The most pressing question after tonight’s finale is inevitably, “How did it take him so long to use that Saved by the Bell pun for a headline?” It’s not as if anyone’s really caught off guard that Nora shuffled off this mortal coil. A combination of sentimental flashbacks, abbreviated reconciliations, doomed decisions by Nora and Eph (hopping a Savannah-bound train and grabbing one last drink for the road, respectively), and telltale gazes all but made that transparent starting midway through last week’s episode (told you so). But as Quinlan declared during his best Hoosiers pep talk to Gus’s gang of ex-cons, “Human life is fleeting. The act itself, the dying, is the same. What distinguishes the honorable from the dishonorable is how, in a few most important moments, they conducted themselves.” Well, bully for Nora, who at least went out swinging her sword against Kelly. And she would have had her too, if it weren’t for that meddling kid, Zach.
I think we can all agree that the youngest Goodweather finally rankled our last collective nerve when he implored Nora to relent, providing Kelly with a window to strike and infect Dr. Martinez. On the upside, it led to that spectacular display of pyrotechnic thrashing and slow-motion agony when Nora electrocuted herself rather than let the Master omnisciently revel in their long goodbye. (And I confess, I totally blew past the obvious foreshadowing when she instructed Zach about not touching the third rail.) Not to mention, the writers did us a solid by more or less evading Nora all season in lieu of putting pieces in place for next year, making her death both foreseeable and relatively non-traumatic. Aces.
There were a couple close calls elsewhere during “Night Train” that nearly qualified as dekes, like Zach staying alive but joining his scaly mommy for a jaunt to the Master’s lair after their tender reunion. And then there was Gus, who practically became collateral damage as a result of Fet and Abe’s plan to ditch their trusty Wilson’s truck (R.I.P.) through a trapped door and blow the thing to bits. Luckily, he made it down the escape hatch and into the sewer before it went kablooey. One could argue that after Gus and Quinlan’s army saved Vasiliy and Setrakian from Eichorst’s strigoi, they were already owed a serious debt of gratitude. And after almost lighting him ablaze, an apology might be apt as well. Alas, such courtesies have eluded even the most valiant of warriors in these heady times, and the three end up staring each other down with pistols and ultimatums instead. That’s when Quinlan comes on the scene, displeased by Abe’s efforts to fool the Ancients, but intrigued by his theory that the Lumen is worth more in their possession as bait for the Master. It’s a tad surprising that hadn’t occurred to Quinlan sooner, but let’s offer the benefit of the doubt and assume spending centuries doing a warrior’s duty dulls your sixth sense for the bigger picture.
Conversely, Eldritch’s obsession with the grand scheme of immortality allowed him to lose sight on the preciousness of life. Specifically, Coco’s. Thanks to his shortsightedness in heeding her encouragement and asserting his bravado, leading to Eichorst’s embarrassing defeat in Creem’s bidding war over the Lumen, the Master made a statement by sucking Coco’s blood ‘til she mercifully crumpled. Later, in a bit of grim imagery, Palmer finally knows what it’s like to live in Abe’s shoes as he removes Coco’s wormy heart in morbid homage, much as Abe did with Miriam’s years prior. Could that lead to the magnate’s awakening next season, or is it tragically moot so long after picking sides in the battle between red and white? On the upside, Coco’s dead.
All season long, Eldritch’s biggest misstep has been underestimating his frenemy, Eichorst. Not only does Tommy-boy have more direct access to the Master’s ear, but he’s proven quite adept at overseeing massive construction projects. That’s right, folks: That nightmarishly efficient, SS-worthy human-drainage facility in Throggs Neck is just about ready to open for business. And in its completed form, even foreman Ortega can step back and see that something’s amiss, a hunch confirmed by Eichorst’s sinister comment that, “Its origins are European, yes.”
In these moments when The Strain knowingly taps into historical atrocities like the Holocaust and 9/11 (the latter subtly summoned in closing shots of burning Manhattan buildings and the Penn Station passengers’ cautious optimism as they departed) as a warning about our privileged, misled complacency, it finds something delicate and primal. More often than not, however, it’s a show overburdened by its commitment to formula. In fits and starts this season, it succeeded at some kind of entertaining nuance, though it arguably only needs another dozen chapters to feel complete. How many more chances at redemption and rescuing what’s left of his family has Eph earned, and what’s left to reveal of the Master’s plan between now and when Abe, Fet, Gus, and Quinlan come a-calling? But as their ship sets sail to depart the city once known as New Amsterdam, the biggest prevailing curiosity has to be: Where the fuck is Dutch?
Apart from all that:
- Incidentally, that’s more or less what Penn Station’s like on a given weeknight.
- Some cool POV shots of Fet and Angel blasting vamps, video game-style.
- Angel … the mask? Really?
- Damn nail guns always jam when you least need ’em to.
- May that be the last time Eichorst gets to sneer the numbers, “8230385.”
- Raise your hand if you’re shocked Creem’s still alive.
- Ditto for Rudyard. Or that he happened to sit next to Eph.
- Lots of sheep evocations (Eichorst allegedly processing sheep, Creem and co. meeting at Church of the Good Shepherd). OK, just two.
- So do we still get that postcard from Zach?