It’s the penultimate episode of The Strain Season One, and it’s another mixed bag of useless, obnoxious Eph (Corey Stoll) behavior, pointless dead-end diversions in the plot, some stupid behavior by supposedly smart characters, two very cool action sequences, a couple of nice character moments, and another Hell Toupee. On the plus side, Gus’ (Miguel Gómez) story continues to be the most engaging and interesting, as he hijacks Alonso Creem (Jamie Hector) — the guy who bought his stolen car a few episodes back — for money and weapons before he makes his getaway from the city. But greed gets the better of him and before too long, he and Creem are in over their heads as a shipping container’s worth of hungry vampires swarm them. Holy crap! The Master is importing help! Which brings us to the most squeal-worthy moment in weeks, as Quinlan (Stephen McHattie) and his Black Ops Vampire Killing Squad arrive to save the day, slaughtering the vamps and then kidnapping Gus — leaving Creem standing alone and confused. I can only assume that the whole “putting a bag over your head and carting you off” is because of Gus’ history with Eichhorst (Richard Sammel), but the look of confused disbelief on Creem’s face was a priceless way of ending that scene (although you’d think they’d take the time to exterminate as many other containers of vamps as possible before hitting the road). The other strong moment this week is Eichhorst’s assault on Abraham’s (David Bradley) Pawn Shop, where not only are our heroes forced to abandon the relative safety of the reinforced basement, but the long-missed Gabriel Bolivar (Jack Kesy) returns to lead the charge, draining Mama Martinez (Anne Betancourt) and effectively putting an end to a narrative line that was spiraling into nowhere. As one would expect, Nora (Mía Maestro) chooses to step up and behead her mother — because it has to be done — but somehow the act lacks the emotional impact that it should have. I don’t think it was a problem with the performance; instead I think it falls back on the writing. Mariela’s death is more of a relief than a dramatic moment. Although, hopefully this will kick-start Nora’s character development — you know, with one episode to go this season. On the down side, this week has a lot of sloppy writing and useless moments. At the top of that list is the return of Dutch (Ruta Gedmintas) and her almost totally useless plan to save the day (that will never work thanks to Eph’s apparently uncontrollable uselessness). It seems that while she would have had to directly access Eldritch Palmer’s office computers to restore New York’s entire internet, she can access the weekly test of the Emergency Broadcast Network from the roof of the pawn shop with an “NSA-level hack.” Really what this plan does is provide an opportunity for Dutch to provide an info dump about her character and for Fet (Kevin Durand) to flirt with her. It was truly cringe-inducing. But not as cringe-inducing as the wig and age make-up that Young Abraham (Jim Watson) wears in our flashback to 1967 Albania. Whoever is in charge of the hairpieces on this show is dropping the ball. The flashback story is intended to tell the tragic tale of Abraham’s wife — who we all know as the worm-filled heart he keeps in his basement — and it is another case of clichés overpowering any sort of emotional impact. It doesn’t help that Young Abe’s plan for tracking down the Master is just hackneyed and stupid. He decides to climb down a well with a rope, well past mid-day, where he finds a nest with too many vampires for him to face. And because it’s so late in the day Eichhorst is able to pull up the rope, stranding Abe in the bottom of the well, and then go turn Miriam (Adina Verson) into a monster. It’s so boring and predictable that there is absolutely no dramatic impact. Again. Even when she has returned to their home at nightfall — with two unknown vampire children (???) — we don’t get to experience the emotional confrontation, instead cutting away to the aftermath of Abe amongst the corpses. We do get to watch as he plunges his hands into her chest and pulls out the still-beating vampire heart, because we really needed to see that part of the story. That’s sarcasm. If there was any moment in the story we didn’t need to see, it was that. We already know he cut out her heart and kept it. We would have been better served by seeing his struggle with killing her in the first place or getting some sort of dramatic interaction between them before the scene ended. If you’re going to embrace vampire clichés, why not embrace the ones that provide real connections to the characters? The only interesting and original interaction anyone has with a vampire this week is Eldritch Palmer (Jonathan Hyde) and the horribly unscary Master (Robert Maillet & Robin Atkin Downes). Palmer is on death’s door and holding out hope that the Master will arrive in the nick of time and sweep him off his feet into a life of vampirism. Again, the horrible design of the Master undercuts any drama, but Hyde is totally devoted to this role and sells it with every line. As we cut to the closing credits, Palmer stands in the pouring rain, apparently restored by a taste of the Master’s blood, while Mr. Fitzwilliams (Roger Cross) watches ominously from inside. It’s a nice moment both narratively and visually for The Strain, allowing director Peter Weller to really shine, despite the dullness of a lackluster script. The Strain 1.12 “Last Rites”3.0Overall ScoreShare this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Dignan There’s going to be hell toupee for this review.