The Strain S1E13, “The Master”

Strain Poster 2

We find ourselves at the end of the season.  It took 13 episodes, but I’m now finally coming around to the sight of Corey Stoll with hair.

This season showed us a show with promise, but was ultimately unfulfilling.  It had some flashes of greatness, but mostly it was maddeningly inconsistent.  It went to the school of building drama by having characters make the worst decision at the worst moment.  So, basically, I’m all warmed up for the start of The Walking Dead.

I love the mythology behind the vampires, but they didn’t get into it too much in this season.  I guess we’ll have to hang on the promise of more of that in the second season.  I really liked Fet, but I could have done without every other character.

Let’s talk about this episode in particular.


1. Why is Palmer so eager to be turned into a vampire?  Isn’t being healed of his thousands of ailments good enough?  Has he seen the vampires?  With the exception of Eichorst, they’re all unthinking monsters.  Why would you want to be that?
I could go my whole life without hearing the phrase, “The Master gave you the white, but not the worm,” again.  Although it is nice to have a name for some Strain-centric erotic-fiction already in place.

2. Zach asking Eph when they can go home.  Eph’s face was as perplexed as mine.  “We can’t go back.”  They have tried to portray Zach as a composed, intelligent kid, but they have no problem turning up the ignorance when they need to.  “Quick.  Let’s have the kid say something that will pull at the heartstrings or whatever.”  Poor writing.

3. Gus’ insistence on acting tough and trying to punch vampires.  It never ends well for you.  Just stop.

4. The plan of heading out in sunlight to battle vampires is smart.  The plan of then traveling by sewers and secret tunnels is not.  That completely negates your advantage.

5. Zach playing a game of Plants vs. Zombies as a way to kill time.  That’s the wrong game, kid.  You should be playing Infect Them All.  That would help your preparation.

6. While I liked Fet using dynamite to make “munchers go boom-boom”, it doesn’t seem like the smartest idea to blow up a bunch of creatures with infectious blood.  All season they’ve made a point to say, “Just one worm will infect you.”  It’s how Jim died (well, technically a bullet to the brain is how Jim died, but you get my meaning).  Yet they have no issue blowing up a bunch of vampires in a confined space, or slicing-and-dicing countless vampires in closed quarters without any kind of protection.  The blood is only as infectious as the writers need it to be in that particular scene.

7. The Master – assumed to be the smartest of the vampires – knew Eph & company were coming, yet he decided to keep himself in a room filled with windows in the daylight.  Why not move to somewhere no sunlight could possibly get into?

8. The attack on The Master seemed to work fine.  They got him out in the sun, where he was clearly in pain, then Setrakian stood over his body for a while and talked instead of slashing at him.
After The Master made his escape, Eph said, “If sunlight doesn’t kill him, what does?”  Were you not paying attention?  Sunlight was doing fine.  Another minute and he likely would have been dead.  Or perhaps an assault with weapons while he was writhing in sunlight would have finished the job.  You stared at him instead of attacking him and you wonder why your attack didn’t succeed.

9. Zach.  Stupid, stupid Zach.  He faked an asthma attack just to get back to his old house.  It was dark, the city was crawling with vampires, and they had just survived a siege on Setrakian’s pawn shop the day before.  The smart move was to stay away from anywhere the vampires would think to look for them.  Instead, he really needed to see some pictures, so he lied to get back to his house.  Again, smart when they want him to be, stupid when they need him to be.  Zach is the worst.

10. The voiceover at the end annoyed me to no end.  Not a good way to end a season.


1. The idea of using hordes of vampires as security.  Sometimes I wish I was The Master, because that sounds like an amazing use of resources.  “I’m going to turn all of you into vampires, but then some of you will just stand in my general vicinity during the day and be willing to die for little to no reason at all.  Cool?”

2. Fet talking about Eph and Setrakian: “You two are falling in love.  It’s a beautiful thing.”  Kevin Durand’s Fet was absolutely the best part of this season.

3. Speaking of Fet, I loved him opening up the sewer cap to flood the tunnel with daylight to stop more vampires from filling the theater before they could get there.  Really smart.

4. Nora finally throwing down on Eph in regards to Zach.  It’s a new world, man.  No time to coddle your kid.  If you want to protect him, give him a sword and keep him at your side.

5. Eldritch Palmer throwing that woman over the ledge.  I laughed pretty hard.

6. The glowing eyes of the vampires in the club.  I don’t remember seeing that before this episode, but it was a great visual.
I think I really liked the scene where the vampires all backed out, but I’m torn.  On the one hand, it looked cool.  On the other hand, I don’t understand why the humans stopped their killing.  The vampires are vulnerable and not in the fight.  Why not try to take out as many as you can while their guard is down?

