It’s the final countdown.

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This is the final recap of The Strain‘s first season. Find out below what I think of how the season finished. And if you’re just joining me, you can read through the rest of my recaps in my firstsecond, and third recaps.

The premiere of season 2 is tonight at 10 EST on FX.

“The Third Rail”

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Setrakian leads his minions into the tunnels, hoping to catch the Master unawares and kill him. But this is only the third-to-last episode, so obviously that doesn’t work. There’s some inconsequential bickering between Fet and Eph, and Zach leaves the pawnshop to get cigarettes for Mrs. Martinez.

There’s honestly not much to say about this episode. It’s not as bad as some of the other episodes that have felt like they were just biding time because there are some decent moments here, but ultimately it’s just another padded-out hour, devoted to an important reveal about the Master’s location (and the thousands of vampires he’s surrounded himself with for protection).

Rating: 80/100

“Last Rites”

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As far as Gus’s character goes, this is his best episode. As tends to be the case on this show, that’s not because of some radical change to the character, but simply because of a change in narration. Instead of being manipulated by Eichhorst or worrying about his family or arguing with prison guards, situations where he has very little agency, he’s now on his own, and we get to see how he plans to deal with the apocalypse. The show has been painting him as a criminal with a heart of gold, but I’m kind of happy that his choice is not at all heroic. He’s not a monster, but he’s no hero, either. He’s kind of a dick here, and I almost felt bad for Creem.

And then of course, the vampire swat team returns to save the day and abduct Gus, which just makes the whole thing cooler. Vampire swat team is awesome.

The other standout character of this episode, to me, is Nora. I was actually pleasantly surprised that she’s had a remotely decent character arc, given that she felt so neglected in the beginning of the season. I was only ever expecting her to be treated as a kind of sidekick/love-interest/support for Eph, so it’s nice to realize how she’s evolved from reluctant to “kill people” to being able to decapitate her own mother once she’s been turned, even if her references to her childhood in Argentina are starting to get tiring. I could go on for a while analyzing exactly how her motives and character has changed, but I won’t ramble. The point is, I’m pleasantly surprised.

Meanwhile, the flashbacks in this episode are surprisingly weak. Middle-aged Setrakian’s makeup looks horrendous, honestly. Aging up the actor for young Setrakian apparently looks as good as aging down David Bradley would have. And the plot isn’t that interesting either. We get details about how Setrakian’s wife was killed by the vampires, but really we don’t learn much that’s new here. I guess the revelation of how Miriam wanted to adopt is worthwhile for insight into Setrakian’s intriguing interactions with Zach, though.

Rating: 84/100

“The Master”

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So, the final confrontation (of the season, in any case) between Setrakian and his crew and the Master (and his crew, I guess). I like how it takes place in Bolivar’s theater, a set that was, in hindsight, too good for the show not to make more use of. I like how Eph and Setrakian gain the upper hand by breaking the windows and letting in the sun, and the final beat where the Master flees into the sun, crumbling from the exposure but not dead. I don’t understand why the Master is hiding out in an upper story of any building as opposed to underneath it, though. Wasn’t that the whole point of the revelation at the end of “The Third Rail”? What happened to the thousands of vampires we saw nesting there?

The other stuff going on here is all good, too. Eph deciding to take Zach along and give him a sword is reminiscent of the end of Buffy‘s season 6, where Buffy realizes she has to let her sister fight, and also gives her a sword. I wonder if that’s intentional.

I like that we get a chance to see Eldritch Palmer healthy. The scene where he and Eichhorst walk in on Everett and “Maggie” is creepy as hell – another one of those scenes that are perfect horror. The directing here is particularly commendable. If we’d seen Palmer throwing Maggie over the balcony directly, it probably would have introduced a cheesy factor, but the decision instead to show it through silhouettes in the window heightens the horror instead. Everett’s attempt to small-talk with Eichhorst, meanwhile, is the kind of dark humor that serves the scene well.

And then there’s Gus being recruited by Mr. Quinlan, who is a representative of “the Ancient Ones”, a group of other master vampires. I still love the vampire swat team, but this is a pretty neutral aspect of the episode for me. It’s just setup for season two.

I guess we’ll get an idea of how that works out tonight.

Rating: 88/100.

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I saw 'Mars Attacks!' in theaters when I was five. I still think it's the greatest horror movie for five year olds ever made.