The Strain Season 1 Finale Recap: The Master of His Domain

The Strain

The Master
Season 1 Episode 13
Editor’s Rating 4 stars

The Strain

The Master
Season 1 Episode 13
Editor’s Rating 4 stars
Photo: FX

It would be fair to ask why Eph feels compelled to take Zack under his wing and into battle, as opposed to fleeing across the nearest bridge before somebody decides no one’s getting out of New York City — dead or alive. But someone has to play hero, especially when quivering cowards like Eph’s former boss Everett Barnes — who, ironically, backpedaled away from his opportunity to quarantine Manhattan — are falling in line with Eldritch and Eichhorst rather than get tossed over a towering ledge like Secretary Pierson (can you blame him?).

It’s a tough day for Zack, who trades in his portable video games for a silver sword, stares down red-eyed strigoi (a cool touch, and very reminiscent of the early Michael Mann film The Keep, a 1983 horror tale that also marries monsters and Nazi mythology), and comes face to hideously transformed face with his undead mother. That last part is arguably Zack’s own fault, since he’d faked an asthma attack just so his father would feel compelled to return to Woodside for spare inhalers, a ruse that would allow Zack to retrieve a family photo album. Or maybe that’s more Eph’s cross to bear, since it’s virtually inexplicable that he didn’t insist Zack stay back with the pack while he retrieved any lingering inhalers, given the likelihood that Kelly was lurking around those parts. However you slice it, Mama Goodweather is indeed on the premises, but she (it?) backs off after a warning shot from Eph.

At this point, it’s unclear where Kelly gets summoned to next, because the Master is officially on the run. Fet and the gang track him down successfully to Bolivar’s Tribeca lair, where they encounter vamp lackeys and dispatch many of them with dynamite, bullets, and old-fashioned chutzpah. Abe finds an opening through the sinister hordes and is awarded a chance to square off against his historic foe. It does not go well at first — but then Eph and Zack arrive and channel their From Dusk Till Dawn mojo by smashing out windows to allow sunlight to pour in. The Master, burned and surprised, takes a bit of a pratfall out onto the roof, where Abe makes the rookie (and Oberyn Martell–ish) mistake of sermonizing “in the name of all that is holy,” rather than chopping the Master’s block off. And before anyone can say “Wood-carver!” the Master has called away all his scions and rappelled down the building, presumably to safe harbor. Foiled again!

Fortunately for all humanity, Gus may have stumbled onto — or, more accurately, been carefully selected for and indoctrinated into — something big. He’s “deep underground” with anti-hero vamp Quinlan and standoffish at first, warning, “If you plannin’ on eatin’ Mexican tonight, you gonna choke.” (Much as we imagine Miguel Gomez nearly did on that dialogue.) Alas, Quinlan and a panel of neat-looking vampires he refers to as “The Ancients” (it’s not official without a pronoun, after all) merely want Gus to join them as a human soldier in their fight against some night-stalking adversaries who broke a sacred truce. This, no doubt, refers to the Master, Eichhorst et al., and the reveal suggests that much of season two’s action could orbit around this “vampire turf war.”

Eph and crew head for the hills, or whatever awaits them on the other side of the bridge they’re driving over as the episode comes to a close. This is good news for viewers, and necessary for the show’s makeshift family of protagonists. Abe, as many suspected, wasn’t exactly dead-on about the Master’s limitations. Nora, meanwhile, has to deal with some newfound rage after decapitating her demented mother (a specimen, insultingly, not even worthy of Eldritch’s collection). Zack could use a breather (pun intended) to wrap his head around the end of innocence, and Fet and Dutch just need to get a room and get it over with already. Then there’s Eph, who’s hitting the bottle again (did we even remember him being an alcoholic until it was not-so-subtly addressed tonight?) and is poised to enter the grizzled, all-is-lost stage of his Rick Grimes–esque hero arc (even as Zack, accordingly, seems to be discovering his inner Carl).

In his poignant season-closing narration, Abe laments, “This planet, once so wild and unknown, we’ve mapped it, paved it, arranged it on a grid, never imagining that something else was watching us, a creature even more ruthless than we are, eager to exploit the very infrastructure we so obligingly arranged.” And no, he’s not referring to Dutch and her hacker friends (nor Jamie from the gallery in Soho), although they, like so many other players in The Strain, have sought to upset the order of things at one point or another, whatever their intentions. He’s not even really referring to the Master alone. He, via episode writers Carlton Cuse and Chuck Hogan, is addressing the invisible divide between good and evil, and the vigilance required to offset persuasive and persistent wickedness. You can’t flee from it. The world is too small. But, for better or worse, the likes of Eldritch and the Master can’t move about in secret, either. The war is on, and in reality, it always will be.

Apart from all that:

  • Oh, yeah, Fitzwilliam finally ditched Eldritch, although apparently decided to let him live. Dum-dum. 
  • Eph dismissing Bolivar as “that goth douchebag” got a hearty chuckle from me.
  • Nothing says “Hey, we’re re-creating New York!” like steam coming out of a manhole. (That’s what she said.)
  • Ah, good ol’ Diamond Jim.
  • We now know that Fet’s philosopher of choice is Aurelius. And that he might be more interesting if he actually were kind of a loose cannon.
  • We get it Nora, killing your mom sucked. But since when are you so gung ho about sending men, women, and children into battle?
  • The moonwalking subservient vamps were awesome. More of that, please. 
  • Gus, no eulogy for your brother? He’s like the Matt of the Elizalde family.
  • The Goodweathers did have a sweet built-in sink in that wooden island.
  • Thanks for sticking with me and making these 13 weeks so entertaining, guys. See ya next season!

The Strain Season 1 Finale Recap: The Master