After a couple weeks of going in circles with storylines that went nowhere, stuff actually happens on ‘The Strain’ this week! The characters make progress and move the narrative forward! For half the episode, anyway. Kind of a shame about the other half.
After regrouping at Setrakian’s shop and arming themselves with vampire-killing weapons both classical (swords, silver bullets) and improvised (a UV light “bomb”), Eph and the group head out to hunt down and kill the Master. They leave Eph’s son and Nora’s mother behind at the shop.
Fet has tracked the rat infestation to an epicenter at the site of the World Trade Center. Skulking through dark and creepy subway tunnels, they follow a trail of personal belongings shed by the master’s victims. They have to sneak past a vampire nest, and watch one lumbering vamp get fried when it touches the electrified third rail. Eph hears his wife’s voice calling to him and stupidly runs off ahead, crawling through a very tight hole dug through a wall. In a very suspenseful sequence, the others get cornered by vamps as they follow through the hole. Fet gets stuck and almost doesn’t make it until being pulled through at the last second.
Stupid Eph is lured to the Master’s casket and seems to believe that he can kill the monster with his piddly sword. Clearly, he has no understanding of what he’s up against. Just then, the rubber-faced Master swoops in and grabs him by the throat. The Master promises to make him suffer and opens wide to stick out his tentacle. Fet tosses in the UV bomb, which kills a bunch of other vamps and sends the Master fleeing. Enraged that they missed their chance to kill him, Setrakian busts up the casket and blindly pursues the Master down a tunnel, until encountering an even bigger nest of vampires thousands and thousands strong.
Aside from the Master’s makeup (which looks even goofier this week as the camera lingers on it longer) and Eph behaving like a moron (which is sadly par for the course), this storyline is otherwise well handled and tensely directed. These scenes seem to shake the show loose from the rut it’s been stuck in as the character are finally driven to actually do something.
Unfortunately, the other half of the episode (or nearly so) is wasted on Eph’s kid and Nora’s mom, who have nothing useful to contribute to the story. The mother’s dementia is getting worse. She gets confused and agitated waiting for her daughter to come back. She goes ballistic when she runs out of cigarettes. To calm the annoying old bat down, the kid leaves the shop in search of cigarettes at a nearby abandoned market. He gets scared by looters and is almost nabbed by a vamp in the basement, but eventually he makes it back to the shop safely (although his phone is smashed in the process). This whole storyline is blatant filler, and it takes up a lot of screen time.
In a side story, Gus (last seen escaping from the prison transport) returns home to find his brother and mother vampirized. He kills the brother but can’t bring himself to do the same to the mother, so he leaves her in the apartment. Later, he’ll cross paths very briefly with Eph’s son.
I don’t have a problem with Gus as a character, but there’s really no reason to have him on the show anymore. His story is barely tied to the main narrative at all, and I just don’t care about his domestic problems. I assume that he’ll eventually join Setrakian’s group as a vampire killer, but the details of what he does in the meantime are entirely pointless.
What the hell happened to those vampire commandoes who were killing other vampires and saving humans? We saw them for a brief minute several episodes ago, but have heard nothing about them since. That was a really interesting development and desperately needs to be followed-up on. Hell, for that matter, I also wouldn’t mind finding out what happened to Gabe the vampire rocker.
The show’s writers have no sense at all of how to discern the interesting story bits from the uninteresting ones, or how to prioritize which ones the audience actually cares to see.