'The Strain' Finale Recap: To Fight Monsters, Setrakian Stays Human

A season that got off to a slow start ended in a satisfyingly weird, aggressive place.

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The Strain fared better in its second season than its freshman effort, but it remains a work in progress. Elongated arcs, a value for plot over character, and just plain hysterically awful moments were the norm each week in Guillermo del Toro’s vampire apocalypse. But there was a focus to see it all through to the end, and for it to make sense against all odds, which made The Strain all worth the while in the end.

After a comically absurd auction, the Occido Lumen is now in the hands of Setrakian, who finds himself apprehensive about the great responsibility that apparently comes with biggish amounts of power. He has also found himself in a proper partnership with Quinlan, Gus, and Angel, and though both parties are distrustful I have no doubt they will find respect within one another eventually. Fet is just too damn likable not too.

It remains to be seen what will become of Eph, who has lost his son to his literally demonic ex-wife, and his girlfriend, who had no choice but to take her life. Parallel with Setrakian realizing what power he now wields, he had a V.O. monologue about the importance of maintaining one’s humanity in the face of great evil. To fight a monster, just how much of a monster should you become? Setrakian is cautious, but Eph maybe less so. He is now a man with nothing to lose, and sometimes that is the most dangerous thing in the world.

Ditto for Palmer, who has also lost a love of his: Coco, killed cold by the Master. It was one of those moments I can’t believe works in fantasy or crime stories, where the Big Boss kills someone his Henchman loves just to show how big his dick is. It would never work for me, and though it would mean my own demise I’d refuse to serve someone who breaks my shit. I sincerely hope Palmer plots a proper rebellion against The Master, and I hope he crosses paths with Eph soon. They suddenly have more in common than ever before.

Zack’s arc promised a big ending, and it ultimately ended with a whimper — and will no doubt lead to bigger, greater things come season three, so maybe it’s actually a success. But whatever endgame it’s planning, if it takes another whole damn season then The Strain will be straining (I’m so sorry) whatever good will I’m lending it. The Strain is a silly show, but maybe that’s okay. It has built an identity: sometimes LOL, sometimes WTF, other times OMG. It’s a genre series that isn’t ashamed to be absurd so long as it achieves its goals in the end, and I’d comfortably say the majority of its laid-out plans from this season have succeeded to varying degrees.

Airing alongside the season finale of the perfect opposite Fear the Walking Dead, The Strain comes into sharp focus. Fear the Walking Dead ultimately became about the testing of a family through a hardship instead of a family breaking apart like I had thought. The Strain, meanwhile, has become exactly what happens when a family splinters. Eph has lost so much, Zack has chosen his freak mom, Dutch is MIA, and Setrakian may develop an obsession with his new toy, the Occido Lumen, to care about anyone else. The Strain tried to talk about power and take charge of one’s own destiny, but it may actually have been about being powerless in the face of the inevitable.