The Strain Season Finale ‘The Master’ Recap

by on 10/06/2014

With this episode, the first season of The Strain comes to an end. But as fans of the source novels know there are many more dark stories to be told.

The Strain will be back for at least a second season to adapt some of these, so this is more of a “see you later” than a “goodbye forever.” But that doesn’t mean there won’t be permanent consequences to the events in the finale.

The episode starts with Palmer and Mr. Fitzwilliam paying a little visit to Setrakian’s pawnshop, the base the vampire hunters abandoned during the last episode. Palmer is still old, but he’s in good health thanks to the creepy “tonic” the Master shared with him.

He surveys the messy pawnshop basement and its weapons and rare books with disdain, but the say he wants it all brought to his office. Except for the headless corpse of Mariela, decapitated by her daughter Nora after she was infected last episode.

“That can stay,” Palmer says dryly.

He’s especially interested in Setrakian’s dead wife Miriam’s still-living infected heart, which he asks Fitzwilliam to take special care of. There’s also a telling moment where Palmer picks up one of Setrakian’s silver weapons and runs it across his hands. It doesn’t burn him, proving he’s not really a strigoi.

Eichorst pops up like a bad smell and asks Palmer how he is. He explains that the Master gave Palmer “the white, but not the worm,” which means he has health but not immortality. Eichorst smarmily admits it won’t last forever.

Palmer is not happy about this bait and switch, of course, but Eichorst reassures Palmer he will eventually serve at the Master’s right hand for eternity, saying the wait is “just another test for your everlasting devotion.”

We cut to a flashback of Zack and Kelly in happier times, getting the bike Kelly got him for his birthday ready to ride. She takes a video of him riding on her iPhone, the one Zack watched a video from the same birthday party on in an earlier episode. The sound of gunshots interrupt the peace and turns out Zack was dreaming. The gunfire that woke him up is real, another sound of the deteriorating New York City.

The gang is in a new safehouse in Brooklyn, an apartment that seems to belong to Dutch. Eph, Vasiliy, and Setrakian are talking about the enormous nest of a thousand or so vampires they saw in an earlier episode. Setrakian says the vampires were there to provide security. Eph suggests checking out the structure above that spot and they make a plan to do reconnaissance. Vasiliy notes that the other men are getting along and jokes they’re falling in love.

Zack comes downstairs and, worried, asks if they’re going to try to attack the Master again.

“We most certainly are,” Setrakian says, but Eph dissembles, saying they’re just going to go “check some things out.”

Zack asks when they can go home.

“Zack we can’t go back,” Eph says, and Zack walks sadly away.

Setrakian takes issue with Eph’s parenting, saying he should not shelter the boy and should tell him that his mother, Kelly, is now a vampire.

“That’s not your decision to make. Keep your mouth shut,” Eph says, angrily, and Setrakian even looks a little scared.

“Shortest honeymoon on record, huh?” Vasiliy says sarcastically, and he and Eph leave for the recon.

In a dark room, with a hood over his head, Gus is tied to a chair.

“Are you scared to look a Mexican in his eye, you coward?” he shouts.

One of the vampire tactical team guys who kidnapped Gus last episode enters and rips the hood off Gus’s head. The only light is an overhead spotlight shining on Gus. It looks like the prelude to either a marathon interrogation or torture session, but Gus is full of bravado.

The vampire takes his own hood off. He’s very much classic Nosferatu, with white skin, a bald head, and batlike ears, but he has weird front teeth that make him slightly comical. Gus tells him that if he’s planning on eating Mexican tonight he’ll choke. We get it Gus, you’re Puerto Rican.

The vampire assures Gus he’s not a snack, and that he’s “deep underground” somewhere safe. Then he pulls a knife and after a moment of false suspense cuts Gus’s bonds. Gus pretends like he just wants to talk for a second but then lunges at the vampire. It moves with superhuman speed and Gus does a painful faceplant, then it tells him to come with it.

