Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

In its penultimate episode, The Strain brings clarity to its creative vision

Photo: Marni Grossman/FX
Photo: Marni Grossman/FX
TV ReviewsAll of our TV reviews in one convenient place.

Because The A.V. Club knows that TV shows keep going even if we’re not writing at length about them, we’re experimenting with discussion posts. For certain shows, one of our TV writers will publish some brief thoughts about the latest episode, and open the comments for readers to share theirs.

  • Alright, before we get started on this week’s episode of The Strain, let’s take a second to bask in this moment. It’s the one we’ve all been waiting for, and finally, the show has delivered. After years of nonsense, entitlement, whininess, nuclear devastation, maid manslaughter, and creepy, abusive, manipulative behavior, Zack finally gets called out on his B.S. while being left behind by his father. Never have I been so happy for a father to walk out on his boy. But, more on that later.
  • With Zack finally reunited with Eph and the team, it doesn’t take long for skepticism to settle in. Quinlan points out the obvious, that the timing of Zack’s arrival is incredibly suspicious. Even Eph, usually blinded by his love for his family, is hesitant about trusting Zack. Watching your kid set off a nuclear bomb will have that effect.
  • After capturing Desai in the previous episode, “The Traitor” uses his interrogation to clarify and deepen some of the themes coursing through this season. There’s a lot of art out there these days that feels in tune with our times and 2016 election, and this season of The Strain, accidentally or not, seems to be exploring themes that fit in with the discussions happening all around us. Fet and Dutch’s interrogation of Desai is a complicated affair, one brimming with emotion and interesting political and philosophical musings. Where Fet and Dutch believe Desai is morally wrong in his actions, he thinks he’s been protecting people all along. He sees The Partnership as the only way forward in this world, and as a correction to the way they were all living previously. He sees violence, but he sees it as necessary to prevent chaos. The scene muses on questions of what we’re willing to give up in order to feel safe, and how we villainize our fellow citizens in the process. It’s a genuinely stirring scene, and one packed with political verve that the show typically avoids.
  • Similarly, there’s plenty of interaction between Dutch, Fet, and Eph about whether their plan to blow up a nuke in the middle of Manhattan is a great plan, diving into the ethical qualms that come with fighting unimaginable violence with more violence. Nobody is sure they’re doing the “right” thing, but they know it’s the only option. They have to take out The Master, no matter the cost.
  • If there’s at all a weak link in this otherwise strong episode, it’s the show trying to sell us on Zack being truthful about his escape from The Master. Now, I don’t know how hard The Strain is really trying, but watching Zack be apologetic and insightful is just not who that character is. He’s emotional and reactive, not thoughtful, and that makes it immediately clear that he’s still firmly in cahoots with The Master. I mean, we know he’s not really on Eph’s side anymore, so the episode’s drawn-out teasing of his loyalty isn’t dramatically interesting in the slightest.
  • Still, Zack seems to be giving all the right information, saying that The Master is holed up in the Empire State Building, and drawing a map of the nest for the purpose of an attack.
  • But, Zack overplays his hand—he’s really not very good at, well, anything—“accidentally” cutting his thumb on a soda can while up on the roof with his dad. Even Eph knows that Zack is leaving a scent for the strigoi. So, after pointing a gun to his head, he locks Zack up and tells him to live with his choice before he gathers Dutch and Fet and heads to the Federal Reserve.
  • With Zack locked up, the team departs for the Empire State Building, planning to blow The Master to smithereens. Gus is unsure about the plan though, because there’s no way to make sure The Master is in there and set off the bomb while keeping everyone safe. Quinlan has no such qualms about going in though. “It’s not a problem. I don’t plan to survive,” to which Marcus hilariously and simply replies, “hardcore.”
  • The Strain doesn’t often tug on my heart strings, but when Quinlan and Fet departed, likely for the final time, their handshake and utterance of “good hunting” had me feeling surprisingly emotional.
  • It’s absolutely no surprise that when Desai is confronted by The Master with his treason, he throws his wife under the bus and blames it all on her. What a spineless bastard that guy is. Or was, because The Master redecorates the bunker with pieces of his skull and brain matter.
  • As the penultimate episode of the series comes to a close, The Master is not where he’s supposed to be, Quinlan is in real danger, and the rest of the team is staring down an encroaching swarm of strigoi. For all of the show’s flaws across four season, the last few episodes have done a good job of putting all the necessary pieces into place for a violent, cathartic, tense, finale. I think I’m excited to see how this all plays out, which is something I’ve never said during the show’s run.

Kyle Fowle is a freelance writer based out of Canada. He writes about TV and wrestling for The A.V. Club, Real Sport, EW, and Paste Magazine.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter