“Keep an eye on Mrs. Martinez.”
With those six words, and the decision that goes with it, Doctor Ephraim Goodweather wins the Father of the Year award. Just kidding, he loses it, in a landslide. Eph is many things — a brilliant scientist for one, and a wig-wearing warrior for another — but as far as being a parent goes, he’s basically the worst.
In the latest episode of The Strain, titled “The Third Rail,” Eph accompanies veteran vampire slayer Abraham Setrakian, kill-happy exterminator Vasiliy Fet, and CDC colleague and sometime lover Nora Martinez on a mission to track down and assassinate the Master, eradicating the Strigoi strain once and for all.
The only thing Eph wants is to reunite his family, which includes missing wife Kelly, and keeping son Zack safe. Except there’s one major flaw in Eph’s plan: In joining the crusade against the Master, Eph abandons Zack, leaving him alone with Nora’s elderly mother, a woman with a thin grasp on reality, to put it lightly.
There’s a fleeting moment where Eph realizes someone should stay back at Abraham’s pawn shop with Zack and Mrs. Martinez. But rather than volunteering for the job, he asks Nora to serve as babysitter. When she vehemently refuses, a questionable decision in its own right, Eph still refuses to back down. He’s going on the mission, even when leaving an able-bodied adult behind to protect the least experienced members of their little band is clearly the move.
In the end, Zack and Mrs. Martinez are fine, though no thanks to Eph. Nora’s mother nearly runs away from the pawn shop, desperate for a pack of cigarettes. (Another strike, Nora. How could you leave without restocking Mama’s nicotine supply?) In order to keep her from splitting, Zack takes it upon himself to go out and get a fresh pack. He nearly dies in the process, just barely escaping becoming vampire chow, and cracking his precious iPhone’s screen to boot. Zack’s lucky to be alive, and it’s no thanks to his father.
Leaving his young son alone with an unstable elderly woman isn’t even Eph’s only major goof of the night. On the way to the Master’s lair, Eph deviates from the group’s plan when he hears his missing wife’s voice reverberating through the abandoned New York City tunnels. As a result, the Master catches Eph, and nearly sucks the life out of him, if not for Fet detonating an ultraviolet bomb at the exact right time, eliminating the group’s element of surprise. The Master retreats, Abraham throws a hissy-fit, and the Strigoi slayers are back to square one. It’s not good.
Also not good: Augustin “Gus” Elizalde’s entire world crumbles around him, when he returns home to Harlem to find his brother and mother turned into Strigoi. He kills his bro, but leaves his mom behind, unable to pull the trigger. (Or swing the bat, as it were.) But even without his family, Gus seems uniquely built for the world of The Strain, much like Fet, as evidenced by his skill with a fire axe. It’s only a matter of time before Gus becomes a major player in Setrakian’s squad.
In fact, Gus brushes elbows with Abraham’s army, when he literally runs into Zack Goodweather at the grocery store during Operation Get Grandma Some Cigarettes. Instead of sticking together, Gus waves Zack away, opting to track down the store’s vampire while the kid has a chance to escape. It’s too bad; aligned with Gus and his fire axe, Zach could’ve been in good hands. Certainly better than with his deadbeat dad.