Before beginning, let’s first put some things into perspective. It’s been over 9 months since the nuke went off in Manhattan and close to a year since that fateful night at JFK with the landing of Flight 753 from Berlin. That’s actually a long time, and with one failure and disappointment right after another, you’d think this group would be insanely cautious and would throw a red flag if someone as much as looks at them funny. This being said, I am utterly flabbergasted that Dr. Goodweather (Corey Stoll) would even consider bringing Zack (Max Charles) to their hideout, and I’m completely without words that Quinlan (Rupert Penry-Jones) doesn’t tear his head off for doing so. Perhaps Eph is just acting like any father would who wants to save his son. Perhaps the group believes they can control or outsmart Zack. Or, perhaps, it’s just a plot hole. Regardless, it turns out to be the mother of all mistakes and puts at serious risk everything they’ve been working towards.
ONE FINAL BETRAYAL AND THE POINT OF NO RETURN
Going into tonight’s episode, I think most of us would agree that Zack is beyond redemption. Some might argue that perhaps there was a small chance 9 months ago even after he set off that nuke, but too much time has passed since then and without a doubt, Zack is the Master’s #1 fan and foot soldier. Aside from super-intense psychotherapy (which they certainly don’t have access to), nothing can help this boy, and saying he’s too far gone is a massive understatement. Knowing this as the events play out is actually quite interesting because it allows one not to focus on whether Zack is being truthful to his Dad but to concentrate on the other characters, their perception of Zack, and how long they’ll continue to fall for the little sociopath’s bullshit scheme.
This all being said, well, I will give Zack Goodweather some credit — he’s good. In fact, he’s damn good. Quinlan said something around the midpoint of the episode, and it’s something that really resonated with me.
Yes, it appears he’s being truthful. But a good spy would tell the truth or a portion of it — Quinlan
Basically what Quinlan is saying is that if you’re trying to deceive someone the best thing you can do is be honest (or at least be as honest as you possibly can). No one’s a perfect liar, and considering that Zack is facing his father who has known him since birth and a half-breed strigoi who has dealt with humans and their deception for almost 2000 years, lying would definitely not be wise. So, that’s exactly what Zack does. He, well, just tells the truth — or least most of it.
He spills virtually everything to his father, going all the way back to the events of the season 3 finale after the explosion and Eichhorst finding him and taking him to the Master. Zack even describes the trip to the zoo with the Master and his killing the tiger (as a sidenote, Zack does neglect to tell Eph about Abby and how he allowed her to be turned just because she rejected his romantic advances. Gee I wonder why?). And, then, when Eph asks Zack the million-dollar question about why he escaped and why NOW, Zack holds nothing back. He **didn’t** escape. The Master let him go because he wanted him to find his Dad and convince him into spilling where the nuclear bomb was.
Neat little trick, isn’t it? A good sociopath like Zack tells the truth, earns a little more trust from his father, and in turn, gets a small amount of freedom. Up to this point and ever since Eph had brought Zack to the group hideout blind-folded, Dr. Goodweather had kept Zack locked up in a room and isolated from everyone else. With Eph now starting to trust Zack more, he brings him out to meet the rest of the group because they now have some questions. Well, actually, they have only 1 question — where is the Master hiding out? Zack doesn’t hesitate — not even slightly– and immediately responds the Empire State Building (which actually corroborates the account from Sanjay Desai, but I’ll get to that prick in a moment). So, Fet (Kevin Durand) asks Zack to draw everything about the layout of the Master’s lair he remembers, and in general, everyone in the group is pleased with Zack, even Quinlan. With this information, Zack has now managed to earn even more trust from his father, and this ultimately leads Eph to letting down his guard and making a critical mistake.
Perhaps as a reward for being honest and helping them, Eph then takes Zack out on the roof and offers him a ginger-ale. Eph comments on how big Zack is getting, they embrace, and the scene is so sappy it could probably be used for a Hallmark card. Yeah, yeah, cry me a river. But, then it happens — Zack cuts his finger on the soda can. What’s more, as they go back inside, a smudge of blood is visible on the edge of the building. When they get back inside, the look on Eph’s face says it all. He immediately asks Zack how many soda cans he has opened in his lifetime, and out of those, how many has he cut his finger on. Of course, Zack tries to tap-dance around it all, but it’s now obvious to Dr. Goodweather that his son has been playing him the entire time. Yes, Eph, you are King Dumbass.
You’re right, Dad. The feelers can track the scent of blood for miles — Zack
Oh crap. It is here that Dr. Goodweather has his one shot. He pulls his gun, pins Zack to the bed with the gun to his head, but in the end, he just can’t bring himself to do it. When Eph finally pulls away, Zack’s reaction says it all — he just shakes his head and laughs. LAUGHS! Eph warns the rest of the group, and they are able to make it out and to the Federal Reserve Building before the Master and his minions invade the place, but make no mistake, leaving Zack there alive I’m sure will turn out to be a deadly mistake.