At Stoneheart group Palmer adds Miriam’s heart to his own macabre collection of “failed organs” in jars that have been taken from his body and replaced in transplants. It’s a big collection, he’s had at least 10 taken out. Fitzwilliam is watching and looks like he’s going to barf.

Palmer says that Eph’s Emergency Alert System broadcast from the night before was effective, and that there are talks about quarantining Manhattan. He plans to take Fitzwilliam and Eichorst and have a “chat” with the Secretary of Health and Human Services Maggie Pierson, but Fitzwilliam takes this moment to fully rebel.

He explains he’s been telling himself that Palmer is not as cruel as other have said, and that Eichorst has been manipulating him.

“I was wrong,” Fitzwilliam says.

He says Palmer made a devil’s bargain and dragged him into it, and that his resurrection is an affront to nature and to God. He even says part of him thinks he should kill Palmer right now, but he can’t because of all Palmer has done for him.

“Consider my debt to you paid in full. Never come after me,” Fitzwilliam says, and storms out as Palmer impotently rages and asks what Fitzwilliam will do without Palmer to protect him.

“The question is, sir, what will you do without me to protect you?” Fitzwiiliam says, and leaves Palmer as alone as he’s ever been.

In the bread truck they stole earlier in the season, Eph and Vasiliy arrive at the location in Tribeca above the giant vampire cave.

“That Goth douchebag,” Eph says when he sees it.

Yep, it’s the home of goth rocker Gabriel Bolivar, who was one of the original four survivors infected by the Master on the plane in the first episode. And the same douchebag who infected Nora’s mother Mariela last episode, forcing Nora to cut her mother’s head off with a sword. The Master’s been crashing at his pad while his coffin is broken, you know how it is.

Bolivar, who in life cultivated a false hip, dark and misunderstood front, has made his home in The Vestry Hall. It’s theater that goes all the way back to Vaudeville and has been a speakeasy, burlesque house and more according to Vet.

Vasily shows an impressive knowledge of New York history and a casual propensity for breaking and entering by kicking in the back door of a restaurant across the street. He says the restaurant and the Vestry were once owned by a bootlegger named Diamond Jim O’Brien. The cops never found Diamond Jim’s booze because he built a tunnel connecting to the sewer tunnel between the restaurant and the theater.

Eph quickly find the hidden latch for the tunnel door, which he chalks up to “an alcoholic’s sixth sense for booze.”

Vasiliy wins a quick argument about waiting for backup and they head in.

In the Vestry they find the shattered pieces of the Master’s coffin, which the vamps are trying to fix. There are also a bunch of strigoi inside, so the pair split. On the way to the bread truck Vasiliy opens a manhole cover, saying he wants to flood sunlight into the sewer tunnel to keep more vamps from getting into the theater before they come back.

At Dutch’s apartment Dutch is drinking vodka and trying to see how much good their pirate broadcast did by watching TV. Looks like Palmer has responded by cutting off TV service entirely, though, so she’s pissed. She hands the vodka to Eph, who considers it for a moment before murdering one of Dutch’s plants by pouring it out into its pot.

“We’ve got work to do,” he says.

Nora is crying, smoking her mom’s cigarettes and singing a sad song in her language on the roof. Eph comes up to tell her about Bolivar’s theater, but says he can’t go because Kelly will be coming for Zack.

That makes Nora mad, and she tells Eph he doesn’t have a choice, he should bring Zack along.

“All we can do now is fight,” she says.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Maggie Pierson is in an office in Manhattan planning a quarantine with Dr. Everett Barnes, Eph’s old boss a the Centers for Disease Control. There’s a knock on the door and they open it to let Palmer and Eichorst in for that chat he mentioned.

Pierson suggests Palmer has lied and tells him she’s recommending that the President authorize a complete quarantine. Palmer asks for a “private talk” and he and Pierson head out on the balcony.

