The Strain series finale recap: 'The Last Stand'
Let me begin by saying that I have not read the trilogy of novels on which The Strain is based. Judging from the comments sections of past recaps, I have a feeling that this ending is very similar to the one written by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan. That said, The Strain‘s series finale left me very conflicted.
R.I.P. The Strain, Eph, Quinlan…and that’s all. There’s no one else worth sending condolences to. NO ONE.
Most of the worst aspects of this episode were things that have annoyed me throughout the series, including everything involving Zach and too much that just flat-out doesn’t make sense. And yet, there were plenty of facets of the series finale that worked really well: Fet and Dutch’s touching interactions, Quinlan’s death, and, as much as I hate to say it, Zach’s final sacrifice. It didn’t redeem the character or how terribly he was crafted, but it was an acceptable conclusion.
“The Last Stand” begins right where the penultimate episode ended: with the team facing down a massive group of incoming strigoi. Eph thinks they need to protect the nuke, and Fet agrees, saying, “Yeah, not the time to make a final stand.” I mean, if the series finale isn’t the time, then I’m not sure when will be the best opportunity. Gus, Roman, Marcus, and some anonymous guys, who are surely destined to die, stay behind to hold off the strigoi. “No nice way to say this, Gus, but don’t get stung and lead The Master back to us,” cracks Dutch. Harsh, but fair. As Dutch, Fet, and Eph drive away, the remaining men fire on the hundreds of approaching strigoi. Unsurprisingly, all of the no-name fellas get bitten, including one who decides to go out like a boss by blowing himself up and taking some strigoi with him. The new Big Three of Marcus, Roman, and Gus go to take cover.
Meanwhile, Quinlan easily gets out of the situation we last left him in. He cuts off Abby’s head (again) and shoots all of the strigoi surrounding him. Then, another appears, who, like Abby, is being channeled by The Master. “Are you really so afraid of me?” yells Quinlan. “Anything you have to say, say it to my face, not through a proxy. But choose your words carefully, because they’ll be your last.” He kills the strigoi.
Watching from a very far distance, The Master sees that his enemies have all escaped. In a move that I approve of, he takes his anger out on Zach, scolding the boy for failing to locate the warhead. “Now, do you see your father for what he is?” he asks. “I told you, he cares nothing for you — only for himself.” I’d disagree. Eph has a lot of passions: drinking, killing strigoi, and finding new love interests during the vampire apocalypse. The Master decides to end the “masquerade of coexistence” and sets his minions to destroy mode, which seems to leave Zach a little uneasy. C’mon bro, this is what you signed up for!
Eph, Dutch, and Fet head to a Manhattan water tunnel construction site, where Quinlan is just chilling in the dark “like a creepy vampire.” Once again, Dutch, harsh, but true. They decide to go 800 feet below the surface to safely store the weapon. After Quinlan flashes the “I have a dangerous plan” face, he keys in his brother from a human mother, Fet. “If you want to save the city above us and the word beyond it, then the time for half measures is over,” proclaims Quinlan. “I can the see the end, Fet. I can see victory. But it will take everything you and I have.” “Everything” is code for “your life.” But it doesn’t matter; Fet is in. Ride together, die together, strigoi hunter boys for life.
As those two are plotting their own deaths, Dutch is trying to make Eph feel better about Zach, which isn’t exactly working since he’s wondering if he should have just blown up his son. “The last thing he said to me was, ‘Dad, I’m just trying to save your life,'” shares Eph. “I just keep going over that in my mind.” He comes to the conclusion that Zach’s “already corrupted.”
Things don’t get any more cheery when Quinlan and Fet come over. They share their deadly plan: lure The Master, Quinlan takes him underground, and they detonate the warhead. The less-than-ideal part is that since Quinlan will be preoccupied, someone needs to be down there to detonate the nuke, and that someone is going to be Fet. Dutch is pissed about this “s—ty, stupid plan.” Again, a harsh but true comment from Dutch. “It doesn’t have to be you,” she tells her former lover, to which Fet responds, “I’m tired of fighting. More than that, I’m tired of losing.” Dutch rightfully points out that dying is losing, but he doesn’t see it that way. Her attempt to convince him to stay with an Armageddon-level kiss doesn’t work.
Out of the loop on all of this are Marcus, Roman, and Gus, who are holed up in an apartment trying to wait out the strigoi. While Roman is enjoying an episode of Newhart, Marcus is being conspicuously quiet and warm. Yep, he’s turning. “The only thing that matters anymore is dying human,” Gus says to his new buddy. Marcus replies, “Do me one favor. Don’t drag it out.” Oh, don’t worry, because he shot you before you finished talking. Losing another person he’s grown close to hits Gus hard, and he uses the drive to meet up with the others as an excuse to go Grand Theft Auto on the strigoi.
