way, Abraham has provided key information that has helped his rag-tag bunch try and not only exterminate as many strigori as they can, but also taught them the all-important premise that by killing the Master, the strain will be stopped.
All of this played into what is commonly known in vampire lore. Though The Strain‘s strigori seemed more like zombies than vamps most of the time, they do share most of those well-known traits: a fear of silver, an aversion to sunlight, a need to feed on blood, etc. They gained a forked projectile, but other than that, they seemed within the bounds of general understanding. And then, “The Master” changed the game.
Eldritch playing with the silver dagger was the first suggestion that perhaps the strigori are not as easily categorized as first considered. “How quaint,” he mutters with dripping sarcasm. But, that leads Eichhorst to tell Eldritch that he can handle the silver because he has not been changed, just rejuvenated. Later, however, the Master himself stunned Abraham and the others when he scurried out of the sunlight down into the ground. He was wounded by it, sure, but he wasn’t destroyed by it. (And had Abraham wielded that sword a little more quickly, the whole thing might be over with). He escaped, but there’s more to it than that.
Gus, who has been operating on the fringes of the story from the start — being an integral part of bringing the Master to Manhattan, but also crossing paths with some of the other major characters — was picked up by a vampire-looking creature we saw earlier in the season: a killer other vampires and those infected. Gus comes to find that this guy is the spokesman for some very old vampires, who are asleep on bloody thrones. There is talk of an ancient truce that has been breached, and that an act of war has been declared. Or as Gus put it, “you’re saying there’s a vampire turf war.” Things just got very interesting.
“The Master” solidified its crew by bringing Dutch back into the fold, and having Ephraim recognizing that Zack needs to be a part of things, too (one of the best scenes of this season was Zack being given his sword, and Eph teaching him how to use it while tempering Abraham’s enthusiasm). The battle at Bolivar’s was an excellent, super creepy scene that got a great setup with Vasiliy’s bombing of the baby vamps. And while it felt like the climax to a typical monster movie, the introduction of the other vampires, as well as the Master’s unique powers, imbued the story with something fresh, and not at all disappointing when the Master escaped their clutches (and recalled his minions).
While The Strain may have been iffy when it came to character development and dialogue (the less, the better), no one does beheadings better (not even Game of Thrones). The monsters and mayhem of The Strain have been a joy, and despite its unevenness from episode to episode, the bottom line is that week after week, it’s been a fun, and very different kind of show. “The Master” has also set up some very intriguing possibilities for its second season. Get your cane swords ready.
Episode Rating: A-
Season Rating: B+
— One of my main complaints all season has been the lack of movement regarding, say, a quarantine or bringing in the National Guard, and finally this was addressed in “The Master.” As the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the head of the CDC agreed, it was time to do something. But Abraham warned many episodes ago about how the Master is a master of manipulation. Eldritch, with Eichhorst’s help, set those two straight on what the future plan will be (which is, to do nothing). It’s clear why the Master chose Eldritch as an ally, but it’s also clear to everyone (but him) why he hasn’t yet been transformed; he’s powerful, and not at all subservient. Eichhorst lives to serve at the pleasure of the Master. Eldritch is only interested in himself.
— Fitzwillian giving up his post with Eldritch makes me think that he could end up joining the heroes. I hope he does! His inside info could be useful.
— Zack was crafty to fake an attack just to get that photo album, but couldn’t he and Eph have reminisced from the van? Also, interesting to see that Kelly has gone full-vamp, and wasn’t elevated by the Master for use in catching Eph and company. That fact that she could “talk” to Zack though was interesting. I’d like to know more about the communication abilities.
— Eldritch: “Why wasn’t I made aware of it?” Fitz: “You were dying, sir.”
— This season’s must-have accessory: a wall of failed organs!
— Why do people reply to where someone is from by saying, “I didn’t care for it.” What is that?
— Poor Zack. But I can’t wait until he starts chopping heads.
— This episode had some of the best head-chopping yet. Also, apparently you only need to skim the brain to still be effective.
— Eph took a drink … but he’s good.
— “This is the part where the whore declares herself a virgin” – Eldritch.
— “You might want to get back in the tower, monsters are going boom boom” – Vasiliy.
— “No is his time to hear me!” – Abraham.
— “The Master” was the first time we’ve seen Eichhorst’s tongue, yes?
— “Are we ends timed to become cattle for monsters? O now that the enemy has shown its face, do we have a fighting chance?” – Abraham.
— “It is a small world after all. We made it that way” – Abraham.