Here we are, at the penultimate episode of The Strain. Our vampire hunters have directly attacked the Master in a last ditch attempt to save humanity and, quite frankly, they screwed it up.
It’s already announced that the show will be getting a second season, so we know the world won’t end in this episode or the finale. But who’s going to make it to season two? Now that’s a good question.
The episode begins at Eldritch Palmer’s Stoneheart Group, by Palmer’s sickbed. Palmer is dying while Eichorst watches.
“I’ve kept my part of the agreement. The Master will keep his,” Palmer says, optimistically.
Eichorst simply says the Master is the kind of entity who isn’t “compelled” to do anything, even if his plan wasn’t possible without Palmer’s power and resources.
“What if he sent me, instead, in order to offer you your last rites?” Eichorst says.
Palmer says he believes the Master will save him, that he still needs him.
“I have faith,” Palmer croaks out in a weak but determined voice.
And the failed vampire hunters Eph, Setrakian, Nora and Vasiliy are back at the pawn shop. You know that hang dog expression a Little League team has when it blew the big game? Right across all their faces.
Eph immediately calls for his son Zack, whom he left alone with a woman with dementia in a city that’s tearing itself apart last episode. He also said he’d be back before dusk and its well into the night at this point.
Amazingly, though, Zack is not a strigoi.¬† He’s disappointed that Eph didn’t “get” the Master and he turns the keys to the shop over without revealing how he went out in the city and nearly died in a quest to get Nora’s mother Mariela some cigarettes.
In the basement of the pawn shop Setrakian is popping heart pills and talking to the strigoi’d heart of his dead wife Miriam, which he keeps in a jar and occasionally feeds some of his own blood.
“Please. Give me strength,” he says. Of course it doesn’t answer, just wriggles a bit.
But this is a setup for a flashback to Setrakian’s past in the rural village of Shkoder, Albania, in 1967.
A younger Setrakian is trying to buy a horse from an older farmer to take a trip to a Castle Drisht. He’s clearly on the trail of Setrakian and is asking if any people are missing from the villages. He has to pay the old man a huge price to get him to sell him the horse because the man is terrified of the very mention of the castle.
The farmer’s fear only convinces Setrakian he’s on the right track. He takes the horse back to a cabin where Setrakian’s wife, Miriam, waits. Miriam has a limp and has to use a crutch to walk.
“We’re so close this time,” he says.
It’s clear Setrakian has been hunting the Master and Eichorst since the end of World War II. He tells Miriam a victory would validate their life’s work, avenge the death of some of their fellow hunters, and shame those that have denounced them. He’s as obsessed at this point as he is as an old man.
Miriam is worried about Abraham’s plan to investigate the vampire activity on his own, however.
“Do not let vengeance cloud your vision,” she pleads, and tells him to come back before dusk.
He says “I know your heart” which is kind of sad in context, and tells her that the knows the toll his obsessions have taken on their lives. After it’s finished, he says, they’ll settle down in peace and adopt a boy and girl. It’s like the cop that’s two days from retirement in an action movie, you know bad things will happen.
Back at the pawn shop, Nora interrupts Setrakian’s creepy revery by offering a drink and unconvincing “Next time.”
Setrakian says his last encounter with the Master was decades ago and there will be no “next time.”
Nora asks Setrakian to explain the vampire heart, but he just gets mad and runs her off.
Alonzo Creem, a chop-shop owner Gus sold a hot car to early in the season, leaves his garage and gets in a car. Gus is waiting in the back seat and puts a gun to Alonzo’s neck. Gus disarms Alonzo and makes him drive.
Vasiliy, Eph and Nora haven’t given up. They’ve pinpointed the approximate location where they saw the monster horde of vampires on a map. And now they call the army in and share their knowledge of vampire killing weapons.
Just kidding! They have a debate about how Setrakian wanted the four of them to take on 1,000 vampires they found in the subways last episode.
Vasiliy thinks Eph is overreacting, Eph is worried that Setrakian is unhinged.
Dutch bangs on the door of the pawn shop and Vasiliy lets her in.
“You miss me?” she asks.
“Now that you mention it,” Vasiliy says. If Dutch is gay, Vasiliy’s gaydar is completely broken. She might be bisexual.
Dutch says she’s brought the group a plan, but Eph whines (Eph whines a lot) that what they need is a win.
“Okay then,” Dutch says with a confident smile. “I brought you a win.”