SANJAY DESAI — THE ULTIMATE COLLABORATOR AND A SYMBOL OF A DARK PART OF HISTORY
You see, if I could prove to the strigoi that most of us believed in the Partnership, then millions of people could have a change at meaningful, productive lives — Sanjay
So, the thousands drained on hooks, that was just our price to pay to survive? — Dutch
The price we pay to build a better world — Sanjay
Do you remember what it was like before the Partnership? The carnage in the streets, the gangs creating mayhem. The terrorists, the armed lunatics who walked into churches and schools and slaughtered innocent people. We were living in a dysfunctional society! Why? Because no one had the balls to face a little inconvenient truth — Sanjay
And, what truth is that? — Dutch
Too many people. Drug addicts, alcoholics, the mentally ill. And, how many billions of dollars did we spend warehousing them in prisons or keeping them going on welfare? Come on! — Sanjay
Once you can get past the sheer disgust of the monstrosities coming out of Sanjay Desai’s (Cas Anvar) mouth, they should remind you of some of our history — Nazi Germany and the Holocaust from World War II. Followers of Hitler AKA “collaborators” used the same warped logic as justification for slaughtering countless innocent people in the concentration camps, and given that Setrakian said the Master learned it all by watching us, this shouldn’t be surprising.
The sad thing is Sanjay actually seems to believe his own hype, and with Dutch knowing first-hand the horrors of that Partnership facility, she doesn’t hold back and beats the prick to a bloody mess. However, at the same time, it’s also obvious they’re getting nowhere with this man, and it’s now time to bring in the big guns. I.E. — Quinlan. Q then makes his grand entrance, and man oh man, the “Oh, shit!” look on Sanjay’s face is priceless. He then drags Sanjay into a back room where they’re also holding his wife, Sela, and Quinlan doesn’t waste a bit of time.
This woman may be all you love in the world, but to me, she’s lunch — Quinlan
The situation is clear — tell them the Master’s location, or Quinlan will drink her. When I first screened the episode, a part of me called this bullshit because of Quinlan’s past relationship with Louisa. That is, given how much pain he suffered when Louisa was taken from him, could he actually do the same thing to another man’s wife, even if that man is a horrible wretch like Sanjay Desai? I personally doubt it, but Sanjay doesn’t know all of this, and so, he finally begins singing like a canary and spills the Master’s location at the Empire State Building.
But, don’t you worry because Sanjay does finally get the Karma coming to him before the hour is over. After Eph figures out that Zack has betrayed them, the group is forced to bolt and leave Sanjay and Sela behind. When the Master finally arrives, he sees that Sanjay has been beaten (by Dutch Velders, too, at Desai’s own admission. What a moron!), and this is when we finally learn just how much of a selfish snake this man is. Even though the Master now knows Sanjay had been interrogated, he insists he told them absolutely nothing, but what Sanjay doesn’t realize is Zack knows he did because he heard the group talking about it. Oops!!! You are so busted, you creep! So, with the walls now closing in, Desai does what any other malignant narcissist would do and that is throw ANYBODY else under the bus — in this case, it’s his wife. Yes, she told them everything, but he was strong and said nothing. Well, the Master promptly snaps Sela’s neck, but he also doesn’t fall for Sanjay’s bullshit. The Master then crushes Desai’s head against the wall, with Zack looking on in horror.
Perhaps it is clear to you now I have no tolerance for the weak — The Master to Zack
See what you’ve done now, Zack? Any buyer’s remorse? Maybe a little, but I think that ship has sailed, and there’s no turning back now.
QUINLAN AND THE MASTER’S BOLD TRAP
So, now what? Okay, they know the Master **was** at the Empire State Building, but given Zack spilled that location under the authorization of the Master himself, it’s all but certain he’s relocated by now. What’s more, if they do decide to remain on course and go the Empire State Building, then a trap will likely be waiting for them. Even though it doesn’t entirely make sense, Quinlan actually insists they proceed with their original plan. While it may be a trap, as Fet explains, “The rat will still get the cheese.”
However, there is one catch — the nuke. With this potentially being a trap, they certainly don’t want to risk the nuke being too close to the Empire State Building until they have confirmation the Master’s inside. Quinlan then asks Roman if there’s a remote trigger for the bomb, and when Roman responds that there is, that becomes the plan. Quinlan is to go inside the Empire State Building alone to determine if the Master is there, and if he is, he’ll call them on a remote radio to signal them to drive the bomb to the building. Yes, it’s a suicide mission, but then again, Quinlan (and most of everyone else) never expected him to survive in the first place.