7. I’m a big fan of Quinlan the vampire hunter, and I like that we saw The Ancients towards the end of this episode.  Delving deeper into that side of things should help make the second season more interesting than the first.  I say that it should, but I don’t have a ton of faith that it will.

Final thoughts: Not a great end to the season, but it wasn’t a great season, so I suppose it was fitting.  I had high hopes for this series, but those expectations have been lowered greatly.  It wasn’t terrible, but it was remarkably inconsistent.

Make sure you read CC’s take on this.  She’s better than me.

Also read LC Fremont’s take.  She’s one of the best writers I know.

The Strain S1E12, “Last Rites”

Strain Poster 2

It’s been a rough week, and your old pal Dusty hasn’t had much of a chance to write.  With that in mind, let’s skip over the unwieldy intro and get straight to my loves and hates.


1. The stuff with Setrakian’s wife felt really forced.  There wasn’t a ton of emotion, even though I know they were trying to force us to feel something.  Also, Young Setrakian’s face seemed to be made out of wax, which was off-putting.

2. The scene with Dutch and Fet on the rooftop.  They both played that scene as well as they could – and I thought Dutch talking about her childhood was terrific – but I really didn’t feel any chemistry between them at all.  It also ended with a ridiculously clichéd exchange:
“I specialize in passionate, destructive relationships.”
“The best kind.”
So dumb.

3.  Setrakian’s half-hearted apology to the gang about his outburst.  It basically sounded like, “I got too emotional.  My bad.  I’ll try to be better about it or whatever.”  David Bradley has been pretty good so far, but this little speech was really weak.

4. The escape from the pawn shop was entirely too easy.  There were vampires bursting in from windows and doors, yet the back exit was left unguarded.  Eichorst was trying to take out Setrakian and his crew before they became a bigger threat.  I’m supposed to believe that he’s not smart enough to block off all exits?

5. Eldritch Palmer, crying for joy in the rain at his newly gained immortality.  It’s almost like he doesn’t know that it takes Eichorst hours to make himself look somewhat normal every morning.  Let’s see you celebrating when you’re putting on your nose every morning, fella.


1. Gus dropping the line, “A plague done broke out.”  Terrible line, but it made me laugh.

2. The vampire lady in the well, speaking to Setrakian in The Master’s voice.  Really creepy stuff.  After last week’s episode, it is obvious that balding vampire women in dresses are a fear of mine.  Seems like a perfectly reasonable fear to have.

3. The initial raid of the pawn shop was terrific (vampires bursting in from the windows), and Boliver showing up to kill Nora’s mother was legitimately shocking (especially given that she is still alive at that point in the books).  I’m not sorry to see her character go, which kind of makes me feel terrible about myself.  “Yeah!  They finally killed that woman with dementia.  About time.  Her terrible disease made me dislike her immensely.”  I’m the worst.

4. Quinlan and his vampire hit squad finally showed up again.  I wanted to see more of them in this season, but, with the season finale next week, it looks like we’ll have to wait until next season to see them in full force.

Final thoughts: Kind of glad this season is winding down.  This episode wasn’t terrible, but it was pretty much like the rest of the season: remarkably inconsistent.  It’s wearing me down.  At this point, I’m ready for the season to be over.  I want them to take stock of the season, figure out their strengths and weaknesses, and come back next season fully loaded.  Here’s to hoping for a big season finale that sets up an improved second season.

The Strain S1E11, “The Third Rail”

Strain Poster 2

The season is winding down.  While the show has gotten better, it’s still maddeningly inconsistent.  There are some great scenes – and there have even been some truly great episodes – but there are too many moments of drama driven by the stupidity of the main characters.  This episode had a little bit of each of those.  Let’s get to it.


1. I proclaimed my hatred for Zach last week, and he did nothing this week to change my mind.  He kicked off the episode by saying, “epic fail,” and I nearly punched through my TV.  He spent the rest of the episode either staring blankly at Nora’s mother or making an ill-advised trip out of the pawn shop in search of cigarettes for her.  I really can’t stand this kid.

2. This exchange between Zach and Eph:
“Why can’t I go?”
“I can’t control that environment.”
Did you guys know that Eph is a control freak?  Me neither.  They’re totally subtle about it.  They haven’t driven that point into the ground or anything.

3. The gang left Zach and Mrs. Martinez alone in the pawn shop.  That seems like a bad decision anyway, but it seems like an even worse decision when it was revealed that there was an entire wall of weapons in the basement, just hanging out.  Sure.  Just let the child and the woman with Alzheimer’s – who has been acting erratically all day – alone with a weapons stockpile.  That seems like a pretty uncontrolled environment, Eph.