Dutch is setting up hacker equipment and arguing with Eph, who kicked her out once before and still holds a grudge about that whole time she slowed down the internet for Palmer and made the Master’s takeover of New York possible. She shuts down his complaining somewhat by telling him they need her. Dutch’s plan is to use the Emergency Alert System, the thing you always see being tested but never used, to get the word out about the vamps.
She says she can put the vampire hunters and their message on every television and radio in the country. Eph points out that he’s an escaped fugitive wanted for murder and asks who will believe him, but Dutch says he can use that notoriety to his advantage.
“Hmm, with your charm, the sky’s the limit,” Vasiliy says sarcastically.
They come around to the idea that this is a plan that can really work, and Ephs starts working on a 30 to 40 second message to wake up the world.
Gus is riding with Alonzo, explaining that he took him hostage because he needed “guns, ammo, money, you seemed like a safe bet.”
Alonzo threatens Gus by telling him his friends will hunt him down, but Gus points out the obvious problem with that, that a plague is turning people in the city into killing machines.
“There’s about to be a whole lot chaos and ain’t nobody finding me,” Gus says.
Setrakian is laying down to sleep on his little cot surrounded by his vampire books. We flash back to 1967 Albania again, as Setrakian rides the horse along a beautiful stream and up to a creepy ruined castle. By a well he finds a pile of watches, glasses and other personal effects people have cast off when they became strigoi. I guess vampirism fixes your vision.
He ties a rope and climbs down it into the well, which is dry. At the bottom there’s a tight bolthole dug into the stone very much like the one the hunters wiggled through to get to the Master in the last episode, but shorter. Setrakian outfits himself with a miner’s cap with a light, flashlight and Sardu’s sword-cane, then struggles through.
Inside he finds what looks like a spooky dungeon. We get a quick cut to the outside and the horse to show he’s stupidly stayed past dusk, against his wife’s wishes. Eventually he comes upon a nest of sleeping strigoi just like the ones the gang found in the last episode, but one lady strigoi is awake, standing, and speaks to him with the Master’s voice.
“The sun is setting professor. And you are so far from home,” it says.
And that’s his cue to run, because the Master is after Miriam. Unfortunately his rope is gone, trapping him in the well. Eichorst is at the top, gloating.
“I knew you would not be able to resist such an inviting trap,” Eichorst says. He says he’ll leave him there to ponder his mistakes and gives him a little “toodles” hand-wave before leaving Setrakian to scream impotently in the well.
Vasiliy and Dutch are on the roof, hacking the Emergency Alert System. She’s spouting insane technobabble nonsense to explain how such an unlikely thing is possible and flirting with Vasiliy.
She says she followed in the footsteps of her dad, who worked for the telephone company and admired hackers for their curiosity. Vasiliy points out that what she did for Palmer was a lot more malicious than curious, and she admits that she lost her way and came back to make amends.
She also explains that she’s a New Yorker with a London accent because her mom was English and her dad moved to England to be with her. Then died when she was 12, leaving her with an abusive stepfather so she ran away from home at 15. Seriously, Dutch gets more backstory dumped in this conversation than some of the other characters have had all season.
Finally Vasiliy asks the question it seemed like he was ignoring, “Men or women?” His gaydar ain’t so bad after all.
“I specialize in passionate destructive relationships,” Dutch says coyly.
“The best kind,” Vasiliy says with a lingering gaze.
The machine, which Dutch set up in two minutes while recounting her life story, beeps to show it is now working.
Mariela is sitting at a table with her cigarettes and annoying Eph as he tries to write his speech. She tells him Nora was the first in her class in public speaking. There’s a funny line where Mariela says Nora won “every debate” and Eph says, “She still does,” but it’s not super accurate because there have been times when the vampire squad has not listened to Nora’s voice of reason.
Nora comes out and takes the cigs away and takes her mom to bed.
“The mother is the daughter and the daughter is the mother,” she says.
Eph gives her a callous “That’s how life goes” and she sits at the table, exhausted, and collapses with her head in her hands.
Gus has made Alonzo drive to a shipping yard office and is robbing him of his big sack of machine guns. Some more guys show up and Alonzo says it was just a delivery he was expecting. Alonzo seems to be cool and doesn’t rat out Gus as the guy quickly drops off a payment for shipping some containers.
Gus checks out the satchel of cash Alonzo was handed for the containers, though, and decides whats in those is probably better than a sack of machine guns. He says he wants to take a “look see.”
Eph is getting ready for his broadcast, but Setrakian decides to interrupt first with a speech.