The next shot is one of Barnes making small talk with Eichorst while you can see Palmer and Pierson debating through frosted glass on the balcony. Eichorst says he’s not in Palmer’s “employ” and there’s both a banal and sinister tone to the chat.

In the background we see Pierson and Palmer hug, as if Palmer capitulated. But then Palmer suddenly lifts her and tosses her screaming over the balcony to her death.

Palmer re-enters, asking Barnes if he happens promoted to the Secretary of Health and Human Services in the wake of Pierson’s “tragic suicide” what he thinks should be done.

“I think we should stay the course,” he answers nervously, and offers up the fact that he got Eph fired and hunted by law as proof of his loyalty.

“I think we’ll keep him,” Palmer says.

Eph and Setrakian explain to Zack that he has to go along on the mission. Setrakian gives him a huge silver sword and Eph tries to show him how to use it, putting it in Zack’s hands then putting the blade on his own neck.

“Strike here, if you can reach them,” he says, which is so pathetic his voice almost cracks with tears. Another suggestion is to get them in the guts if he can’t, and Setrakian also suggests repeated thrusts.

“Since the beginning of creation, boys have hunted beside their fathers,” Setrakian says.

But Eph argues it’s different, that they’re fighting to protect each other “and we’re gonna win.”

All right, two minute combat tutorial over, young boy ready to fight vampires, they all head into the tunnel at the bottom of the restaurant.

This time there are vamps in it, but they can’t get past the light coming through the manhole cover Vasiliy opened earlier. They’re piled up against it like an invisible wall.

Setrakian says it won’t hold them because they’ll sacrifice themselves so the rest can get through, but Vasiliy’s got it covered. He pulls out several sticks of dynamite, lights it and says “monsters are going boom boom” as everyone runs for cover.

The explosion collapses the tunnel on the strigoi and they make it past.

The bottom floor of Bolivar’s theater is set up like a goth nightclub with a stage, but the show seems to be an all-strigoi revue. The gang pulls weapons as the strigoi attack, and Setrakian hears the Master’s voice calling him “woodcarver.”

“Now it’s his turn to hear me. Let’s finish this,” Setrakian says.

A huge fight ensues with guns and swords vs. vamps. Dutch sees an acquaintance who works at a gallery in SoHo and is torn but finally stabs her and then Eph decapitates her. I’m not sure if this is meant to be a parody of all the early scenes where people confront their strigoi’d loved ones, but it’s pretty brilliant if it is.

Setrakian, Eph and Zack go to look for the Master while the rest stay to finish off the vamps. On the way a brown-haired vamp surprises Eph and Zack. Zack headshots it and Zack stabs it right through the gut with his sword. But wait, didn’t it look familiar?

However, when Eph turns its corpse over, it’s not Kelly, just someone who looked kinda like her.

I have to make a note here that the worms that erupt from the vampire’s bodies when wounded are like the acid blood of the Xenomorphs in the Aliens series. Deadly when it’s a plot point, not even a minor consideration in close-quarters melee combat when its not.

Downstairs Eichorst confronts Dutch.

“Miss Velders, so I’ll drink you first,” he says.

“Yeah, try it asshole,” Dutch says.

She gets a couple of shots off a but Eichorst is too fast to score a headshot. Vasiliy tackles him to protect Dutch.

While this is going on Bolivar, dressed in Goth finery, attacks Nora. He misses with his stinger and Nora cuts it off with her sword.

In his obsession Setrakian has ran ahead to the dark attic to confront the Master alone. First, he seems to be ready to have another inconvenient heart attack. Second, he hears Miriam’s voice, or the Master mimicking it, which has to throw him off his game.

Then the Master jumps out and says “Here I am.” He’s anything but subtle.

Looks like the Master is just going to straight up murder Setrakian, but Eph and Zack arrive and start breaking the attic windows. That puts he Master on the run and Setrakian gets in a good shot with his sword before the Master knocks him away.

