The Strain Recap: The Miriam Has Two Faces

Photo: Michael Gibson/FX
The Strain
The Strain
Episode Title
Last Rites
Editor’s Rating

When there’s an overhead shot of a man with arms outstretched toward the rain, particularly sans regard for an umbrella or sensible slicker, it typically suggests one of two things: Said character has either just experienced cleansing redemption, or, as in the case of Eldritch Palmer, they’ve finally been given access to some nebulous immortal privilege. Or at least we assume that’s what it meant when the Master leaned over Mr. Palmer’s bed and, at the ailing old man’s request, squeezed a couple droplets of gluey goo down his throat and implored him to “behold.” (Cue a familiar Michael Scott-ism.) Whatever invulnerability Palmer’s acquired has also raised the ire and envy of those close to him. Eichhorst paid a visit to his employer’s bedside just before the Master swooped in, all but threatening him to watch his heinie. Later, Fitzwilliam waltzes in with meds in hand, just in time to catch his employer communing with the heavens.

Fortunately for Eldritch, Eichhorst has bigger senior fish to fry. It didn’t take long for Abe’s Nazi nemesis to discern where our heroes might be hiding out, and he arrived at the pawnshop with a cadre of bloodthirsty strigoi. Most notably, Bolivar’s back! And promptly subdued underneath some cellar furniture. But not before clinging his stinger onto Nora’s mom and sending her from dementia to slow metamorphosis. This, in turn, led to the scene we all saw coming, when Nora’s forced to put her mother down, by way of decapitation no less. Eph was willing to do the deed, but then, that would have been neither prosaic nor predictable. Good-bye, Marelia Martinez, and good thing you quit smoking just in time for a pasty goth star to give you the kiss of death.  

The good news? Abe, Nora, Eph, Fet, Zack, and Dutch (she’s baaaaack) managed to sneak out and escape Eichhorst’s siege unscathed. Even more impressive, the returning Ms. Velders figured out a way to hijack the Emergency Alert System so Eph could deliver a late-night PSA (cause how else does a discredited fugitive inform the public?) on the “disease” transforming loved ones into what Gus might deem domestic “killing machines.” Of course, it’s unclear how many broadcast networks are up and running, how many New Yorkers are passively (or urgently) twiddling their thumbs by a television set or whether anyone will be inclined to believe all that autopsy footage isn’t just a work. There’s no real sense of how widespread this epidemic really is, outside of post-produced clamor in the streets and intimations that, in some circles, business is being conducted as usual.

One man who’s yet to let some silly vampire craze kill his enterprise is Nigerian-American ruffian Alonso Creem (Jamie Hector), who gets held up by Gus, who’s on the run and eager for revenge. After sticking up his adversary for guns and cash, Gus makes the mistake of inquiring what shady dealings Alonso’s conspiring in to reap all that … cream? Alonso, as it happens, has been helping to export massive shipping containers. Only he doesn’t get the key and isn’t intimate with the cargo. At least until Gus busts up the lock, opens one up and uncovers a whole lot of creepy creatures coming for their lives. 

Like Abe & Co., the two narrowly avoid peril, even though Alonso did his best to take out Gus as they fought off the vampire onslaught. But they’d have both been toast were it not for Quinlan (tip of the hat to the reader who, way back when, IDed the actor as Lance Henriksen lookalike Stephen McHattie) and his entourage of renegade mutants, who’ve returned with significantly more force than the somewhat resurgent Bolivar. Quinlan dispatches of the remaining strigoi, leaves Creem by his lonesome on the dock and snatches up Gus inside their tinted SUV, presumably shuffling him off to wherever Neeva and Joan’s kids are hiding. (If these survivors are meant to be a future army, humanity’s in deep, deep trouble.)

That’s the fun stuff, along with a nice bit of gore when middle-aged Abe (shown in flashback circa Albania, 1967) decapitates his wife Miriam (Adina Verson), who’s neck is rendered a mere oozing stump on their cottage’s wooden planks. Thanks to this unexpected insight into Abe’s historical hunt for the Master, we also discover that Setrakian nearly cornered his foe inside a well 47 years earlier, before Eichhorst appeared to taunt him with their intentions to take Miriam’s life (pretty much an inevitably once she set foot onscreen, never mind when she urged her husband to come home from vamp-slaying before sundown). Back in the present day, Abraham reveals to his faith-shaken allies that he hasn’t encountered the Master or his cronies since that night, which is why he acted impulsively when trying to vanquish the Big Bad beneath the subway. He even exhibits empathy for Nora. He knows what it’s like to behead the one you love. It sucks.

And while it might be harsh to say the same for this series, The Strain hasn’t exactly satisfied expectations. Its attempts at punchy humor can more or less be summed up by yet another repellent attempt by Fet to seduce Dutch, this time by antagonizing her about her sexual preference. Nor is it as stylish or as substantive or as fun as American Horror Story. And it definitely battles with pacing, purpose, and pathos. So what is The Strain, as it heads into its final season-one episode? A fantasy comic book? Gothic horror? Fable about faith and family? Maybe we’ll find out next week. Hopefully, Bolivar will have become unpinned by then to join the party.

Apart from all that:

  • Have I mentioned Fet is gross?
  • Dutch’s backstory is almost as superfluous as Fet’s.
  • Abe yell at Nora! Nora upset!
  • Nora kill mom! Nora scream!
  • Eph is the worst.
  • I like the idea of Abe as a kind of Indiana Jones–meets–Simon Wiesenthal
  • Cool, lingering moment of Eichhorst seeming disgusted at his alienness in front of that vibrating mirror.
  • Very cool effects for Miriam’s heart by the way.
  • And finally, apologies for the erratic recurrence of these, but as I’ve mentioned, I’m beholden to my sources. And while I can’t provide this week’s, or the previous couple of weeks’ soundtrack specs, I do have some long-belated music notes from episodes like … “The Disappeared,” which featured some hot Mozart action. Elsewhere, there was the already-discussed, comical inclusion of “Here I Go Again” in “Creatures of the Night,” and the all originally scored “For Services Rendered.” More when/if I get ’em!