He talks about how 40 years ago he came to the U.S. in defeat and turned his back on the quest because the Master had withdrawn into the shadows. He said he’d resigned himself to never seeing the Master again, and apologizes for losing perspective and losing his cool when he saw the Master in the tunnels. Then says he’s ready to “press ahead with the fight.” Yay for personal growth.
We’re back in the well in 1967 as Setrakian, hands bleeding, painfully climbs out. By the time he gets to the top it’s morning. And his horse is dead, disemboweled. He runs back toward Miriam but when he finally gets there the cabin is trashed. Her¬† abandoned leg brace is the only trace of her, so it’s clear that becoming strigoi does in fact fix physical infirmities.
Dutch breaks into the Emergency Broadcast System. Eph talks pretty slow and gives way too much preamble for a guy that may have only 10 seconds of airtime before he’s interrupted, but he gets to the meat of it and brings up the plague and the photos from the autopsy the crew performed on a strigoi early in the season.
“This strain, this virus, changes its hosts body through a violent corruptive metamorphosis,” he says. And mentions that people’s loved ones will come after them. He tries to say that sunlight kills them but that seems to get cut off as the authorities shut Dutch down.
No time to gloat on this victory, though, because they hear a crash in another room and find strigoi rocker Gabriel Bolivar (remember him?) feasting on Mariela.
Vasiliy and Eph take him on, but more Strigoi bust in. We cut to outside and see that Eichorst is leading a strigoi assault agains the pawn shop. The gang heads into the basement, carrying Mariela.
“Time is up, 8230385!” Eichorst says as he enters the pawn shop, still using Setrakian’s concentration camp number.
Gus is forcing Alonzo to open one of the containers. He says he doesn’t have the key so Gus shoots it off.
And the container is filled with strigoi. Gus finds himself shooting strigoi and shooting it out with Alonzo, who had a gun hidden somewhere. He didn’t think to take any of the machine guns so when his pistol goes dry he sneaks up on Alonzo, knocks him out, takes Alonzo’s pistol and shoots some more.
When it looks like the end of Gus the paramilitary vampire squad that saved Joan Luss’s kids and nanny in an earlier episode makes another appearance. They shoot the rest of the strigoi with their crosssbows and they slap a bag over Gus’s head and kidnap him. Alonzo is left alone to ponder what the hell just happened.
Eichorst is trying to break through the concealed that leads to Setrakian’s basement. Downstairs Nora is mourning Mariela as the rest grab weapons and get ready to escape through Setrakian’s secret exit.
Nora wants to take Mariela with them. But Eph approaches holding a silver sword. He tries to send Nora with Zack, but she says “Give it to me,” and takes the sword. Everyone but Setrakian and Nora leave through the secret exit. Setrakian watches, transfixed, as a tearful Nora screams and cuts her mother’s head off with the sword.
That triggers one final flashback. Setrakian has waited in the cabin he shared with Miriam until dark. The door opens and she enters with two strigoi’d kids, a girl and a boy, just like Setrakian had promised. Miriam launches her stinger and we see Setrakian swing Sardu’s sword.
Back in the present Nora is crying. She hands her sword to Setrakian and he wipes the blood off it.
“It had to be done. For her,” he says in consolation.
There’s a quick cut to the past and Setrakian standing over a decapitated Miriam.
Back in the present Eichorst hunts around in the pawn shop for a way to get to Setrakian, and Setrakian removes the cover from Miriam’s heart and stares into it.
In the past Setrakian is saying a prayer in Romanian, asking forgiveness for his sins and asking that Miriam and the others will have not died in vain. Then he starts cutting out her heart, pulling it out all beating and covered in those parasitic worms. He’s wearing leather gloves to avoid infection.
In the present Setrakian abandons the jar, kissing his hand and then putting it on the glass.
“Goodbye Miriam. Until we meet again,” he says, and runs into the secret exit, closing the door behind him.
Eichorst finally breaks through to the basement and finds the jar. He’s impressed, saying in German that Setrakian has abandoned all that he loves.
“But it still won’t be enough,” Eichorst says.
Palmer is alone on his deathbed. He hears a noise and thinks its his man-servant Fitzwilliams, but, nope, it’s the Master, who crouches over him and gets right up in his face.
“I knew you’d come. I believed. Save me,” he says.
The Master drips a few drops of clear liquid off his fingernail into Palmer’s mouth, and Palmer’s color returns to his cheeks.
A few moments later Fitzwilliams enters the room and his boss’s bed empty. He goes out to the patio and sees Palmer laughing, healthy, holding his hands out to welcome the rain. Hey, I guess the Master is a square dealer after all. End of episode.
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