‘The Strain’ Season 4/Series Finale: The Last Stand

Live by the nuke, die by the nuke…seriously, get this kid away from the nukes! Lol.

Okay, I joke, but obviously Zach has some serious issues with pushing buttons- and that certainly includes the viewers. Honestly, the kid should come with a trigger warning, given all the vitriol he caused in ‘Strain’ fans over the years. Not since GOT’s Joffrey has one kid inspired some much across-the-board hatred- and the actor who played him retired after his character was killed off! A look at actor Max Charles’ resume reveals quite a bit of voiceover work- maybe he should stick with that for a while. 🙂

Anyway, on the final two episodes of “The Strain,” things came to an, ahem, explosive head between our heroes and the elusive Master (Jonathan Hyde/Robin Atkin Downes), resulting in one last showdown, in which not everyone was left standing, needless to say. As “The Traitor” and “The Last Stand” functioned as what amounted to a two-part finale, we’ll cover them that way.

In the former, we picked up where we left off with Dr. Goodweather (Corey Stoll) at long last finding Zach and wisely handling him with kid gloves until he was sure what the little bugger was up to, having been with The Master for all this time. No fool he, thankfully, Eph made sure that Zach was brought back to the hideout hooded and then locked in a cell until it could be determined if he was there of his own volition or the Master’s- or a little of both.

Naturally, it turned out to be the latter, though Eph gave him just enough rope to hang himself, with the kid everyone loves to hate eventually “accidentally” cutting himself to draw The Master’s minions to the compound to seek everyone out. Fortunately, Eph wasn’t fooled and everyone was able to safely abscond from the area before anyone could get there, with Eph leaving Zach behind locked in a cell until The Master could come to fetch him, despite his pleas to do otherwise.

Before that, however, they did manage to get one potentially helpful piece of information, which was also confirmed by fellow captive Sanjay Desai (Cas Anvar)- The Master was allegedly holed up at the Empire State Building. But was he really, or was it a trap? Quinlan (Rupert Penry-Jones) wasn’t taking any chances, but neither was anyone else, particularly when it came to the nuke.

So, the gang all headed to the general vicinity of the building, with everyone hanging back while Quinlan went to investigate. Of course, it was indeed a trap designed to bring everyone out of hiding and exposed to attack. The Master called out Quinlan once he reached the designated floor, using Abby (Jocelyn Hudon) as a conduit, before ordering his minions to attack them all. Quinlan was able to signal everyone to get out of there before he made quick mincemeat of The Master’s vamps, starting with Abby’s decapitation.

Unfortunately, it was almost too late on the ground, resulting in Gus (Miguel Gomez), Roman (K.C. Collins) and others staying behind to fend off the attack of more minions sent to get ahold of the bomb, while Dr. G. and the rest made haste out of there. Fortunately, they were able to make it out of there in the nick of time, though everyone who stayed behind, save Gus and Roman, weren’t so lucky, all dying either in the fight, or as the direct result of a bite from the Strigoi. (Roman’s grumbling about getting his “Newhart” disrupted was fairly amusing.)

The “new” hideout came equipped with an underground tunnel, because of course it did, and we got one last impromptu history lesson from Fet (Kevin Durand), as the nuke was transported there for safe-keeping until a plan could be formulated. Quinlan had a good one, but it was not without some “Armageddon”-style sacrifice on his and at least one poor unfortunate soul’s part. Naturally, Fet volunteered for the job, much to the dismay of Dutch (Ruta Gedmintas), who wasted no time in trying to talk him out of it.

When she failed, she asked Eph to do the same, and he did, but also to no avail. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what was going to happen next, as Dr. G. asked for explicit details on how everything was going to go down. That accomplished, Fet and Eph intentionally walked around outside until they were spotted by a Strigoi, then it became a waiting game, with Fet trying to think of “something Bruce Willis might say” as he awaited his ultimate fate. (Hey, at least they were upfront about it!)

Back at the gang’s former hide-out, The Master took out Selah (Supinder Wraich), after the slimy Sanjay threw his wife under the bus for snitching, in a last-ditch effort to save his own skin, but it was only a temporary measure, as Sanjay joined her shortly thereafter. The Master was none too happy about all of this, berating Zach for signaling him too soon, but really, Zach didn’t have much of a choice, as his father figured out his real motives for being there in no time.