4. Gus, you just killed your vampire brother (who, oddly, looked slightly better as a vampire than he did as a human.  RIP Vampire Weevil).  Don’t wander around the house in the dark.  Turn on a light.

5. Wandering around subway tunnels, looking at items of the deceased, dropping lines like, “It’s everything that defined these people.”  Knock it off.
Another word about the subway tunnels.  They had just come across a nest of vampires that they had to sneak by.  They also talked about how sound travels.  And yet minutes later, they’re out there yelling at each other.  What part of “vampires in tunnels” don’t you understand?  For as smart as all of these people are, they’re pretty stupid most of the time.

6. The Master looks really dumb.  He’s like some mash-up of Nosferatu, Admiral Ackbar and Clem from Buffy.  Probably not a good sign when I laugh really hard every time the main villain is on the screen.


1. Fet making a UV bomb.  I love the image of Fet hunched over a work bench, desperately trying to make a UV bomb.  Fet is the best.

2.  Nora’s mom smokes Morleys.  I bet her and CSM hooked up on more than one occasion.

3. The vampire lady sitting in the basement of the shop Zach got the cigarettes from was really creepy.
Of course, Zach saw her, freaked out and dropped his phone.  (This is your reminder that cell phones don’t work anymore.)  What does he do?  He jumps down from his spot to retrieve his phone, losing track of the vampire lady in the process.  Zach, you are remarkably dumb.

4. I loved the vampire crawling after Fet in the tunnel.  The way his head moved was supremely unnerving.

5. Setrakian’s coffin-smashing.  We saw a lot of pent-up rage come flying out of Setrakian this week.  I liked it.

6. Fet proclaiming, “That’s a lot of munchers,” when seeing a teeming horde of vampires bathed in red light.  I like the term “munchers” and I love that visual.
Quick story: we drove up to Wisconsin to see Radiohead on their Hail to the Thief tour.  It was an outdoor venue, and we had our spot near the back, on the top of the hill.  There were thousands of people between us and the stage.  All we could see was the backs of their heads.  Around the middle of the show, they played “We Suck Young Blood”.  It’s a slow, lurching song that eventually explodes.  For the beginning of that song, the lights facing the audience were green.  The band sang the first line, “Are you hungry?” while the green lights washed over a sea of heads, all nodding simultaneously in a slow, hypnotic fashion.  I had a terrifying thought that they were all going to slowly turn and come after us.  It was one of the creepiest things I have ever seen.
The image of thousands of vampires milling around in the glow of the red flare took me back to that moment.

Final thoughts:

More bad than good in this episode.  There were entirely too many annoying moments that distracted from the good ones.

The Strain S1E10, “Loved Ones”

Strain Poster 2

Do you remember the end of “For Services Rendered” when the pack of vampire hunters showed up?  I sure do.  I rubbed my hands together and proclaimed, “Here we go,” to no one in particular, because my life is a non-stop party.  I love that storyline in the books, and I was excited to see what they did with it on the screen.

We have now seen three episodes since that reveal and we haven’t seen them since.  It’s a curious decision.  The show has been fairly spotty, but they’re sitting on gold with vampires hunting their own kind.  That should have been a step to something great.  Instead, they’ve thrown it aside from the time being with a, “Nah, we’re good right now.”  Will they show up again soon?  If nothing else, they’re bound to make an appearance in the season finale, which is only a few episodes away now.


1. Zach.  Or, rather, the actor that plays Zach.  He really gets on my nerves.  When he celebrated connecting to the internet by pumping his fist and saying, “yes,” I gritted my teeth and made an angry sound.  You see what you made me do, Strain?  You made me hate a child.  I hope you’re proud of yourselves.

2. The fact that Setrakian let Eph go off to find his likely vampired ex-wife by himself.  “You must be prepared for what you find,” Setrakian warned him.  He realizes that Eph was incapable of killing a man he declared “dead to me,” right?  What makes him think he’ll be able to kill a woman he still loves?

3. Dutch walking right into Palmer’s building, knowing full well he has cameras, and also knowing that he knows who she is.  She had very little chance of getting in and out unnoticed.  And why did she do this?  “I don’t like being taken for a ride.”  I’m hoping her dramatic exit from the pawn shop signals her exit from the show, but I can’t see us being that lucky.

