Martin Carr reviews the season finale of The Strain…
Time is ticking for Goodweather and his cohorts as they close in on The Master and his minions….
So here is a finale. The culmination of a series considered by many to be average and singled out, perhaps unfairly, for its mediocrity. That Guillermo del Toro, confirmed master of fantasy fare and macabre offerings should be behind this is still the most baffling element.
Neither truly frightening nor engaging enough to warrant my full attention, The Strain finale felt constrained by its source material and ultimately a slave to those limitations. Lifting liberally from both the Nightwatch vampire flicks and Blade franchise, this orchestrated showdown felt uninspired and dramatically vacant. That it happens in a specific location, in relation to a certain character, screams out to me that huge chunks of backstory have been culled. In truth it seemed too neat, while emotional beats tying in superfluous storylines and characters seemed an invaluable waste of airtime. What saves this series is not the face off which was never going to be the smack down everyone craved. Ironically it’s materials hijacked from these other elements, which divert attention away from formulaic necessity and structural need.
Gus Elizalde continues to be the most interesting character beyond Setrakian, while homage to The Fly is hammered home through Palmer’s overt display case of defunct body parts. Eichorst remains the benign puppet master, all Machiavellian machinations beneath his prosthetics and hairpiece. Whereas Fasilly Vet is wasted filling in historical backstory whilst killing ‘infected’, sporting superior facial hair and quoting Marcus Aurelius. Something Richard Harris would doubtless comment upon, were he not already extremely deceased and whoring in heaven with O’Toole, Burton and Reed.
For a series which professes love to trump any other feeling, revenge appears to be taking more and more of an emotional front seat. Setrakian is driven by a desire to avenge his beloved; Gus wants retribution for his mother and best friend, while Goodweather is torn between his son and ex-wife. Because although love as an emotional core to narrative is all well and good, true entertainment comes from a darker place. Vengeance may come from the death of a loved one, but ultimately what keeps an audience watching is the fulfilment of that vendetta. Conflict resolution is the basis for most decent stories, whereas comic book characters from Batman to Spiderman prove one thing above all others; once that need is satisfied it does not stop. Then the question is what does one do when this option has been resolved or, due to circumstance, continues to be intangible?
An answer lies with Gus Elizalde and his story which remains the most engaging. Setrakian and Goodweather are constrained by rules and exist within a group. Gus on the other hand is beholden to no one for the time being. What should bring people back is not The Master or the advancement of his Strain, but to see how far along Elizalde gets before coming unstuck. You see it is human nature to cheer for the underdog, support him through adversity then watch him unravel for entertainment. Why else the morbid fascination with car accidents? Because deep down we want to see how bad it gets, we need to know; no really we do.