With Dutch still mad at him, Fet points out this is “kind of a bad way to spend the rest of our time together.” He does his best to get her to “commit to the plan,” which hinges on Fet following Quinlan and The Master down in a little cage elevator. “Before I detonate the warhead, I’ll probably say something clever and cool like Bruce Willis would say,” he quips (I swear that I came up with the previous Armageddon reference before this!). Gus’ arrival and warning of the strigoi purging the city interrupts the nice moment, but don’t worry, because now Eph has the “I have a plan” face. I’m going to miss these faces. (Recap continues on page 2)
Before Eph’s idea is revealed, it’s time for one last flashback. The actions jumps back nine months, and that means Setrakian returns! Fet, Eph, and Setrakian are meeting over a cup of tea in a scene that seems to exist for the sole purpose of reviving the professor, which I’m totally fine with.
In the present, Fet and Eph are searching for strigoi and reflecting on their fallen comrade. “The professor had a way of inspiring you even if he was telling you the worst thing you could ever hear,” Fet fondly says. “The Master is going to hear Abraham Setrakian’s name one more time before he gets vaporized.” Dutch asked Eph to talk Fet out of sacrificing himself, which he halfheartedly does. To be fair, if she wanted someone to make a passionate plea to her former lover, maybe she shouldn’t have sent her other former lover. And instead, it’s Fet doing the convincing by requesting Eph both keep an eye on Dutch and give Zach another chance. TOO FAR, FET. “If it makes sense, I’ll give it another try,” responds Eph. A strigoi spots them, sending word back to The Master, who’s headed for their base of operations. Zach and his gun want in.
Ahead of the last stand, Quinlan is coaching up the team. “May you see a beautiful city and a brilliant people rise from this abyss,” he announces. As Quinlan walks off, Eph spots an emotional goodbye between Fet and Dutch. Now, it’s go time as the strigoi approach. Eph catches a glimpse of The Master and Zach, which prompts The Master to put his arm around Zach like a jealous boyfriend would do if he were out with his girl and spotted her ex. The good guys seem to be winning until The Master hurts their ears with his screeching throat thing (can you tell what a vampire expert I am?). Luckily, Quinlan comes out of nowhere, tackling his nemesis and, somehow, Zach into the elevator. The cable is cut, and before Fet has the chance to follow, Eph sneaks into the cage and takes his place.
While both of the Goodweather boys were knocked out by the fall, Zach awakes first to find Quinlan and The Master battling in the strigoi version of Batman v Superman. The face-off ends when Quinlan literally snatches victory from The Master’s throat. “What have you done?” screams The Master. On the floor, knowing what his fate will soon be, Quinlan boasts, “I’ve won.” The Master precedes to stomp the hero’s head in.
Finally coming to, Eph tries to sneak toward the nuke, but his son spots him and fires a warning shot. Yet, when ordered to kill Eph, Zach is unable to go through with it. “He’s still my father,” he declares, turning and shooting The Master. But the strigoi king isn’t going down without a fight, so he grabs Zach, which leads Eph to jump in to save his son. The result is The Master on top of Eph, doing the nasty “throw up what looks like spaghetti into someone else’s mouth” thing. Uh oh, we all know what that means.
Zach helps his dad up, and they walk over to the nuke. “We won, Zach,” says Eph. “Because of you.” Was it really because of him? If anything, you’re in this position because of him. But we’ll let Eph have this one since he’s turning. “I wish I could spare you this,” he tells his son. I’m not a big fan of Corey Stoll having to go full-Master. The transition is complete, and The Master has completely taken over Eph’s body. “Dad, are you still in there?” asks Zach, hugging his father. “Because if you are, I love you.” He detonates the nuke. Is it just me, or is it wild that he’s now set off more nukes in his life than he’s had girlfriends?
Everyone else made it out safely, and while they feel the explosion, the damage was contained to below ground. “Oh s—, doc,” smiles Fet. “You did it.”
The story continues with Fet narrating the epilogue and giving us a full happy ending. With The Master vanquished, the rest of the strigoi were easily defeated. And five years later, the world is starting to be normal again — well, as normal as it could ever be post-vampire apocalypse. Here’s a quick update: Sunlight has returned to NYC; Roman stocked up on gold and used the money to help rebuild the city; Gus is assisting refugees and searching for Aanya; Dutch is working to get the internet back up and running; and Fet is a cop who gets way too excited to see rat feces. “When the rats returned, I knew the city was going to be okay,” he explains. I can’t say for sure, but I feel like this could be the first series to spend one of its final moments on rat s—.
Both out for a stroll, Fet and Dutch happen to run into each other for the first time in a while. They hug and decide to go for a walk together. Well, with the sun back, they’ll at least get the chance to head off into the sunset. “The Master used the bonds of human love as a conduit for the strain,” Fet says in voice-over. “He tried to destroy us. But he never understood it — love. And in the end, it was love that saved us all and gave us the world, our world, back.”
What did you think? Was this a satisfying ending? Will you miss The Strain?