That Born has one set of balls on him — Marcus
Actually, he doesn’t — Dutch
This is blurted right in the middle of a somewhat serious scene, and so, I had to laugh out loud. I also suspect a certain group of fans, cough, cough is going to be very unhappy, cough, cough with this little revelation!
The scene that comes next is actually very sad and very surreal. Quinlan walks completely alone down the street towards the Empire State Building, and knowing that he is effectively walking into his death is just heartbreaking. Not knowing what would come next or how this episode would end, I actually cried the first time I screened the episode. However, even so, when he enters the building, arms the nuke using the remote trigger and gets on the elevator, the look on his face shows nothing but determination and resolve. Quinlan has been hunting the Master for close to 2000 years, and while there was a brief moment when he was happy and wasn’t quite ready to die, that is completely gone now. No hesitation, no second-guessing. He’s ready.
However, when he reaches the 102nd floor, what he finds is unfortunately disappointing. Abby is the only one in sight, and when she sees Quinlan, the Master appears and speaks through her.
Such a pity. You’ve wasted your existence with humans, instead of taking a place beside me — The Master
And become a pawn like the boy? — Quinlan
He’s more of a son to me than you have ever been — The Master
Pathetic. Is this the best you can do? Dispatching these vermin instead of having the courage to face me yourself? — Quinlan
You think I’m foolish enough to come within range of your bomb? — The Master
Understand this. Until you confront me, you’ll never have the security you crave. No matter how many humans you enslave, no matter how many cities you hollow out, I’ll never give up my pursuit of you — Quinlan
You’ll have your confrontation, but not here, not now. It’ll be a time and place of my choosing, not yours — The Master
Quinlan then decides he’s heard enough, beheads Abby and immediately informs Fet that the Master didn’t take the bait, so they need to get the bomb to safety. However, Quinlan may be a while because first, he has to work his way through the “vermin” the Master left behind for him as a parting gift. And, in the meantime, the rest of the group on the street below encounters their own problems when they see a whole slew of strigoi coming straight for them.
OKAY, LET’S TALK ABOUT THAT ENDING!
I’ll be honest here, I screened this episode almost a week ago, and I’m still racking my brain on the meaning of that ending. The big question is if it was, indeed, a trap, well, what is it the Master trapped them/Quinlan into? Some may say it’s to trap Quinlan with all those strigoi, but come on, Quinlan sliced through 5X as many last season in the episode “White Light.” So, nope, that’s not it.
If I had to fathom a guess, I would say the “trap” is to separate Quinlan from the rest of the group. That could work to the Master’s advantage in 2 ways I can think of. First, Quinlan is the group’s strongest fighter by a long shot, and if he’s busy fighting strigoi in the Empire State Building, he can’t help his friends down on the street. That alone increases the chances that Fet, Dutch, Gus or Eph may not make it out of that strigoi onslaught in the final scene of the episode. Yikes! That should make the opening of next week’s finale super-intense! Secondly, while Quinlan may be the strongest fighter of the group, he’s also not necessarily the wisest when it comes to decisions regarding the Master. And, it’s not because he doesn’t have the wisdom from living for 2000 years — it’s because he’s often blinded by his rage and his lust for revenge. In fact, you could see that on Quinlan’s face and in his voice after that little speech by the Master at the very end. Quinlan’s failure, once again, only frustrates him even more, and I worry that now he’s separated from the group and someone like Fet to keep him grounded, he may end up doing something very stupid.
Finally, one other thing to note in this scene is the Master’s repeated disappointment in Quinlan for embracing his more human side, instead of taking a place by his side as his son and as a strigoi. This has been a common theme since Quinlan was first introduced back in season 2, and the Master has reiterated this multiple times since then. Because this has come up so many times, I strongly suspect it will be very important in next week’s finale. As some of you are aware, I have read the books and so, I know what this ultimately leads to in the source material. Of course, given how much they have changed, that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be included in the TV series. However, I must admit all the signs are there, and so, if you’re a big Quinlan fan, brace yourself. If I turn out to be right, whatever horrible fate you thought may be coming for Quinlan in the series’ final installment, this will be **far** worse.
Regardless, this is it, folks. Next week is the series finale, and somehow, in just 1 more short hour, this will all be resolved — and with so many questions yet to be answered. What does the “face of God” really mean? Is it the nuke or something else? What did the Professor mean by eliminating the Master’s collaborators was the key to his demise? (case in point about that, with Eichhorst, Desai and Abby now gone, that really leaves only Zack as the Master’s primary collaborator). And, who was Setrakian referring to in that act of “self-sacrifice”? Regardless, I have enjoyed this season immensely, and while I can’t even begin to express how saddened I am to see the series end, I have no doubt Carlton Cuse, Chuck Hogan, and the rest of the writing team has 1 final hour of phenomenal television planned for us that we won’t forget anytime soon.
The Strain series finale airs next Sunday 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