The end is coming

By Derek Lawrence
July 16, 2017 at 11:05 PM EDT
Shane Mahood/FX
S4 E1
C+
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  • TV Show
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The television event of the year is finally here. The cable drama based on a series of novels that everyone has been waiting for is back! Winter is com…. Oh wait, sorry. Wrong show.

Well, the end is coming, I guess. On the same night Game of Thrones returned for season 7, the fourth and final season of vampire series The Strain premiered on FX. While Jon Snow and company may be bracing for battle with the White Walkers, the humans have already seemingly lost to the strigoi on The Strain.

The Season 3 finale brought some much-needed momentum, before a predictable ending that concluded with a not-so-predictable nuclear bomb explosion. The result is a final season set in an almost post-apocalyptic world, where the show’s scope has expanded beyond solely New York City. It’s an intriguing premise, but the premiere didn’t inspire much confidence, mostly due to the team being scattered across the country and the inexplicable rise in screen time for possibly the worst TV teenage character of all time.

After killing your strigoi wife and watching your son detonate a nuclear bomb in NYC, where do you go to seek refuge? The city that booed Santa Claus, of course! Season 4 begins with Eph living alone in Philadelphia, but by no means is he living the high life, considering his lack of gas and the abundance of homeless men sleeping on his doorstep. As Eph goes for a stroll, we get a sense of what life has become for humans. Forced to wear arm bands with scanners on them, people are lined up to get supplies from the Freedom Center, where it seems both humans and strigoi work. The show is definitely aiming for parallels with the Nazis and World War II.

The details of this new status quo are explained by a propaganda video about “The Partnership.” It’s been nine months since the explosion, a.k.a. “Illumination Day.” Zach’s handy work has created an environment where strigoi can walk around during the day and humans are required to make blood donations. “We are now able to join hands and work together to create a new and more just society for us all,” declares the ad. Tell that the guy who just got murdered by a feeler!

Don’t worry about Eph, though. He might not have his wife or son, but he’s got some friends! He heads to a warehouse to see Neil, with whom Eph is currently engaged in an ongoing baseball board game. Eph is looking for some gas and a job. “You could be King Rat of all of Philly if you just wanted to work a little,” quips Neil. Pro tip: Don’t google “Rat King.” In exchange for some liquor, Eph agrees to make a house call. He finds his patient in pretty rough shape, but he’s able to quickly diagnose her with scurvy. Talk about fast work. Someone is getting a good Yelp review. On second thought, maybe not — the woman’s husband is pretty salty, accusing the doctor of profiting off of other people’s troubles. “We’re all doing what we can to get by,” replies Eph. And as we know, alcohol is a big part of how Eph gets by.

The action shifts back to the Big Apple, where things don’t seem so bad. Well, not so bad if you’re Zach. He’s basically a strigoi king — living in a swanky loft, playing with his pet feeler, and taking a visit to the Central Park Zoo. He’s not there to feed the giraffes. Instead, he’s gunning down a tiger. And when I say gunning down, I really mean getting scared, falling down, and managing to get a few shots off as the tiger leaps at him. Observing from above are Eichhorst and The Master, who has settled nicely into Palmer’s body. “There is a dark potential in this boy,” he says. Like surely every other person (myself included) and/or strigoi, Eichhorst isn’t a fan of the kid. Back down low, Zach gets a blast from the past with the appearance of his dead strigoi mom. She’s just dropping in like moms do to say how proud she is. Her one piece of advice: Listen to The Master. As they hug, we can see it’s really The Master talking to Zach. Can’t even tell his mom apart from the world’s most powerful vampire? Someone isn’t getting a “No. 1 Son” mug for Christmas.
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The Strain‘s tour around America continues with a stop in North Dakota. A man and a woman on a motorcycle are waving a white flag as they approach a group of armed men. “We come in peace,” declares the man, who is revealed to be Fet. Where’s Dutch? She’s not with Eph or Fet, so is this one of those “I choose me” situations? We know Fet, but we soon learn that the woman is named Charlotte and the armed men are sexists and racists. Fet asks for help finding a missile base. Instead of help, he gets a knife to the throat.