Downstairs the tables have turned on Eichorst. Dutch shoots him and then Vasiliy fires several nails from Setrakian’s silver nail gun into Eichorst’s face. Ow.

In the attic the Master is scared. He knocks Sardu’s sword out of Setrakian’s hands, but Eph breaks another window and then tackles the Master out a window and onto a lit balcony, where he starts to smoke.

Downstairs all the vamps react instantly as if they were a VHS tape being rewound. They literally walk backwards out of the room.

Setrakian and Eph go outside for the killing blow, but Setrakian wastes time saying “In the name of all that is holy,” and the master pulls his cloak over himself and scampers off the roof and into the sewers below like an animal.

The group regroups in the attic, shellshocked that the Master got away and was more resistant to sunlight than they thought.

“What he did, I did not know he was capable of doing,” Setrakian says.

Eph asks what they can use to kill the Master if not sunlight, prompting a gloomy answer.

“We’re lost,” Setrakian says.

Back in the secret underground facility, Gus sneaks up on and attacks his tac team vamp captor again, to no effect. Finally, he breaks down and asks what they want.

The vampire explains they are interested in Gus because he worked for Eichorst, transporting the coffin out of the airport in the first episode.

“It cost me my mother. It cost me my best friend. It cost me everything,” Gus says.

“Maybe you would like some revenge,” the vamp suggests.

Gus starts to agree, but then slips by the vampire and runs away. There’s no way out, though, the vamp catches up to him in a dark room with a wet floor. The lights come on and the wetness is blood. There are three wizened, ancient vamps sitting in weird high chairs in the middle of the room.

Gus’s vamp captor calls them “beings of great honor, dignity and power. The Ancients.”

The vamp says he speaks for the Ancients, who are currently dreaming. An ancient truce has been broken, by the Master of course, and war has been declared. They want Gus for their human soldier who can use the power of the sun to massacre the unclean.

They offer him payback and a rich payday.

“I’m listenin,” Gus says.

In the bread truck, returning in defeat, Zack is having an asthma attack. So they stop at Kelly’s house to get his extra inhalers. Can you see where this is going?

Eph grabs the inhalers. Zack grabs a family picture album. Eph notices Zack is no longer wheezing. He faked the attack to force his dad to return. In his defense, Zack doesn’t understand why it’s dangerous there because Eph didn’t tell him about Kelly. He’s worried about how she’ll find them.

“She’ll find us,” Eph says, which is not so reassuring if you know how.

Zack opens the photo album and we get a look at another of Zack’s birthday parties. As they leave a woman’s silhouette passes in front of a window.

This time it really is Kelly, very much strigoi. She seems to be calling out to Zack, but I suppose it’s just the Master mimicking her voice and talking through her.

Zack tries to run to her but Eph holds him back and says it’s not her anymore. He shoots at Kelly with a shaky hand and misses anything vital, but she does run away.

The rest of the crew is drawn by the gunshots. Setrakian keeps saying the Master will use Kelly’s love for her son to pursue them “to the ends of the Earth if necessary.”

Eph goes to a cabinet, gets a bottle of wine, and pours himself a drink. Nora begs him not to, but he downs it.

“Let him try,” Eph says.

Then we get a scene of a sorry-looking crew riding in the bread truck, with some closing voice-over narration from Setrakian that talks about his long life and how humanity never imagined the Master was watching them, eager to exploit our infrastructure. He ask if they’re destined to be cattle or if they have a fighting chance. They drive over a bridge and Eph looks out at a huge fire burning in a structure near the river , which for a moment is reflected in the glass of his passenger-side window like the fires of hell.

“Nothing is written that cannot be changed. It is a small world, after all. We made it that way,” Setrakian’s voiceover says. End of episode.

And that’s it until next year folks. I have to say I’m looking forward to it. Discuss The Strain here in our thread.

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