With the title of this week’s episode of The Strain being “The Battle Of Central Park” and with the recalling of “The Battle Of Red Hook” from season 2 and its victory over Eichhorst and his minions, I think a good deal of the viewers felt this would be yet another Feraldo vs. the strigoi with humanity prevailing in the end. Well, this is exactly what the writers wanted you to think, and it was even reinforced by Fet (Kevin Durand) uncovering the big Central Park nest, thus giving our heroes a sure-fire way of dealing a major blow to the Master’s army. Or, so we thought. The problem is often when something feels too easy or too obvious, then perhaps you should sit up and take a closer look. Unfortunately, Feraldo (Samantha Mathis) and her team, desperate for a big “win” after so many recent setbacks, throw caution in the wind and find themselves so horribly duped and defeated that it calls into question whether there’s any hope of recovering.
A “SMARTER” MASTER SETS THE ULTIMATE TRAP
Ambitious — Fet to Feraldo
This is one of the first lines of the episode, and as soon as Fet uttered this single word, my heart sank. After all, while Vasily sometimes takes the necessary precautions, he can also be very impulsive and not think things though (um, like thinking the Master was dead just because Quinlan beheaded him). So, if Fet believes a plan is risky and you should perhaps take a step back, then you just **know** you are heading for a world of hurt.
So, what exactly is Feraldo’s “ambitious” plan to take back Central Park? On the surface, it’s actually pretty simple. The convict teams will clear out the tunnels underneath the park, while the police strike units will secure the park’s surface. At the same time, Fet and a small NYPD team will make their way to the central nest and set off grenades loaded with bags of silver, thus destroying what they believe is the vast majority of the strigoi in Manhattan. So, while Fet may have some reservations, he ultimately gives his “thumbs up” and heads out at first light and with his very own battle cry.
Star-Spangled time. Rockets red glare. Bombs bursting in air. BOOM — Fet
If only he knew what he’ll know by the end of this episode…
After Fet leaves Feraldo’s headquarters, he quickly learns that he’s going to be paired up with a Captain Rogers (America Olivo), who just so happens to be the “Kate” from Vasily’s little one-night stand back in episode 3.02 “Bad White.” Very awkward re-introduction, and it’s made even more awkward when Kate says she has to track down “this civilian exterminator” who is going to lead them to the strigoi’s central nest. Uh, oh! Fet, did you really neglect to tell that girl that you aren’t a Navy SEAL but the city’s lowly rat-catcher? Of course you did! Even so, Kate doesn’t seem to mind, and they actually turn out to be a pretty good team as we will see shortly.
After a quick stop at Fet’s loft (and yet another super-awkward scene with an obviously jealous Dutch), Vasily and Kate now have the bags of silver powder they need, and it’s down the tunnels they go. Only 20 blocks for them to reach the strigoi nest, and then, it’s boom-boom time. No biggie, right? You would think so, but as you might suspect, there’s nothing but problems from the get-go. For the next 30 minutes or so in the episode, it’s non-stop action and some extremely intense, terrifying scenes. Get those Jack Daniels shots ready because trust me, you’re going to need them! One by one, Kate’s team is picked off, and she has the daunting task of having to put down her own men. You can tell it takes an emotional toll on Kate, but at the same time, she remains a rock and is actually much tougher than I thought she’d be. As Dutch said herself (whether truthfully, the jury’s still out on that one!), Kate appears to be a pretty strong woman and may be exactly what Fet needs.
While Vasily and Kate are slooooowwwwly making their way to the central nest(with the emphasis on **slowly**), Gus (Miguel Gomez) and Angel (Joaquin Cosio) have been recruited for one of the convict teams that is to clear the tunnels underneath the park. And, just like all the other times, Officer “Pussy” Tardi Lee Tergesen and his spineless sidekick, Officer Bonnie, are leading the sweep and in this case, to a certain death for their unwilling participants since they are offering full pardons if they complete this one task.
If they’re offering full pardons, they don’t expect us to come back — Angel
Truth be told, I love actor Lee Tergesen , and in every last role I’ve seen him in, he’s scared the shit out of me. But, I swear, I’ve had enough of the prick and just wanted his cowardly ass gone. Fortunately, he does get exactly what’s coming to him after Angel and Gus take Officer Bonnie hostage. All Gus and Angel want is for them to abort the mission since it seems way too risky, but instead of listening to reason, Tardi shoots his own partner. Yes, that’s what a stellar example of a police officer Tardi really is. Well, Angel returns the favor by shooting Tardi in the head. Good riddance, Tardi. Unfortunately, you won’t be missed at all.