Never fear — Quinlan is here! The friendly vampire kills most of the men. The deaths and lack of progress are clearly taking a toll on Fet. “Days like these, I wonder if this is hell,” he suggests. “I don’t think this is hell,” replies Charlotte. “I think this is hell adjacent.” They kiss. I’m sure hell is hot, but I’m guessing you don’t get to be there with a hot girl.

When Eph returns to Neil’s for another round of fake baseball, he’s instead greeted by a large group of strigoi, who take him and a few others captive. As they’re being transported, an unexpected explosion leaves Eph as the only survivor. Before reinforcements come, Eph tries to make a run for it, but his huge heart won’t let him. He comes across an injured man and decides to leave no man behind. His good deed is rewarded with a gun to head courtesy of the man’s sister, Alex. It turns out they were the ones who bombed the bus. They are surprised to learn there were humans on board, prompting Eph to judge their bomb game. Back at the siblings’ hideout, Eph sews up the man’s leg. Alex won’t let Eph leave, though, pulling a gun — again — and calling him selfish. “You’re why the world is the way it is,” she says, to which Eph replies, “More than you know.” BOOM (in more ways than one)! In exchange for supplies, he agrees to stay for 24 hours to take care of her brother.

Meanwhile, hell has never looked sexier as Fet and Charlotte get frisky in a van. Don’t worry — they live in the van; it’s not just for hook-ups. Fet wakes up alone, and his search for Charlotte leads him to the woods, where he finds someone a little less good looking in Setrakian. “The candle of humanity is being extinguished,” says the old man. “You and Mr. Quinlan are its last hope.” No pressure. Things take a dark turn when Setrakian begins to burn the Lumen, but don’t worry — it was all a dream. Fet wakes up, and instead of finding Salt-N-Pepa and Heavy D up in the limousine, he finds Charlotte up in the van. “My people back in New York are depending on me,” he confesses to his lady friend. “I feel like I’m failing them.” She’s much more positive. I think he’s got himself a keeper!

Eichhorst goes to see The Wizard Master, who wants an update on Zach. “The boy has no interest in our work,” opines the right-hand man. “No aptitude for it. He is incapable of shouldering any serious responsibility.” And he’s literally the worst — don’t forget about that. “Great leaders are not born, but forged,” The Master responds. The powerful vampire is grooming his enemy’s son. I know there aren’t a lot of people left in the city, but there’s got to be somebody more qualified. As a “reward” for Zach’s earlier kill, he’s bestowed a young cleaning girl, who is rightfully creeped out by the kid and his pet feeler. The Master might be terrible at picking protégés, but he definitely knows what annoying teenage boys like.

The night after sleeping in a van, Fet and Charlotte are picking corn in the fields. (Who says romance is dead?) Charlotte soon disappears again, but unfortunately, this isn’t a dream. She’s being held hostage at gunpoint, and when Fet finds her, he’s knocked out. The kidnappers are an all-woman group, so Charlotte is treated well, while Fet is chained up in a barn. On the bright side, he’s kept in there with a possible new friend named Roman. Only moments after meeting him, Fet uses his Sherlock-esque skills to deduce that Roman worked at a government missile silo. Okay, the info was right on his jacket, so they’re more like CSI: Miami skills. In order to escape, Fet plays dead and grabs one of the women when she approaches to check on him. The escape is aided by the pitch-perfect timing of Quinlan’s arrival. It’s time to go find some nukes. “Once again, Vasiliy Fet falls into a pile of manure and crawls out smelling of roses,” quips Quinlan. Fet jokingly responds, “That’s my super power.”

What did you think? Did the premiere get you excited for the final season? And who is humanity’s biggest opponent: The Master or Zach?

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