Why ‘The Strain’ Series Finale Ended With a “Glimmer of Hope”
[This story contains spoilers from the series finale of FX’s The Strain.]
After four seasons of sacrificial deaths and the biggest infestation of worms television has ever seen, FX’s The Strain came to a close Sunday with a series finale that closed the door for good on Eph’s (Corey Stoll ), Zach’s (Max Charles), Fet’s (Kevin Durand ) and Dutch’s ( Ruta Gedmintas ) ultimate fight against the Strigoi .
Following Setrakian’s (David Bradley) death, the resistance fighters teamed in one last bid to take down The Master (Jonathan Hyde), as led by Mr. Quinlan (Rupert Penry-Jones ) and the giant nuclear bomb Fet and company snuck into the city. In the end, The Master took out his son, Quinlan , but not before walking into an underground trap with Zach where the nuke was waiting. Although Fet had every intention of sacrificing himself and detonating the thing, it was Eph who launched himself down to the basement and faced off one final time against The Master — just as Zach realized he had been on the wrong side all along.
Although Zach shot at The Master and tried to take him out, in the end The Master transferred to Eph’s body in a gory rainfall of oozing worms. It was the last straw Zach needed to take the lead Strigoi out himself as he apologized to his father for what he had done, said “I love you” and then detonated the bomb.
Below, showrunner Carlton Cuse — who co-wrote the finale with co-creator Chuck Hogan — talks with THR about ending The Strain with a bang and what he learned from other series enders.
Was there ever a version of this finale where everybody just died in a glorious blowout?
We felt like there had to be some glimmer of hope at the end. We did actually discuss bleaker versions, but it just didn’t seem like that would be very satisfying. The audience would feel too depressed. It was too hard to contemplate not having some sort of consequential victory at the end of the series.
Was the plan to always have Zach come full circle and detonate that bomb in the end?
We embraced this idea of making this kid truly a villain, and that’s something we felt we hadn’t seen before. Yet it was fair to have him have just enough of a self-realization at the end to decide to participate in The Master’s demise. The audience was waiting for us to do some sort of massive redemption for the character and it didn’t feel that that would be fair given how villainous the character was. But this was a little bit of an unexpected twist and a bit of a more believable and earned turn for the character.
When was that conceptualized, and did recasting the role with Max Charles in the second season have anything to do with it?
We had a lot of conversations about it; it’s fair to say you can’t really construct a finale in the abstract way ahead of time. Everything is informed by the creative journey that takes you to the end. Over the last two years of the show we had a lot of conversations about what the ending would look like — it moved around a little bit. We eventually got a place where we felt like we’d made the right choices. I’m not sure people took me at my word when I said back then that we had expectations that the character was going to be a darker version, and that it was really not about the actor, it was about finding a different type of actor who could go to a much darker place. I think we proved that was true. No one expects kids or grandparents to be villainous. It’s like storytelling convention 101; those characters are supposed to be good or ultimately good. We really wanted to change that up and make Zach a horrible antagonist. Max embraced it and did a great job of bringing that character to life. With Setrakian , we also tried to avoid having him be the sentimental grandfather figure. In a lot of movies those characters play mentor figures and guides who are wise. Ultimately Setrakian was revered by his compatriots, but he certainly was not sentimental or kindly in the traditional way we see those characters.
As a fan favorite, was Fet’s survival inevitable?
We love Fet . Ultimately it felt that his survival was biblical. The first shall be last and the last shall be first. Here’s this guy who was a rat catcher, whose status was low in the world before this epidemiological crisis and yet somehow when this convulsive event strikes he’s almost the best-equipped person around to not only survive, but to help other people survive. For all that he gave he deserved to live and to win in the end.
Usually heavily serialized shows like this result in talks of spinoffs or movies; were you purposefully closing all doors to that kind of talk here by resolving all of the characters’ stories?
We never spoke of any spinoffs; we wanted this to be conclusive. And I guess in being conclusive you shut down many of the avenues for sequels. It felt like the story had an ending that was fully resolved. The Master had to be defeated at the end of the journey and once he was defeated that was kind of the end of the threat.
You’ve probably crafted more planned series finales than most showrunners , having recently wrapped A&E’s Bates Motel, too. What have you learned about that process that you wanted to convey to the rest of the team in ending this?
Particularly now in the streaming environment where shows have a life well beyond their traditional linear broadcast life, endings are really important. People watch shows and invest in them hoping they’re going to end well or at least end conclusively. So for the history and legacy of The Strain we had to define what the journey was. We had originally sold the show as being three seasons and added a fourth along the way. At one point there was talk of it being five seasons, but it really felt that four seasons was right. We wanted to bring it to an end while we still had the appropriate amount of narrative velocity going.