Now, for the moment that most fans have been waiting for. Season 2 ended with our entire group (minus Dr. Goodweather) coming together, but then, the group splintered once again in the season 3 opener for some unknown reason. Well, Gus and Angel finally cross paths with Fet and Kate, and even though Fet may not have been a huge fan of “the Mexican gang-bangers” last season, it’s a great reunion, and Gus is especially thrilled. It is here that Fet also learns about Feraldo’s disgusting sweep teams, but promises Gus that if he helps them take out the central nest, he’ll make sure there’s no more chain-gang duty. Gus finally agrees but with the condition that Angel leads to safety the one girl (if you’ve been keeping up with the webisodes, you should recognize her as Maria Pena!) who had been assigned to their sweep team. I just love Gus in this episode, and he’s such a gentleman with this girl, putting the “mission” in 2nd place unless he’s assured this innocent bystander makes it out safely.
Now, with our group all together, the shit-show officially begins, and so, get ready, because it’s a humdinger. As Gus and Angel had been making their way through the tunnels earlier, random strigoi kept popping up thus causing them to have a knee-jerk reaction and fire at them. As a result, Gus makes the following comment which actually turns out to be pretty important:
They’re trying to make us run out of ammo! — Gus
Well, they’re doing a good job — Angel
The same thing happened to Vasily and Kate every step of the way, and besides depleting them of their ammunition, it also slowed them down significantly. So, by the time Fet, Gus, and Kate reach the central nest, it’s already well-past dusk. Of course, Feraldo is extremely anxious because all of her men are still on the streets, and it’s dark, and even though Frank (Paulino Nunes) says she can pull everyone back, she ultimately decides to push forward anyways. This will prove to be a fatal mistake.
In an extremely tense scene where Gus and Kate come under attack by strigoi as Fet prepares his fireworks, Vasily finally yells “Fire in the hole!” and boom, the strigoi barbeque of the century! Unfortunately, back at headquarters, that sweet taste of victory is short-lived because almost immediately after the explosion, thousands and thousands of new strigoi storm Feraldo’s checkpoints, attacking all of her men and completely overrunning Central Park.
It was a trap so that they cold sweep South through Harlem — Frank
It’s over. We’re done — Feraldo
WOW. WOW. WOW. Now, THAT was unexpected. All of a sudden this new Master has gotten much “smarter,” and actually has some pretty good tactical skills. The whole central nest thing was just an elaborate trap to lure Feraldo’s team and keep them out after dark, almost as if the Master had prior knowledge of Vasily Fet and knew that the big, dumb exterminator would drink it all up like punch at the prom. Well, that’s exactly what happened because Fet and Feraldo fell for the entire scheme hook, line and sinker. Stay tuned because I have a separate analysis at the end of this review about what this may say about the new Master.
EPH AND DUTCH MAKE A BIG DISCOVERY, AND ZACH GETS A NEW FRIEND
When Vasily and Kate show up at Fet’s loft to pick up supplies, Dutch (Ruta Gedmintas) may have been obviously jealous, but she also manages to come up with a pretty good idea. A huge battle involving the Master and thousands of strigoi she claims may be exactly what they’ve been looking for if they really want to get a good sampling of strigoi communication. Eph doesn’t disagree, and so, off they go to Central Park along with “Jacob Marley,” (LOVE that!) the name Dutch gives to the unlucky strigoi brain who draws the short straw for this impromptu field trip.
In the meantime, we finally get a glimpse into what’s been going on with Zach (Max Charles) and Kelly (Natalie Brown) which is great especially given they’ve been MIA since the first part of 3.04 “Gone But Not Forgotten.” For those who may have thought Zach or Kelly is the new Master, they seem pretty fine to me, and so, I think we can officially scratch them off the list. In the meantime, Eichhorst (Richard Sammel), who does seem to have taken a very strange liking to Zach, decides it’s time that the boy gets a new “playmate” — who turns out to be one of those creepy feelers, and Zach gets to name her and everything. While the feeler is to keep Zach company, her primary role is to protect. Not exactly my idea of a new “friend,” but Zach seems to like her especially after he finds out she has to obey every order he gives her.
But, all of this turns out to be short-lived. I think most of us have been trying to figure out where the Master has been keeping Zach, and that is finally revealed tonight. Zach has been held right under Central Park and in an area that not even Fet was aware of. However, the Master is alerted to the impending attack by Feraldo’s team, and so, Eichhorst, Kelly and Zach are forced to evacuate. Now, I know most of the viewers don’t like Zach, but, even if that’s the case, you have to admit what Zach does next is pretty damn smart. Eichhorst tells Zach he can take anything he wants, and so, Zach decides to leave some “breadcrumbs” behind in one of his books.
