[This is a review of The Strain season 1, episode 12. There will be SPOILERS.] 

The Strain has been hot and cold all season long. A handful of episodes have had some incredibly strong storylines, but then there are others that are just all over the place, absurd and not particularly compelling either. Episode 12, ‘Last Rites,’ doesn’t come anywhere close to favorites like ‘Occultation’ and ‘Loved Ones,’ but it does boast a few redeeming elements that keep it from being the next ‘The Third Rail’ and also serve as a nice build for the finale episode.

Obviously, Dutch is back. She had to come back. She’s not a particularly well-developed or believable character, but she’s got more life to her than Eph and after spending so much time building the connection between her and Vasiliy, it’s about time we get to see that through a bit. Plus, she’s useful. In fact, the whole Emergency Alert System idea might be the group’s most logical plan yet.

And then we’ve got Miguel Gómez who continues to prove that he’s one of the show’s most engaging and entertaining characters. At this point, when it comes to Gus, it almost doesn’t even matter what he’s up to simply because Gómez says and does it with so much conviction that it’s only natural to get behind it. And it just so happens that his mini-mission in ‘Last Rites’ concludes with one of the season’s most exhilarating payoffs – Gus is recruited by those mysterious creatures from episode 7.

Jamie Hector The Strain Episode 12 ‘The Strain’: This Is Not a Test

It’s also worth noting that even though I completely forgot that Jamie Hector’s Alonso Creem existed, he manages to make an impression with a minimal amount of screen time here. He does stab (shoot?) Gus in the back while up against a horde of vampires, but there was still something about his charisma and his chemistry with Gus that sparks interest in seeing the two of them join forces and take out vampires together.

Even though hacking the Emergency Alert System isn’t half as exciting as battling a cargo container full of vampires, our core group’s efforts do come with some thrilling and rather emotional consequences.

And it’s about time Eichorst returned. Richard Sammel was absolutely killing it in his flashback sequences, but then we lost him for a number of episodes. This week’s Albania 1967 material isn’t half as effective as the more dialogue driven scenes between Eichorst and young Setrakian from previous episodes, but it does effectively pave the way toward what goes down at the pawnshop.

Mia Maestro Corey Stoll Kevin Durand The Strain Episode 12 ‘The Strain’: This Is Not a Test

I’ve been picking on Mrs. Martinez’s involvement since day one. Minus a solid sequence with Zach last episode, she’s never served much of a purpose at all. It was about time she died. Plus, her passing led to Mia Maestro’s strongest performance yet, which included a decision that could be a major game changer for her character.

As many of you know, I haven’t read the book, so I could be completely off with this one, but Setrakian clearly makes a connection between what he once did to Miriam and what Nora does to her mother. Perhaps this moment is just putting Setrakian’s observation that Nora isn’t ready to kill from episode 4 to bed, but after so many weeks of Eph acting like a wet blanket, I wouldn’t mind seeing Nora step up her game and become a Setrakian-in-training of sorts instead.

Overall, ‘Last Rites’ is pretty underwhelming for the second to last episode of the season, but it most certainly isn’t a total loss because it does start to put some of the show’s most successful elements in the forefront suggesting that the last episode, ‘The Master,’ could be the powerful and satisfying finale we’re hoping for.

The Strain continues next Sunday with ‘The Master’ at @ 10pm on FX.

Follow Perri on Twitter @PNemiroff.

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