Parveen Kaur as Aanya Gupta.
Photo: Michael Gibson/FX
Oh, Fet: Quit while you’re ahead. Remarking, “One? Who goes on one?” as Eph counted down to freeing infected vamp Mr. McGeever on the streets of Brooklyn was pretty funny. (And, if Setrakian were present, would have no doubt invoked this storied Passover parable.) But you had to go and press your luck with that quip about an invisible friend named Donnie moments later. Unless, of course, Donnie is key to recovering the Occido Lumen and saving all humankind from a coup d’ strigoi. Crazier things have happened. For example, it’s not as if Fet, Abe, and Dutch foresaw this plague leading to local council members like Faraldo instituting borough-wide martial law and suspension of Constitutional rights. But after the old man and Ms. Velders encounter Faraldo’s hanging-vampire tapestry at St. George’s terminal, and once Vasiliy gets beaten down Gestapo-style (down to the red armbands) after blowing up Carroll Street’s subway entrance, the reality of a new regime sinks in.
But the journey over to Staten Island’s new world order was worth it for odd-couple Abe and Dutch, who were on a mission to speak with Fitzwilliam about his former boss. Reggie’s hesitant to align himself with the renegade hacker and nonagenarian vampire hunter, but his brother Curtis helps coerce. And after hearing of Palmer’s plan to send the financial markets into free fall, he seems to come around. Yep, that dastardly Eldritch lured financial leaders on both sides of the aisle to the Federal Reserve to hammer out a bipartisan solution to growing panic, when in fact he was leading them into a trap beset by Bolivar and his hungry feeders.
Though no one or thing’s senses are more aroused than Kelly’s feelers, who go giddy when they pick up Zach’s scent on a bunch of baseball equipment at a South Slope batting cage. That’s what Eph gets for trying to get out of Fet’s hideaway and do something fun with his son. He may as well have led a trail of crumbs to their doorstep. Not to mention Zach can’t hit a slow pitch for shit, and all their excursion did was bring back painful memories of how wicked mom was with a piece of aluminum in her hands. Well, everything goes full circle, and at episode’s end, she’s got one in her grasp again, and can feel Zach coming ever closer to her grip.
Naturally, that’s but one chess move the Master’s got up his sleeve in his one-upmanship with Eph and Nora. Just when they think they’ve gained the upper hand by successfully spreading their antivirus, the immortal evildoer commands his sickly goons to start leaping to their deaths rather than infect any further strigoi. When that first undead body smashes onto the roof of a nearby car, it’s one of The Strain’s most memorable jump scares to date, and a nifty twist in this tug-of-war between science and malicious will. And it also suits Eph and Nora just fine. It means they’ve got their adversary on the defensive. And as a viewer, it provides a satisfying revisionist fantasy of what might have happened had the good guys intervened sooner in historical genocides.
Lucky for the Master, he can be everywhere at once, and he’s decided to multitask by taking the menace straight to Gus, who’s returned to his Harlem apartment one last time to gather some familiar things. (Nice payoff in this episode, by the way, on the lucha-head decoration in the Elizande’s living room, but more on that in a moment.) As he stuffs some clothes in a sack, Mama Elizande slinks out of hiding, possessed by the Master’s stare and snortling about how the Ancients are old news, and Gus is an ignorant coward and criminal who more or less facilitated all this when he ferried that coffin into the city. Gus, reasonably, rebuts that the Master doesn’t exactly exemplify courage by having to steal victims’ souls and then “dance around in their body.” Touché, Mr. Elizande, and to be continued.
And when Gus does encounter the Master next, he may have some help in the form of a hobbled, middle-aged man who buses at an Indian restaurant. That might not sound too promising, but this old-timer, whom Gus stumbles on serendipitously while stopping at Tandoori Palace for “something that kind of tastes like spaghetti,” is more than meets the eye. He is, as Gus soon realizes, none other than Angel Hurtado (Joaquin Cosio), aka luchador superhero El Angel de Plata (the Silver Angel), star of several black-and-white Spanish-language horror movies. He walks with a limp after an on-set accident while grappling with a fictional (or was it?) vampire foe. Still, the big man’s posture and physique are unmistakable, and it’s obvious he’s got something left in the tank and a long-held suspicion that genuine strigoi walk the Earth. Bonus: Gus gets a meet-cute with Tandoori waitress Aanya (Parveen Kaur), who can’t help but be drawn to a bad boy with little culinary sophistication.
This brings us back to Zach, a boy in search of someone to look up to. His athlete mother’s bitten the dust, his rock-star icon Bolivar’s gone the way of bloodthirsty heathen, and the only person he can rely on is an alcoholic, temperamental dad who inexplicably raised his kid as a Yankees fan despite being from Queens. Even if you’re still smarting over Max Charles replacing Ben Hyland and bringing his best angsty Carl Grimes impersonation with him, you gotta feel for Zach. On some level, he intuits the responsibility of what lies ahead as a child in this epidemic, and that’s a lot to handle when on top of losing a parent and hurtling into adolescence.
As ever, The Strain is as much about choices as anything else. Eph’s prioritized mankind over his preteen son. Nora’s stood by Eph’s side despite his lapses in sobriety and dubious parenting. Palmer picked his side back in 1966 after hitting another wall in search of the Lumen and eternal life, and thus sided with Eichhorst and the Master’s axis of evil. (Also, was Eichhorst’s “Would you like to know more?” line a direct Starship Troopers homage?) Setrakian, ironically, figured out how to stave off death long enough to vanquish the Master for good. Fitzwilliam’s realizing he can’t half-step it in this war of the worlds and has all but signed on with Setrakian’s good-guy Allies. Gus, meanwhile, is slowly coming to terms with the fact that no one survives this test of humanity’s endurance alone. And then there’s Fet, who’s learning the hard way that his idol Faraldo won’t stand for vigilante justice. Where’s Donnie when you need him?
Apart from all that:
- I like the Shadow of the Vampire implications of Angel’s backstory.
- Didn’t see “Fortunate Son” coming.
- I love the nesting scenes.
- And I’ll forgive the lack of elaboration regarding Vaun & Co.’s fate.
- I wonder if missing person Shirin will wind up being relevant.
- Good touch to show skyline buildings burning.
- Del Toro’s a sucker for mid-to-late-20th century children’s institutions.