Well, long after Zach is gone, here comes Fet, Gus, and Kate like clockwork, and sure enough, Fet finds Zach’s book and the message he leaves for his father in it.
Of course, Fet contacts Dr. Goodweather, and within minutes, Eph’s at his son’s former dungeon. It’s an extremely emotional scene, and I think it’s the first time we really see Eph cry. No sign of Zach, but because Eph and Dutch did engage a strigoi on the way in, the Master knows they’re there, and so, Eichhorst almost immediately appears. You would think that Eph learned from his futile attempt to attack Eichhorst last season, but oh no! Dr. Goodweather tries to fight the Master’s #2 once again, and fortunately, Dutch shows back up just in time. What’s more, she gets a taste of that sweet revenge that I’m sure she’s been dreaming about since that horrific Pineapple Dinner in season 2.
Watch out, Eichhorst! She just may aim at your head next time (actually, a better question is why didn’t Dutch aim for Eichhorst’s head this time??)!
A SMARTER MASTER AND NOW WITH TACTICAL SKILLS? COULD THE NEW MASTER BE….?
Okay, first things first. There still seems to be confusion about whether the Master has chosen a new body, and before going into the discussion about what the Master’s big trap in tonight’s episode may imply, I want to clear the air on this topic. As series star Natalie Brown pointed out in a recent interview I conducted with her, during the time the crimson worm is without a host, the Master can no longer control or influence any of his minions. We saw some of this in the early part of “Gone But Not Forgotten,” with the strigoi running about New York City completely feral. But, by the end of that episode and when the Master took control of the random strigoi to speak to Dr. Goodweather, all of this stopped, and it was clear that the Master had found a new host. We just don’t know who that host is.
However, in the past couple of episodes, we have checked in with virtually all of our main characters, and they seem perfectly fine. Because of that, I think we can eliminate Eichhorst, Palmer, Quinlan, Fet, Setrakian, Feraldo, Frank, and from tonight’s episode, Kelly and Zach. Now, that’s not to say that the Master has selected only a temporary body and may chose a more suitable one later, but for the time being, I think we can strike all of these characters off our list of contenders for the new Master.
So, who’s left? (assuming the Master didn’t just select a random strigoi) Not many, but I think some major hints were dropped tonight, which is one of the things that made the episode so great. The hints are subtle, but once you get past the intensity of the episode and that shocking ending, you should be able to see them. Remember that comment Gus made in the tunnels about the strigoi trying to make them run out of ammo? That’s actually a common strategy that is used against enemy combatants and indicates that whoever is occupying the Master’s body may have some sort of military training.
Secondly, isn’t it funny how the Master knew what Fet had been up to and was able to predict exactly what Vasily’s move would be if he found a large nest under the city? It seems that someone with intimate knowledge of Fet’s plan of eradicating the strigoi by locating and destroying their nest is a likely candidate. And, do we know someone who fits this profile? Actually, we do — the lead Navy SEAL Kroft (Aaron Lazar). He worked with Fet briefly but was turned by the Master in the season premiere, resulting in his being one of the Master’s SEALs who took part in the big battle at the end of “First Born.” Now, I know, I know, some of you may think Kroft’s dead, but I re-watched those scenes and didn’t see a head shot. But, more importantly, Kroft would have been right there and easily accessible to the crimson worm had it simply crawled out of the drain after Eph, Setrakian and Fet left.
Of course, I have no idea if I’m right, and we probably won’t know who’s the new Master for a couple of episodes, at least. But, regardless, whoever it is, he’s much smarter, much more methodical, and has very keen tactical skills, which is in sharp contrast to Bolivar, who in my opinion, was a blundering idiot. Bolivar walked blindly into a battle that damn near got him killed, and I have a gut feeling that’s something this new Master would never do.
Bottom line — this is a totally f*cked up situation, and our heroes definitely have their work cut out for them. Going back to what Fet said at the very beginning of the episode:
Star-Spangled time. Rockets red glare. Bombs bursting in air. BOOM — Fet
This new Master has dealt a devastating blow, and while our flag is still there in New York City, the future definitely looks much more dismal than it did a week ago.
The Strain airs on Sundays at 10/9c on FX.
Critic Grade — A
Geeky computer and math nerd by day and TV fanatic by night. My beats are The Walking Dead, The Strain, Person of Interest, Z Nation, and anything that most people would call freaky. Editor-In-Chief and Lead Writer of TVGeekTalk.com