Either way, The Master soon got word of the group’s new whereabouts and promptly directed his army to attack anyone and everyone in the area and head to the location the gang was hiding out at, making sure they knew that Quinlan was his for the taking. Zach opted to come along, and The Master was pleased, giving him a machine gun to help out in the fight.

As Gus and Roman arrived, there was little time to prepare before The Master’s minions descended upon them, attacking the gang at all sides. Everyone was able to fend them off just enough to make a hole for The Master to go right where they wanted him- into an elevator leading deep down into the tunnels below. Quinlan joined him as the cable to the elevator car was cut, sending them plunging downward, but stopping via an emergency brake before impact.

Meanwhile, Eph, seeing that Zach was with The Master, jumped into the one-man elevator that Fet had planned to go down in, while someone likewise cut that car’s cord as well, with the same end result. However, in this case, the impact was such that it knocked Dr. G. out temporarily. In the meantime, Quinlan and The Master fought to the death, with Quinlan ultimately falling prey to The Master, but getting in some good digs along the way, notably ripping out The Master’s throat at one point, before he stomped on Quinlan’s head repeatedly, killing him.

Zach stood by, watching in awe, before noticing that his father had joined the party. The Master implored him to shoot Eph, but Zach hesitated. As The Master’s body failed him, his Strigoi were rendered dumb, allowing for the rest of the team to escape in the resulting confusion, assuming that someone had gotten to The Master- but would they be able to detonate the nuke and finish it? That was the real question.

Eph was able to start the process, but The Master was upon him and vomited up his essence or whatever into Eph’s mouth, thus beginning the process of transferring himself into a new host. Zach watched in horror as his real father began to give way to The Master, finally realizing that when a Strigoi takes over someone, it genuinely takes them over, leaving little of what makes them human behind. About time!

As Zach hugs what’s left of his father, he reaches around and detonates the nuke, because what else is he good for, if not setting off a freaking bomb yet again? At least this one was essentially self-contained, what with it being miles underground and all, thus allowing others to escape harm this time around. I suppose you could say Zach died a hero, but this might have been over sooner if not for his actions, so… better late than never, I guess, but let’s not forget the role he played in things getting as bad as they did beforehand.

Either way, mission accomplished, and our other heroes get to live to fight another day. In no time, with the Strigoi rendered dumb, the humans were able to take back the planet, and more specifically, New York. Roman ascended to a position of power, while Gus continued the fight, driving around taking out Strigoi wherever he went, in search of the girl that eluded him, if she’s even still alive.

Fet went back to being a cop, while Dutch took it upon herself to get the internet back up and running again, which made sense, as she was the one to knock it out in the first place. It was good to see her in broad daylight towards the end, smiling. Dutch certainly cleans up nice! (One has to wonder about poor, left-behind Charlotte’s fate, though.) And I liked the final bit about how Fet knew things were genuinely getting back to normal once the rats started showing up in NYC again- once an exterminator, always an exterminator.

All in all, the series finale was about as good as could be expected, even if it was all a bit predictable. Still, I didn’t mind the fact that Fet survived, instead of Dr. G. As much as part of me wouldn’t have minded him and Dutch ending up together and Fet going back to Charlotte, I think more people wanted Fet and Dutch to reunite, and that was exactly what was implied by the ending here. I’m good with that.

Besides, at least Eph got a hero’s death, more or less, even if it was ultimately Zach that ended things. I know, I know, but I gotta give credit where it’s somewhat due- better late than never, I guess. Zach may have essentially been irredeemable at that point, but in the end, he did do the right thing, when he could have easily fallen back into bad habits to stay with his dad, as he had done previously to be with his mother.

While not without some flaws, to be sure, overall, I really enjoyed “The Strain” as a series. I’m not sure how it holds up in comparison to the books- from what I hear, they’re quite different, though not without their own flaws- but despite some iffy avenues taken along the way, I feel that the series ended on a strong note. I liked the way everyone ended up and that the evil was defeated, but not without a fair bit of loss along the way. Sacrifices were definitely made, for sure.

I think a large part of why the show worked for me was the likability of most of the cast. I really dug Durand and Gomez in particular, and Gedmintas was pretty bad-ass when the story allowed her to be, though I wouldn’t have minded a little more of it in the final season. Stoll and David Bradley were sturdy leads, and it was nice seeing the latter in a brief cameo in the final episode, even if he hadn’t been gone long from the series. I hate he wasn’t around to witness the victory of the team, but at least he took the dastardly Eichorst with him.

