Sunday, October 5, 2014

REVIEW: 'The Strain' - Eph and Setrakian Battle The Master While Gus Learns Some Vampire History in 'The Master'

FX's The Strain - Episode 1.13 "The Master"

Eph and Fet recon for an all-out assault that Setrakian assures them will finally kill the Master. Gus aligns himself with a strange new force, one that may swing the fight in an unforeseen direction.

The Strain concluded its first season tonight and it sure did feel anticlimactic. Eph, Setrakian and company have been working all season long to kill the Master and end his reign of terror over New York City. They stage yet another attack against the Master's latest hideout - Bolivar's hangout (which is about the extent of that character's usefulness). Eph and Setrakian get him out into direct sunlight. He is weakened but still manages to crawl down the building and escape once again. The heroes are defeated. They've been working under the assumption that direct sunlight would be able to kill him. And now, they get some confirmation that it doesn't. In all seriousness, it sure does look like it's working. It just takes a lot more time to truly defeat him in that manner than his average vampire minion. And yet, the group is now certain that sunlight won't kill him which is stretching a little bit. It's just not instantaneous like the vampires they are used to fighting.

So now, the team is on the run yet again trying to regroup and figure out what's their next best option. That has been done so many times this season. But the actual end of the finale is Eph and his son returning to their house just so Zack can retrieve a family album. Going to get inhalers is one thing. But just to get pictures is incredibly stupid. And there's no reason why it has to be a part of the final few minutes of the season. It's all so the two can finally get confirmation that Kelly has been turned to a vampire. They get that. And yet, it's not personally devastating to the audience. We've known what's happened to her for weeks now and Eph and Zack's reactions aren't big or emotional. Zack is crying out and Eph shoots to kill. It would be so much more effective if we actually cared about this family. All season long the show has been saying this dynamic is important. And yet, it has always been incredibly bland. That texture continues to the very final minutes. Also, did we know that Eph is an alcoholic? It feels like a plot point that has been mentioned before (probably early in the season). And yet, it has never been that important to the narrative spine of the season. We haven't seen Eph struggle with those personal demons while facing the new world order. So to make the last emotional climax of the season be him pouring himself a drink following defeat on two fronts doesn't seem earned. It just seems like a creation made for this episode and one that is just nonchalantly referenced in the beginning.

The true point of intrigue comes from Gus - of all people! He has been capture by the vampire sniper team. They continue to be cool. And in the final episode of the season we get a glimpse into their world. It's not much but we learn that there is this whole underworld structure of vampires - of which the Master is only a part of as the part that broke away from the order. It puts almost too much importance on Gus' shoulders. I've never cared about his struggles since he first drove the coffin across the river and into the city. And now, he's going to be the one to restore order to this vampiric system. That responsibility has fallen onto a character the season as a whole has never known what to do with. That is just weak and lame plotting - a criticism that would define almost everything about this season.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Master" was written by Carlton Cuse & Chuck Hogan and directed by Phil Abraham.
  • Apparently, Palmer was only granted health by the Master and not immortality. That would explain the difference from his visit last week and the one Eichhorst got back in the 1940s. So now, he still has to prove something which just seems like a weird way to differentiate the identities of the human faces of the series' villains. I'd rather just watch him throw people off buildings.
  • Additional unnecessary moments include Fitzwilliams quitting, Dutch identify one of the vampires and struggling to kill her and Eph having to check if the vampire he just killed was his ex-wife before walking up the stairs to confront the Master.
  • Fet just happens to have dynamite laying around at his place. No big deal.
  • In response to Eph's message last week, the government has just turned off all the television channels. Because that seems like a good idea. The politics of power have never been this show's strong point.
  • I was looking forward to seeing what a mature vampire looks like after Setrakian teased us earlier this season. And yet, Bolivar appears just like every other vampire - except he gets a cape to play with! What a letdown. Why is he billed as a series regular?
  • I reviewed an entire season of The Strain and the show has been renewed for a second season. Unless it shows remarkable improvement, I can't imagine wanting to continue writing about it on a weekly basis.