The plan to capture The Master works -- until it doesn't
Well, with one season still remaining, did we really expect our heroes to save the day for good? Since the announcement next year’s fourth season would be The Strain’s last, the hope has been there would be a sense of urgency in the storytelling and a strong push towards the endgame. While the last few episodes have taken a drastic step in the right direction, “The Fall” seemed to be following suit and advancing the plot — before ultimately ending in an all-too-predictable way.
The Master wasn’t going to be vanquished that easily, of course, even though a final 10 episodes documenting the battle over Dutch’s heart could be quite good. Despite the ending being basically predetermined, the show once again reverted back to the team thinking they’ve defeated The Master…only for him to find a way to survive. All that being said, the final few shots did promise to deliver a dark and bleak ending to the series.
“Humanity’s survival was never certain,” warns Setrakian in a chilling voiceover to begin “The Fall.” He recalls past incidents that almost ended the world, such as the bubonic plague and Spanish flu. It’s clear, with the world on the brink yet again, that this will either be its demise or the last chance to save it. After ending last week needing to see Setrakian, Palmer and his long-time frenemy have their annual meeting (Fet must be feeling left out). Palmer suggests that with Eichhorst out of the picture, The Master will be forced out of hiding, so Setrakian needs to assemble his team to end this once and for all. “One final spin of the wheel,” says Palmer. “This is the end game for both of us, one way or the other.”
A weak old man is stumbling down the abandoned streets of New York City, barely able to stand. A close-up reveals it’s Eichhorst, who clearly isn’t responding well to all those silver bullets he took. Upon passing out, two humans come across him; as they discover what he is, they prepare to cut off his head. Luckily for Eichhorst, he still has some friends. A pair of strigoi soldiers kill the humans and carry their injured brother to safety.
Eph is packing up the lab when he finds a picture of his previously perfect family, reminding him of what he’s lost and reminding us of Corey Stoll’s terrible wig. He heads to meet with the group to discuss their plan to capture The Master, but Fet is still a little bitter the doctor stole his girl. Setrakian ends the bickering with a great pep talk about teamwork. If the world hadn’t basically ended, he would have made a great coach. The plan is set: Dutch is going to use the communication system to block The Master, at which point they will trap him in the box and drop him in the Atlantic. “Great, let’s sink this son of a b-tch,” declares Eph.
Palmer has returned to Stoneheart headquarters, where his men are preparing for the arrival of Setrakian and his team. Unfortunately, some uninvited guests crash the party. The two strigoi soldiers from earlier return and gun down Palmer’s entire security team (R.I.P. Duncan, we hardly knew ye). One of the strigoi isn’t just anybody — it’s actually The Master in his latest form. The old man, who went from “ride or die” with The Master to plotting against him, begins to lay out the case for why he should be spared. After years of failing to live up to their original agreement, The Master is finally ready to keep his part of the bargain. “Eldritch Palmer, eternal life is now yours,” he proclaims, as he throws dirt in Palmer’s mouth and proceeds to throw up on him (hey, eternal life ain’t pretty). They both fall to the ground and Palmer soon rises with red in his eyes. It’s clear: The Master has found his new body.
Now for the moment no one has been waiting for — the return of Zach. He’s just being a normal kid and playing in the dangerous streets with his pet feeler. A concerned man sees the boy alone and offers to take him to safety. The feeler isn’t onboard with that, so after Zach initially tells it to stay back, he gives it the go-ahead to take the man out when he goes for his gun. For some reason, he’s worried his strigoi mom would be mad at him over the incident, but Kelly is proud. He’s rightfully curious about why he hasn’t been turned yet, and mommy dearest responds that while she wants to, The Master has a greater plan for him. Hopefully it involves an attitude adjustment!
NEXT: The group comes face-to-face with The Master
A near-death Eichhorst is brought to see The Master in Palmer’s office. In an interesting twist on the relationship, it’s now a weakened Eichhorst sitting in the hospital chair and Palmer standing tall over him. The Master explains why taking Palmer’s form was essential, prompting his right-hand man to respond, “Your conquest is assured, my lord. My time is at an end.” This close to victory, The Master isn’t prepared to go on without his most loyal and trusted associate, so he fills in Eichhorst’s many bullet holes, enabling him to rise again.
Quickly back to his classic, debonair look — thanks to the makeover stylings of Kelly — Eichhorst is good to go. In a moment to keep in the back of your mind, he gives Kelly and Zach a fun tutorial on nuclear bombs. He then heads off to a meeting, leaving the detonator in Kelly’s capable hands. Eichhorst’s important engagement turns out to be with poor Sanjay, who is once again being called upon to help the strigoi. “Humans think of evolution in terms of progress and advancement,” spouts Eichhorst. “This final event will be the catalyzing event precipitating a new era on Earth, akin to the meteor that fell the dinosaurs and ushered in the Ice Age.” A rightly terrified Sanjay is given the task of putting the suitcase in place. As the camera pulls away, it’s revealed the destination of their little day trip is the Statue of Liberty.
The crew arrives at Stoneheart with hopes of finally ending this war. Setrakian and Eph head to meet Palmer; Dutch and Fet make up before heading their separate ways; and a suspicious Quinlan starts poking around, eventually coming across Palmer’s dead security team. Pretty quickly, Setrakian senses something is off with Palmer, but they don’t realize it’s The Master until he takes a personal jab at Eph. “A fine boy, great potential,” he says of Zach (are we talking about the same kid?). A battle commences, The Master still at full strength because something is wrong with the communication blocker. “The taking of a soul is but another blood meal,” he says, taunting Setrakian. “But your suffering, this is my delicacy.” Just then, Dutch is finally able to get the machine up and running, which happens to coincide perfectly with Quinlan’s arrival to take advantage of his nemesis and trap him in the box. Our merry band of heroes looks stunned they actually did it.
Quick check-in to see how The Master’s capture is affecting everyone: Eph was wounded and is going to hang back; the rest of the group is going to dump the box in the water; Eichhorst doesn’t know what to do when he can no longer hear The Master; and the same goes for Kelly, who almost feeds on Zach, changing her mind only when he convinces her they should go find The Master.
To celebrate the victory, Eph does two things he’s great at — doctor stuff (sewing his wound) and drinking alcohol. His one-man party gets interrupted by the arrival of his wife and son. There’s no time to catch up, as Kelly immediately rushes at Eph. A struggle begins, the two fighting each other off as Zach screams for them to stop. The fight does end, but only because Eph stabs Kelly through the neck, killing his strigoi wife. “It’s all over now,” he says, trying to console his son. “You’re safe now.” Zach, being the level-headed kid he is, does what we would all do when we’re mad at our dad: He pulls out the detonator for a nuclear bomb. “I hate you,” he declares, and then clicks the button.
The explosion is instant and brutal. All the characters feel the impact: Eph is knocked over, Quinlan is thrown, Eichhorst’s car is overturned. The biggest revelation, though, is the discovery that the eruption sent the box flying, setting The Master free. With the whole city now covered by the orange sky, Dutch, Eph, Setrakian, and Quinlan realize the search for The Master must wait — they need to get to safety to avoid radiation poisoning. Zach managed to escape the blast in good shape (if we aren’t counting emotional damage). He’s met by Eichhorst, who upon realizing what Zach has done, says to the boy, “Well done, son. Thanks to you, we are well again.” Eph eventually makes it outside, only to realize Zach is already gone. He stares up to the sky, which goes dark as the bomb smoke covers the sun. The last shot of the season ends with strigoi flooding the streets.
And hopefully, somewhere in Mexico, Gus is chilling on a beach with a margarita in hand.