The Strain 1.12: “Last Rites”

So we’ve finally reached the penultimate episode—“Last Rites”—and it’s hard to believe that while it’s been weeks for us, barely a week has passed for the characters.

It’s also difficult to believe that this show can get even more tragic than it’s already been. But here we are. (I move that Abraham has had the worst life in human history, and that the show’s subtitle should just be Even More Tragedy!!! Plus Body Horror.)

Anyway, Eldritch Palmer is lying on his deathbed and Herr Eichorst comes to loom over him creepily. “What if the Master sent me to give you your last rites?” Eichorst taunts the old man.

“He will come. He still needs me. I have faith,” Palmer replies.

(It would be karmic justice if Palmer set all of this evil into motion only to die empty-handed. But of course, justice doesn’t have a place in this nihilistic vampiric world order.)

Case in point: we flashback to the time just before Abraham came to America, when he was married to a sickly woman named Miriam. Since escaping the concentration camp, Abraham has become a dedicated vampire hunter, tracking the Master’s offspring to a crumbling castle a half day’s ride away. He promises Miriam he’ll be back by sundown.

But we know he won’t be able to keep that promise.

Back in the present, Gus has decided (wisely) that he needs weapons and ammunition. So he decides (perhaps unwisely) to stick his gun to Alonso Creem’s head and demand he obliges him. Perhaps not the best course of action: threatening the head of a Nigerian crime ring. But then again, with monsters in the streets tonguing everyone they can find, perhaps everything’s relative now.

While Eph and Co. are discussing Abraham’s obsession, Dutch reappears with a new plan. She’ll hack the Emergency Broadcast System and put Eph on every TV in the nation. Give him a chance to get the truth out to people before it’s too late.

(Although I’m pretty sure it’s already too late for New York. It may be time for the last survivors to book it for the city limits; what the place needs now is a good carpet bombing.)

Forty years ago, Abraham arrives at the abandoned castle. There are clear tracks leading to the dry well and a pile of formerly precious possessions. Clearly this is now a place of the undead. So he climbs down into the darkness to hunt—proving he’s far more courageous than I’d ever be. Just catch me rappelling into a well in search of vampires.

But when Abraham finally finds what he’s been looking for, he gets an unexpected message. It was all a trap: Eichorst knows where he lives. And while Setrakian is trapped in the well he’s going to go pay his beloved wife a visit.

Nazis are the worst.

Up on the pawn store’s roof, Dutch and Vasiliy are setting up her receiver equipment for her hack. There’s also just enough time for some backstory development: we learn that Dutch became a hacker in large part because her father used to work in shutting down hackers—he introduced her to the lifestyle and she found she had a lot in common with the curious rebels.

There’s also enough time for some flirting; perhaps we’ll be seeing more sparks between the hacker and the exterminator. Assuming they both live through the finale, that is.

Alonso takes Gus to the docks where he has an office. And several shipping containers. They’re interrupted by a late night delivery. Intrigued by the bag of money the newcomer drops off, Gus tells Alonso to take him to the container attached to the money.

Gus, didn’t you ever hear the old adage: curiosity killed the cat.

Back in 1967 Albania, it takes poor Abraham the entire night to climb out of the well. Not a mean feat for anyone, let alone someone with mangled hands. The first sight he lays eyes on is hardly heartening: his newly acquired horse has been eviscerated. And after a frantic run back to town he finds his home trashed, his wife gone—and her leg brace lying ominously amidst the wreckage.

This guy just cannot get a break.

Dutch successfully hacks the EBS, giving Eph half a minute to inform the country. But there’s no time to revel in their success: a loud crash upstairs heralds an attack on the shop. Nora, Eph, and Vasiliy run upstairs to find Gabe Bolivar (Hey! I was wondering when the undead rocker was gonna show up again!) already feeding on Nora’s mother (well, that literally sucks).

Vasiliy grabs the unconscious Mrs. Martinez and Eph traps Bolivar under a table, but more vamps are busting through the windows. While Dutch and Abraham make for the fortified basement, Eichorst arrives at the front door.

Well, shit.

On the docks, Gus and Alonso open the mysterious shipping container to find it packed with hungry vamps. The pair fall back and Gus arms his erstwhile hostage, only for Alonso to promptly fire at him. Talk about ingratitude—and really messed up priorities. Pretty sure you guys have a common goal right now: get the hell away from the monstrous undead.

Deftly decking Alonso and taking back his gun, Gus makes a good show of holding his own. But it’s clear there are too many vamps and not enough bullets. Until the mysterious hooded gunman and his team (last seen in 1.07 “For Services Rendered”) shows up, putting down the rest of the creatures and throwing a hood over Gus’ head before bundling him into one of their SUVs.

And the plot thickens…

Down in the pawn shop’s basement, the crew are quick to grab as many weapons and supplies as they can. It’s only a matter of time before Eichorst and his cronies break through the door. They have to make good their escape through the secret passage Abraham built in the meat locker.

But the infected Mrs. Martinez won’t be going with them. As much as she hates it, Nora knows what has to be done. When Eph approaches, sword in hand, and urges her to take Zack and go, she instead demands the weapon. If it has to be done, she’ll be the one to do it. And with a sobbing scream, she does it.

It’s easily one of the most visceral and emotional moments of the show thus far—Mia Maestro completely sells the heartache and anger. And it’s fitting that Abraham is the only one who stayed behind with Nora, as her act of violent mercy parallels what he had to do forty years ago.

The night after his ill-fated hunt, Abraham sits in his darkened home waiting. He doesn’t have to wait long. The door creaks open and there’s his beloved Miriam, a child at each hand. It’s a terrible parody of the family they always wanted—just more salt and vinegar to be poured into the wounds Eichorst has already made.

(Nazis are absolutely the worst.)

Abraham doesn’t hesitate. And with Miriam released from her vampiric state, Abraham goes a step further, cutting out her heart so he’ll never forget the toll the undead have taken.

Though perhaps he took the “you’ll have my heart forever” part of the marriage vows a little too literally.

At the Stoneheart Group, Eldritch Palmer’s faith is finally rewarded when the Master delivers the “salvation” he promised. It’s horrifying—not only because the Master is a disgusting monster and Eldritch just as disgusting and monstrous in his own more human way.

It’s horrifying because it truly places the Master at a God-like level. Those who are faithful to him and truly believe, like Eichorst and Palmer, are given the rewards they seek. While those devoted to a more benevolent and traditional God, like Abraham, the Barbours of the early episodes, and Gus’s family, are instead abandoned in their hours of need and cursed with death and vampiric transformation.

And I thought The Walking Dead was a nihilistic show.

Tune in next week for the season finale, where I’m sure the show will continue to live up to its new subtitle of Even More Tragedy!!! Plus Body Horror. I just hope there’s some ray of hope by the end of it all…

(But I’m not holding my breath.)


Angie Barry wrote her thesis on the socio-political commentary in zombie films. Meeting George Romero is high on her bucket list, and she has spent hours putting together her zombie apocalypse survival plan. She also writes horror and fantasy in her spare time, and watches far too much Doctor Who. You can find her at Livejournal.com under the handle “zombres.”

Read all posts by Angie Barry at Criminal Element.

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