The Strain weekly recap: ‘The Master’ lacks teeth in the season finale

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“The world is not what it was one week ago. What will it be one week from now?”

Those are the deeply unsatisfying questions that Abraham Setrakian ponders in the final moments of The Strain‘s first season. It’s a stark reminder that only a handful of days have passed since Regis Air Flight 753 touched down at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York, loaded with an ancient vampire called The Master, hellbent on remodeling every man, woman, and child in Manhattan after his own likeness. How much has changed?

Sure, blood-sucking creatures called Strigoi run rampant throughout the five boroughs, doing the Master’s bidding. Setrakian’s lifelong quest to vanquish the Master and his minions has reawakened, with new soldiers recruited to his cause. But those pieces moved into place in the early days of this hellish week. The past handful of days have been marked by little more than failure and stagnancy — both on the part of the characters, and the show.

STRAIN_111_00004_hires1The season finale, titled “The Master,” does not feel like a season finale. It’s a midseason episode, with midseason stakes. Among the big reveals: Kelly Goodweather is now a vampire; we knew this. Ephraim Goodweather is a bad dad and an alcoholic; we knew this as well. New York City remains a Strigoi cesspool, buried under Eldritch Palmer’s bags of money; nothing new there.

A small handful of “game-changers” exist, but still feel slight. The Master can survive in sunlight; further proof that he’s a vampire above all other vampires. Gus Elizalde is such a badass, that even the vampire-hunting vampires want to work with him; not a newsflash, but an intriguing promise for season two of the series.

Beyond Gus’ new role, very little about the finale feels like an “event.” Team Ephraham wage war against the Master and accomplish precisely nothing, once again retreating to home base with their hats in their hands. (Abraham’s pawnshop is no more, with Vasiliy Fet’s Gowanus loft operating as the new anti-vampire clubhouse; so, there’s that.)

It’s the same exact result every single time Abraham and Eph bring silver to bare against the vampires; they slice off a few heads and dodge some six-foot tongues, before running home with their tails tucked between their legs in failure. Same story, different episode.

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Same story with the villains, as well. There’s a moment where Thomas Eichhorst finally looks like he’s about to meet his maker, riddled with silver bullets and nails. Then, he’s summoned away by the Master, seconds before he’s allowed to die. It’s hard to imagine The Strain without Eichhorst’s magnetic presence, and yet, killing off the show’s deadliest villain would be a toothsome twist.

And perhaps that’s the problem: For a show about vampires, The Strain lacks teeth. The show couldn’t bring itself to give the good guys a real loss, beyond Zach seeing his vampirized mother, and Eph returning to the bottle. The show couldn’t give them a win, either, with Eichhorst or The Master not biting the silver bullet. Even the world remains exactly as it was in the latter half of the season: New York City, on the brink of chaos, but never fully tipping toward the bloody darkness.

So, we return to Abraham’s question — a version of it, at least. What will the world of The Strain be like months from now, when it returns for a second season? Will it be the show of its first handful of episodes, filled with dread and nastiness, with the promise of a horribly mutated world? Or will it be the show of its most recent handful of episodes, shifting from one foot to another as it does the “I-gotta-go” dance?

The series has months to answer that question, but once season two begins, it needs an immediate answer. No more time to waste, The Strain. You’re burning daylight.

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