4. They keeping bashing us over the head with the, “you’ll come back for the ones you love,” fact about these vampires (in the books, those people are referred to “Dear Ones”).  I get that it’s important, but I wish they would be a little more subtle with it all.
That’s one of the main problems with this show, and a trait it shares with The Walking Dead: there’s no subtlety.  If there’s something they think is important, be ready to hear about it multiple times per episode.  “In this scene, Kelly will hold a picture of her family.  We’ll zoom in on Zach, then her face, and then she’ll say, ‘Where’s Zach?’  Maybe we should go back to the picture after that, or have her drop it or something.  The people need to know!”

5. Eph’s volatile personality.  Being a milk-swilling genius apparently means acting like an ass for no real reason.


1. Vasiliy Fet: Ladies Man.  Everywhere he goes, ladies just swoon.  I assume he goes into the sewer, gives a smile and a wink, and female rats walk right up to him and allow him to bash them into oblivion.

2. I know I’ve seen the poster a thousand times, but watching that worm crawl into Kelly’s eye was still remarkably gross and creepy.  I don’t like eye worms.  Not. One. Bit.  Still, that was a well done scene.

3. Kelly’s aim with her stinger.  Got a child with her first try.  Kelly 1, Matt 0.

4. The horrors of Diane’s basement.  That had a couple really great moments.
Vampire Diane opening her eyes in the basement and raising her head was really creepy.  It reminded me of Helen in the basement of Night of the Living Dead.
Eph putting a bullet in that kid’s head was a legitimately tough scene to watch.
Still…dude…STAY AWAY FROM THE VAMPIRES YOU JUST KILLED.  Worms crawling around and everything.  You know what they can do.  All it takes is one.  Just stay away, man.

Final thoughts:

Some decent scenes, and it sets up some cool stuff for later, but this episode didn’t do much for me.

The extremely talented LC Fremont does weekly write-ups of this show over at The Horror Honeys.  She’s a tremendous writer and a good friend.  Read her take on this episode here.
CC also has terrific write-ups over at Bloody Good Horror.  She’s wonderful.  Read her take on this episode here.
I wish my own write-ups were as good as the ones they do every week.

The Strain S1E9, “The Disappeared”

Strain Poster 2

Since I’m so late with this write-up this week (I was out of town…sorry), I’m going to skip my normal intro and just get right into the Hates/Loves.


1. Diane’s babysitting skills leave a little something to be desired.  Step one: don’t swear at the children.

2. Zach is not a very observant kid.  He saw movement in the house before he stepped inside, so he knows someone (or something…bum bum buuuuuuuum) is inside.  He opens the door to find signs of a struggle.  Does he hide or run outside, assuming something bad happened and that the perpetrator is still inside?  Of course not.  He makes it known that he is in the house, and only escapes because Matt was apparently equipped with the least accurate vampire stinger ever, and Eph just happened to get there in time to chop off his head.  (“You like being in my house now?  DO YA?!”)

3. They have brought up in the past how the virus affects everyone differently, but that’s extremely lazy.  It’s pretty convenient to have the first batch of infected take days to gradually turn, only to have the rest of the population turned in a matter of hours.  It’s nit-picky, but it really bothers me.  Matt had been bit earlier that night and was already in full-fledged “I’mma kill that kid,” mode.  No weird, awkward transition to being a creature of the night.  No days of feeling weird before your penis falls off.  None of that.  He went from human jackass to vampire jackass in no time at all.  I don’t ask for perfection, but I do ask for a little consistency.

4. Eph killing Matt, then just kind of standing over the body while the blood started to ooze near his feet.  Step away from the blood.  You know better.

The Strain - Matt's Head

5.  Matt’s decapitated head.  It looked so fake.  I couldn’t stop laughing.
There is a sponge diving museum in Tarpon Springs, Florida that has a scene depicting a man with the bends.  It’s a horrible looking dummy with blood coming out of his eyes and nose.  It looks extremely fake, but it gave me nightmares as a kid.  This is exactly like that, except with a lot more money, which only highlights how ridiculous it is.  Also, I’m older now and I don’t scare so easily.  Bring it on, sponge diving museum.  I’m ready for ya.

6. Dutch “The Magical Hacker” Velders seeing all the vampires unleashed on the world and promptly deciding, “Instead of hanging out with these people who seem to know what they’re doing, I’m just going to go home.”  Good thing Fet was there to kill her obviously vampired neighbor.


1. Eph’s “destroying the body of my ex-wife’s boyfriend” hair.  It went well with his, “post-vampire-killing sex” hair.

2. Gus’ running.  He looks ridiculous.  Head thrown back, mouth open, arms flailing.  Dude is a good boxer but apparently has no control over his limbs when he runs.

Final thoughts: Not a great episode.  It was building up some momentum over the last couple episodes, but this one really fell flat for me.  Too many lapses in logic among our main characters.