[This is a review of The Strain season 2 finale. There will be SPOILERS.]
After introducing several seemingly important narrative threads early in its second season, The Strain proceeded to wander aimlessly through the season’s middle portion, stumbling around pointless melodrama and insignificant subplots. By leaving its most interesting characters and storylines on the sidelines for large chunks of its run, The Strain’s sophomore season had little time to salvage any narrative productivity with its final few episodes, but after last week’s penultimate episode got things back on track, there was hope the finale would at least bring some closure to those threads the season started.
Luckily, with tonight’s finale, ‘Night Train,’ we can honestly say the series delivered on that promise. In closing off one of those arcs, the show — along with its most underdeveloped, neglected and insufferable character — went down a bizarre path, but for the majority of its runtime, the finale accomplished what we hoped it would, by offering exciting action and a couple of legitimately shocking character deaths.
While it was certainly nice to see the series prove its characters aren’t always safe (and things had felt safe for far too long on this show), the initial and visceral shock of Coco (Lizzie Brochere) and Nora’s (Mia Maestro) deaths is much less significant or impactful as the emotional toll their losses will take on our survivors. In grieving the death of his love, will Eph (Corey Stoll) commit even deeper to Abraham’s (David Bradley) fight against The Master, or will despair overcome him? Likewise, will Palmer (Jonathan Hyde) attempt to avenge Coco’s murder, or truly join Eichorst (Richard Sammel) in becoming just another slave to The Master? The answers to these questions will likely play out over multiple episodes next season, but they are questions that will likely effect our characters’ decisions and thus, the narrative thrust of the series as well.
Of course, it’s hard to use the term “narrative thrust” about a series that failed to showcase a real ability to propel its storylines forward this season. However, with this season’s conclusion, we have some faith that may change, as the show’s third season now seems to have a solid jumping-off point. After all, with the Occido Lumen firmly in Abraham’s hands, we may actually learn what the strigoi’s weaknesses are as the battles we saw between human, hybrid, and vampire warriors escalate into full-fledged war next season.
And we certainly saw glimpses of that war in this action-packed finale. After waiting several episodes for Quinlan’s (Rupert Penry-Jones) human army to assemble, we got our first real look at Gus (Miguel Gomez) and The Silver Angel (Joaquin Cosio) in battle mode (lucha libre mask and all), and it was glorious. Expertly-shot and well-staged, the action sequence that had 20 machine-gun-toting human soldiers save Fet (Kevin Durand) and Abraham from a swarm of hungry vamps certainly got the blood pumping as one of the standout scenes of the season.
But perhaps even more thrilling and terrifying was the train tunnel sequence, during which horrified passengers — including Eph, Nora and Zack (Max Charles) — fled from a massive horde of munchers. For a series that takes place in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic, its world rarely seems that chaotic, so the sequence’s realistic tension and horror were actually welcome, as we felt the gravity of the situation and that our characters were in legitimate peril.
As it turns out, and as we mentioned earlier, our characters were in real danger this time as Kelly (Natalie Brown) appeared from the shadows for a long-awaited final showdown with Nora and Zack. We certainly couldn’t have predicted that Nora would die here, but we really would never have guessed that Zack would leave with Kelly, especially after she literally sucked the life from the woman who had been protecting him right before his eyes. We get that The Strain‘s writers have been attempting to portray and sell Zack’s confusion to the whole new vampire-infested world around him all season, but it’s hard to buy that any person (child or adult) would walk away from that grisly scene hand-in-hand with a creature that — in this instance — looks nothing like the woman who birthed and raised him. In fact, the whole thing was rather mindboggling and forced, making it clear that The Strain intends to set up a storyline that will involve Eph trying to “win” Zack back next season.
That strange and unexpected turn aside, the finale was successful in providing resolution to the hunt for the Lumen and Kelly’s chase for Zack, even though both could have been dealt with in a much more swift and compelling way. And with that in mind, the finale was able to partially redeem and rectify some of the season’s prior missteps, while paving the way for an interesting and hopefully improved season 3.
What did you think of The Strain season 2 finale? Are you excited for season 3? Let us know in the comments.
Photos: Michael Gibson/FX