November 14, 2016 The Strain – Do or Die & The Fall (Season 3/ Episode 9 & 10)
Season three’s penultimate and final episodes of FX’s The Strain should be viewed in a single sitting to appreciate the impact of the tumultuous events that end the series’ best season yet. Airing on October 23, 2016, in the episode Do or Die, the outlook for humanity in New York appeared grim. Then, by closing scene of October 30th’s The Fall, it had dimmed to a point of almost pitch black. As fans have experienced in almost every episode this season, each human success designed to eradicate the Master and his army of infected is overshadowed by an even greater counter-strike.
Councilwoman Feraldo, abandoned by the majority of the uniformed officers fighting to save New York City, laments over leaving Staten Island after she had successfully cleared the borough of Strigoi. Her attempt to escape the city with her most trusted ally, Captain Frank Kowalski, results in her death and that of several popular ancillary characters. The audience has always pulled for Feraldo to succeed, not just because she is leading New York City’s official resistance to the invasion, but because her character was genuinely likable. Her methods will no longer be needed because of the events of the finale’s unexpected concluding scene, cementing the belief that attempts at armed resistance are indeed futile.
Continuing their new found alliance, Professor Setrakian and Eldritch Palmer concoct a plan to trap the Master. They have learned the secret shipment from Egypt contained two suitcases containing nuclear weapons. One had been used by Thomas Eichorst to destroy the trio of Ancients that had just agreed to help Quinlan fight the Master. Palmer has stolen the second suitcase and hidden it in his penthouse and they set a trap to lure the Master there. Setrakian plans on using the Strigoi communication blocking device built by Dutch Elders and Eph Goodweather to immobilize the Master and encase him in the silver-lined crate which Setrakian and Vasily Fet have built for that purpose. The plan works, albeit the Master turns out to be someone they did not expect.
Before their plan can begin, the Master, temporarily embodied in a Strigoi soldier, kills all of Palmer’s guards and captures him. In a surprising twist, the Master performs the transformation process to infect Palmer and make him the new Master. This is a massive shift for the storyline. Throughout the show’s run, Setrakian and Palmer’s relationship has changed. Starting out as apparent allies, Palmer double-crosses the Professor and they end up on opposite sides of the fight for humanity’s future. Palmer, impatient with Eichorst’s refusal to bring the Master to cure him, has regained Setrakian’s trust. First by providing information on the Master, and then by making an attempt on the life of Eichorst by ambushing him with a squad of men firing silver bullets.
With the Master safely entombed in the silver crate, his telepathic connection to his Strigoi is severed. While unknown to Eph and his team, his son Zach and estranged-and infected wife, Kelly, are waiting for Eichorst in Palmer’s building. He had left them in charge of holding the detonation device for the final nuclear bomb. When Kelly loses her contact to the Master, her control over her hunger for her son’s beating heart begins to fade. Zach convinces her to go upstairs to the penthouse to see Eichorst. They arrive moments after Palmer – now the Master – has been taken away. They find Eph wounded, sitting at Palmer’s desk. Kelly attacks Eph and is killed, leaving Zach devastated. Not trusting his father, and believing the propaganda from Eichorst, Zach uses the detonator to trigger the nuclear bomb which had been retrieved by Eichorst upon Palmer’s transformation into the Master. The bomb had been hidden beneath the Statue of Liberty, a symbolic act in itself. The ensuing shock wave sends Setrakian and his team running for cover while standing on a pier in preparation for dumping the crate containing the Master at sea. When the dust settles, the box has been smashed open and the Master has escaped, again.
As the finale ends, a dust cloud obscures the sun, allowing the Strigoi free run of the city and surrounding area. Eph stumbles through the rubble in search of Zach, who has run off with Eichorst, who had been saved by the soldier inhabited by the Master. Setrakian and the rest of his team run for cover underground, the only place they will be safe from the radioactive fallout.
Throughout this season, viewers have learned a lot about the characters. Most of these backstories are not designed to move the main storyline along, they are instead meant to give a glimpse into the motivation of the people followed for three seasons. Most of these forays into the past – only one, Vasily Fet’s falls flat – lead us to a better understanding of why they continue to fight for, or against, humanity being the dominant creature on Earth. It is one of the features fans love about this show. Along with the stunning special effects – no doubt inspired by Executive Producer, the legendary film-maker Guillermo del Toro – viewers come back week after week despite the futility of fighting a seemingly overwhelming force. The losses suffered by the team viewed as the heroes – regardless or despite of their successes – may ultimately be the downfall of this otherwise wonderful show.
The Strain’s writers continue to tease viewers with momentary victories, only to have all hope of salvation dashed. It is beginning to wear thin on even the most devout fan’s patience. Most notably with the climactic ending of this season, when it had appeared a final victory was within reach for Setrakian and humanity at large. The problem seems to be there really is only one story arc that leads to success, the ultimate destruction of the Master. Each time it had seemed to be inevitable, it has resulted in the situation becoming much worse. Even if we consider the individual storylines of our characters, providing us several paths to satisfying storytelling and discount the ultimate salvation of mankind, they do not seem to grow. Setrakian is no closer to ridding the world of the Master or his decade’s running feud with Eichorst, Eph is no closer to regaining the trust of his son, Fet and Dutch’s love-lives are a mess…
All this in mind, avid followers are hoping that next season of The Strain brings more ratification. They are hoping it is not just continuingly opening the door to hope, only to have it slammed shut, and then for an extra kick in the head, having a floor-safe dropped on them to accent the futility of their quest. The present formula will eventually lose viewers. Until next season, CrypticRock gives season 3 of The Strain 4 out of 5 stars.