What I’ve learned about doing finales is that you have to try to think about your story at a 30,000-foot level and decide what kind of ending the show deserves and what kind of an ending you can craft given the type of story you’re telling. Obviously there’s controversy about the Lost ending, but I promise there was no version of the Lost ending that was about answering the unanswered questions of the show that wouldn’t have been didactic and much worse than the ending that Damon Lindelof and I crafted. Kerry Ehrin [who was the co-creator and co-showrunner on Bates with Cuse ] and I found our way to a beautiful ending with Bates Motel and it was something we had thought about for a long time — a Romeo and Juliet ending that was appropriate to the romantic tragedy of the show. And with The Strain, this epic graphic novel thriller-adventure, it needed to end with The Master being vanquished. But given the tone of the show and the way the story played out it felt that it needed to be played out at a high cost and a lot of characters had to be sacrificed for that goal.
Given that there were talks of five seasons at one point, was there anything left on the cutting room floor that you had really wanted to incorporate?
In the last season of a show you can really do anything; we wanted to not have everything finish at the end, which is why Setrakian’s story wraps in [episodes] seven and eight. So we spent all our bullets, we told the story we wanted to tell and we’re happy about it.
Looking toward the future, what is the status of the Jack Ryan series that you’re doing for Amazon?
Jack Ryan will be on sometime during 2018; it’s going great but it’s a huge and complicated show with a lot of visual effects and elaborate postproduction . It’s really good but it’s going to take us until sometime early next year just to finish all our work on the show. And then Amazon has to decide when they want to put it on.
Has the lawsuit with Paramount affected anything in the meantime?
That hasn’t had any effect on the production of the show.
You’ve also got a huge overall deal with ABC Studios. Is there anything you’re already working on that you can discuss?
I’m really excited about the new deal; I love everybody at ABC Studios, ABC and Disney but the deal is really just starting so it’s too early to talk about the specific projects. There’s going to be some cool opportunities that I’m really excited about getting going on though.
Do you have a preference between building out shows based on popular source material like Bates Motel, The Returned and The Strain or original series like Colony and Nash Bridges?
It’s really just all about good ideas, whether it’s finding a good idea from an existing IP or that a writer has or something that pops into my own brain. I don’t have any particular prejudice to one over any of the others. I love, love, love storytelling and it’s just about finding good stories.
Why ‘The Strain’ Series Finale Ended With a “Glimmer of Hope” [This story contains spoilers from the series finale of FX’s The Strain. ] After four seasons of sacrificial deaths and the
Common Strigoi/Concept Art/Season 2
Special emphasis is placed on Vampire – also referred to as Strigoi – biology as mirroring that of parasitic creatures as opposed to supernaturally immortal undead of pop culture. The life cycle and physical adaptations of a human-turned-vampire are covered in detail. They serve as the universal antagonists of the series.
As of the events of the Eternal Night, they become officially extinct and turn into ashes after the Master’s strain is destroyed by a nuclear bomb.
- 1 Becoming a Vampire
- 2 Physiology
- 3 Physical capabilities
- 4 Senses
- 5 Weaknesses
- 6 Differences from the books
- 7 Vampire Lore and The Strain
Becoming a Vampire [ edit | edit source ]
The vector for vampirism is a capillary worm known as Strain worms, which, once introduced into the human host’s bloodstream (either through a vampire’s feeding or direct invasion by the worm through a wound or orifice), introduces an incurable and fast-acting virus. By manipulating the host’s genes, the virus causes a human to undergo numerous, radical physical changes.
Physiology [ edit | edit source ]
The first and most distinct vampire adaptation is the development of a long, retractable proboscis beneath the host’s tongue, capable of extending up to six feet from the mouth. This “stinger” is both the vampire’s feeding and reproductive mechanism, shooting forth to latch onto human prey’s throat or thigh, both draining the victim’s blood for nutrition and infecting the human with capillary worms.
The vampire’s jaw is set at a lower hinge than a human, the mouth gaping like a snake’s when the stinger is deployed. As the structure of the stinger is modified tissue from the human lungs and throat, vampires are incapable of physical speech once the stinger is deployed; beforehand, grunts and rudimentary monosyllabic speech are still possible (words like mom, dad, love, help, cold etc.)
A vampire’s physical appearance is governed mainly by the host body shedding those human traits that are obsolete to its new life cycle. Hair and fingernails are gradually lost, while the external nose and ears atrophy, leaving a fully matured vampire’s skin as smooth and featureless as marble. The vampire’s complexion is extremely pale between feedings but appears a flushed red following a recent blood-meal. Eye coloration consists of a black pupil surrounded by a red sclera, with a white nictitating membrane sliding across for protection. Curiously despite losing appendages and organs that are of no use, vampires develop sharp fangs that replace their original teeth, these fangs would be redundant as their primary feeding method is through the use of their stinger.
