The Strain S01E11: "The Third Rail" The Strain just keeps creeping along at a level that's well below its potential, seemingly indifferent to the concept of improvement. I don't think it's a bad show (though some would disagree with that statement), but it could certainly be better in just about every aspect of its production. That's fine, The Strain, keep on giving it 60 percent. Go ahead and slack. But don't come crying to me when you're Season 3 renewal is on the line (the show has already been renewed for a second season) and FX chooses something else. And in the meantime, don't take the Season 2 renewal as a reward for being good television; FX also renewed Tyrant for Season 2, for cryin' out loud. All of which is to say that "The Third Rail" perfectly embodied The Strain's average first season so far. The episode had its moments (or, really, a singular moment), but it hacked its way through so much thick and uninteresting territory to get there. Eph came face-to-face with the Master to give the hour a thrilling ending, but aside from that, there's just not that much to discuss. Television episodes, particularly of horror and sci-fi series that focus on plot over character, need to provide some sense of accomplishment, and "The Third Rail" left me feeling a bit empty. Eph, Vasiliy, Abe, and Nora went down to the Master Bat Boy's subway cave to end the Master, but they didn't and the Master got away. At least Zack got a pack of cigarettes. There were clues that something significant would happen. Abe gave Chekov's Gun Jim's knife to Nora, and I figured the the weapon would somehow come into play later on. Vasiliy said they'd know if a train was coming long before it showed up, except a train snuck up on them, so Eph got to say "toldja so!" But then another sneaky train flattened a horde of vampires. (Also, it's nice to know the subway trains are working totally fine during this citywide emergency.) Also, one random vampire on patrol learned a lesson about the third rail the hard way, and Eph discovered a new way to kill them. However, that bit of helpful information may as well be an extraneous footnote, because the episode didn't involve a mass vampire electrocution. "The Third Rail" essentially handed us a bunch of little nuggets that were mostly worthless within the context of the episode, kind of like when you trick your friend by saying, "Hold this," and then run away because you've just handed him a piece of trash. Yes, they could come into play in the next few episodes, but television is designed to be watched in weekly chunks, binge-watching be damned, and each segment should feel whole on its own. I think I've said this about The Strain before, but so much of the show feels like we're watching a reel of deleted filler scenes from the DVD set. Still, Eph's encounter with the Master was as intense as anything the series has done to date. We all know Corey Stoll is bald and he's wearing a wig because at some point he's going to turn into a vampire, right? Okay, "know" might be too strong of a word, but I feel confident enough that I'd put money on it. It makes sense to me that he could end up as one of the "chosen" vampires ordained by the Master, like Eichorst, allowing him to retain some of his humanity and possibly even to use it for good. Maybe he can team up with the BlackulOps for some hot vampire-on-vampire action. And I actually thought Eph was on his way to a genital-free existence in the moment where the Master held Eph aloft and let mouth number two slip past his lips; that's how powerful the scene was. Alas, the Master's plan was interrupted by Abraham, followed by Vasiliy and his UV light bomb, which sent the drone vamps scattering and melting. One sign that The Strain doesn't know what it has when it has it came with how that scene ended: Vasiliy tossed the bomb, vampires squealed, and then camera zoomed in on Vasiliy grinning before cutting to Zack returning with cigarettes. It was a total buzzkill on the vampire slaughter we had just witnessed, and that's atrocious editing, if you ask me. The biggest moment of the episode was cut short so that The Strain could try to fool us into believing that Mariela had turned into a vampire. Lame! The vampires were still in mid-scream! Let us enjoy the victory for a bit and revel in some carnage, don't hurry out of it like there "The Third Rail" had a bus to catch! If you can explain the point of Zack's quest to help Mariela maintain her cancer addiction, then you're sharper than I am. But something had to happen while Zack was literally left with the keys, right? And I suppose it may as well have been to appease an elderly dementia patient who has no business on this show other than to be a hindrance. Sure, why not? But I'm blaming Zack's excursion on Nora. It's her responsibility to make sure that her mom has enough cigarettes! Meanwhile, it's quite possible that the impossible happened and Gus's story in "The Third Rail" was this week's best. But that might only be because he had the least amount of screen time, so things felt much more condensed. He went home, he killed his brother, he saw his vampire mother, he cried, he killed his landlord, and then he bumped into Zack at the store. Gus remains detached to the rest of the series, doing his own thing while the rest of The Strain's story threads are drawn closer together. As Eph and friends descended into the Master's crib, there was a lot of talk about goodbyes, as if there were major changes ahead. But nothing changed. We've got two more episodes left in Season 1, and there's still time for The Strain to pull off a good finish. But what if it doesn't? Will the first season be a disappointment to you? With each passing ho-hum episode, I'm leaning toward yes. NOTES ? I would go to an underground vampire rave party, Vasiliy! ? Gus's brother was watching TV in the living room, but Gus's mom was chillin' in a closet? ? Gus opted not to kill his mother even though she was nasty bloodsucking vampire. Would you be able to kill your mom if she was a vampire? ? Will the news ever figure out that there are monsters running loose in New York? ? Vampire slumber parties look boooooring. ? A vampire apocalypse is pretty bad, but imagine breaking your iPhone screen during a vampire apocalypse! It would never get fixed. THAT would probably be the absolute worst thing that could ever happen to anyone... besides dying, of course. Basically, the worst things that can happen to you in a vampire apocalypse, in order, are 1) dying, 2) breaking your iPhone screen, and 3) seeing your best friend eat your spouse. ? It's nice that the local news has time to report on the financial situation while downtown Manhattan is a damn war zone and store clerks are lying dead in their looted stores. ? To all you people who voted that you'd kill your own moms, shame on you!