Recap: “The Master,” The Strain, Season 1, Episode 13

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There’s a lot I could write about the final episode the first season of The Strain. There’s plentiful material to discuss in the development of plot and character, the advancing of stories, the answering of questions, the setting the table for next season (coming in 2015, the ominous baritone over the closing credits assures us). But why bother? That would be giving more care and attention than the episode bothers with. Because the bottom line of this episode is that nothing much happens. Sure, the characters do things, red-shirt vamps get killed, there’s a little fighting, some absurd leaps of logic, the re-appearance of a character for the first time in about 10 episodes only for her to be thrown—laughably—over a balcony to her death. But those are the events of the episode; they’re not what happens.

A season finale should deliver some resolution, some satisfaction, some finality. The audience has given, in this case, one hour every Sunday for the last three months to The Strain. They’ve earned the opportunity to feel some crescendo of excitement or emotion, to feel that the season has been all leading up to this.

But The Strain is so poorly conceived, so badly structured, that this finale robs us of the sense that the episode has been going anywhere other than following the bullet-point outline that describes how to adapt the novels the show is based on.

The last few episodes have led us to believe that the finale would offer some kind of climactic battle with The Master, Eichorst, and the many vampires now roaming New York. You wouldn’t necessarily expect The Master to be vanquished here—there are more seasons to come, and two more novels to adapt—but you’d expect to at least get some kind of resolution. Instead, you get just the opposite: nothing is resolved, nothing comes to an end. It’s just another episode. By the end of the episode, the vampire plague is undiminished. Eichorst has done some fighting, but nothing terribly more than he has in the past. Goodweather and Setrakian have again engaged The Master in a fight—this one slightly longer than last episode’s, but not by much and certainly no more interesting—and all three of them survive. In fact, none of them is particularly different after the fight (except for the ho-hum knowledge that sunlight doesn’t kill The Master).

Perhaps we should have seen this game-ending strikeout coming. Think back to the early episodes of the series. Remember the eclipse? That was teased from the first episode as a potential catastrophe: after all, if sunlight keeps the vampires in check, and the sun goes away during the day, all hell should break loose. But remember that, when the eclipse came, almost nothing happened? One vampire attacked a few people stuck in traffic and, just a few vanishing minutes later, the eclipse was over. The event that we’d spent episodes anticipating, fearing, wondering what it would hold ultimately held nothing—just like the series.

The Strain had moments of strength and excitement, but never two good, or even decent, episodes in a row. Its failings are too many recount in this column. In fact, they overran the banks of an entire seasons’ worth of columns. FX liked what it saw enough to renew the series, but it’s hard to imagine that—after an ending that promised so much and delivered next to nothing—that many viewers feel the same way.

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