Speaking of which, I’d have to say that I actually thought that Richard Sammel was a more formidable baddie than The Master himself, who largely was more of a “Boogeyman”-type figure throughout the show. Indeed, he looked sort of ridiculous at first, before they wisely opted for a different look later on in the series. Eichorst, though, was always the very portrait of evil personified. What’s more evil than a Nazi, really?

I’d also like to give one last shout-out to former stars Mia Maestro, in one of her better roles overall, and Samantha Mathis, who did her best work in years on the show. They were missed, though I completely get why they were taken out when they were. You got to have the occasional casualty along the way, or else it doesn’t seem like anyone can go at any time, you know? And, of course, it almost goes without saying that Rupert Penry-Jones was a total bad-ass, from start to finish.

And I can’t sign off on the series for good without thanking the people who made it all possible: creators Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan and head showrunner Carlton Cuse, who managed to keep this, the excellent “Bates Motel” and “Colony” afloat all at once, without a huge dip in quality for any of those series, despite the considerable workload on his plate. Looking forward to seeing what all those talented individuals come up with next, especially Toro’s intriguing-looking monster movie/romance “The Shape of Water.”

Thanks for joining me on this ongoing journey over the last four seasons, and for all your comments over the years. Be sure and let me know what you thought of the finale overall and the series in general down below, and thanks for reading!

  • ptjackson

    Where to begin? How about with OMG? In no particular order…

    I also knew right away it would be Eph and not Fet to die in the final pan. And, like you, I am ok with that – because after all Eph had already lost everything – his wife, his son, and so eventually his life. Fet, on the other hand, had lost his parents, but I don’t know, he just deserved to survive. Bur, I am confused about your saying he returned to being a cop, since I thought he was a pest control specialist from the beginning. And Dutch – seriously, woman, make up your mind. She loves Fet, she does not, she can’t stand to see him die, and 5 years alter they are still just taking walks? Life is short lady!

    As for Zach, I actually felt the final resolution of his arc was exactly right. I did not like him, but also did not hate him. He was a confused kid, who was doing his best to survive under terrible circumstances. Yeah, he did really stupid stuff, but a lot of it involved his mom. He said his mom was alive in the Master, so why would he not want to be around him? My mom died when I was 28, and to this day, decades later, I would do anything to spend another day with her.

    Overall, a very enjoyable program! This is another series where I almost did not watch it, because, well, another vampire series? But, I am glad I did. It was very different, and highly exciting and entertaining!

    • Mark Trammell

      With you on the Eph thing- the minute he started grilling Fet for info, I knew what he was up to. You’re right in that Fet started out as a pest control guy, but he later became a cop on the show, as appointed by the Mayor, I think it was, or whoever Samantha Mathis played. But you could also argue that he never stopped being a pest control guy, given his comments about the rats in the end!

      I didn’t mind Dutch and Fet being together, but I felt bad for Charlotte. I know she wasn’t a major character, but couldn’t we have gotten a check-in just to verify she was ok?

      I’m ok with how Zach died, it seemed about right, given his affection for pushing buttons, lol. I don’t think it redeemed him, per se, but it seemed fitting.

      I absolutely agree this was not your average vampire series. It was arguably the best one since the all-mighty Buffy! (Though “Vampire Diaries” had its moments early on…)

      • ptjackson

        Yeah, it would have been nice to show Charlotte living happily on the farm, but I do wonder if she was taken out after her last ditch defense of the plane. 8-(

        • Mark Trammell

          See- now that’s what I wondered myself at the time. It’s completely plausible that, after costing him keeping the team from taking off with the nuke that Eichorst would have gone after the person largely responsible, which was Charlotte. After all, he took out the other guy there- the one that gave them the plane. But we never see one way or another, so we’re just left wondering what became of her, and she was a fairly strong presence in the front half of the season, so that’s kind of a letdown. All we needed was a quick check-in, perhaps during that final montage, but nope. Nada. I know she wasn’t a major character in the grand scheme of things but still…she deserved better, IMHO.

          • ptjackson

            Agreed – so let’s give her an ending…

            Years later, she is seen on her ranch with a small group of survivors from a missile silo. They know via shortwave radio that the campaign to end the Strigo was successful. Later she is seen putting her two children to bed – Vasiliy and Quinlan.

            Ok, I am no Shakespeare, and it is trite, but come on, she deserved a happy ending for what she did! LOL…

            • Mark Trammell

              Agreed! I’ll take it! šŸ™‚