The middle fingers of both hands grow and strengthen, and a thick talon develops in place of the lost fingernail. However, at least one vampire seems to lack the thick middle talon and indeed the rest of the claws despite being a Strigoi for over fifty years. As vampire reproduction is achieved through viral infection of hosts and not through any sexual mechanism, the human genitalia also atrophy, leaving a mature vampire with no discernible sex.
The digestive and circulatory systems of a vampire are simplified and fused, the vampire’s interior organs most resembling a series of connected sacs. Nutrition from blood feeding is transported throughout this system via a thick, viscous white fluid that forms the vampire equivalent of blood. This white fluid has very potent healing properties if administered orally to humans, in doing such one must be careful as not to ingest worms or risk becoming infected. The capillary worms are present in this fluid, swimming throughout the circulatory system and often visible beneath the vampire’s thin skin.
Like rodents, a vampire is unable to vomit, its suction-based digestive process functioning only one way. However, some vampires such as The Master have been able to regurgitate the worms from their body in order to possess another host body. All bodily waste is excreted from a single rectal orifice in the form of a pungent ammonia-based spray; a vampire will excrete for the entire duration of a feeding, purging old food as it consumes new blood.
The vampire’s body temperature runs extremely high, at 48.9 °C / 120 °F, and a human is able to feel their ambient heat from several feet away.
They do not sleep, at least not in the way that a human does or would understand. They will shut down for a brief time if they are sated. Too much blood digestion fatigues them, but never for long. They go underground during daylight hours solely to escape the sunlight.
Many of the physical changes from human to vampire occur gradually following the initial worm infection, and are accompanied by great pain. A newly “turned” human will lie in a state of suspended animation for an entire day, rising the next night as a nascent vampire. The stinger is present for the vampire’s first foray to facilitate feeding, but other traits (hair loss, talons on the mid-digit, lack of distinct internal organs) will develop within the first seven nights following infection.
The Strain Autopsy scene
The vampire’s mental state will also be confused at first, and its movements will be clumsy and awkward. As it matures, however, the vampire will become supremely agile, able to leap great distances and climb sheer surfaces with the aid of its talons. Full maturity, physically and mentally, occurs within the first thirty nights.
In spite of the vampire’s morbid biology stripping legend of its romance, the most famously admired trait of the undead remains intact: immortality. Unless slain by violence or sunlight, a vampire’s parasitic body structure will neither fade nor weaken with the passage of time, giving it an effectively endless “life”-span. Even in those cases where the host body is damaged beyond repair, a vampire of sufficient power can transfer its consciousness (via a torrential capillary worm transfer) from one human host to another.
If a vampire feeds on a pregnant woman, the baby will be turned into a creature similar to a vampire, but with a collection of very different traits. Known as “The Born,” these creatures are intelligent and have many of the traits of their mother’s infector, although they lack the worms in their blood. They also need to drink human blood. The preferred blood among all strigoi is B positive (Nora’s blood type), but of course, any blood will do.
Physical capabilities [ edit | edit source ]
While the appearance of the Strigoi suggests sickness or weakness, vampires are far from it as they capable of great strength and speed. They are strong enough to lift humans off their feet by their neck or even crush their skulls.
Vampires are fast enough to easily outrun their prey and even dodge bullets so long as they are intelligent enough to do so. To the human eye, their movements can only be seen as a blur.
Vampires are also physically more durable than humans and are able to take much more punishment than the human body can take, but they are still susceptible to being killed via broken necks and severe damage to the brain.
Vampires can also heal at a much faster rate than humans, though they cannot regenerate lost limbs.
Senses [ edit | edit source ]
The sensory apparatus of the vampire is highly adapted for its nocturnal life cycle. Sight becomes the vampire’s least acute of senses, with color vision gradually being replaced by-thermal imaging over the course of a week as the infected host undergoes biological metamorphosis. Once fully-turned, a vampire possesses the ability to read heat signatures as monochromatic halos.
Hearing is greatly enhanced, in spite of the loss of external ears, with a fully-turned vampire’s acute sense of hearing able to detect the sound of blood pulsing through the bodies of potential prey. Additionally, a fully-turned vampire can smell the carbon dioxide emitted by a human’s breath, thereby locating prey with minimal reliance on other senses.
Strigoi Featured In The Comics
The vampires’ greatest sensory asset, however, is the “hive mind”, which all vampires share with the “Ancient” that propagated them. Each vampire, through some undefined telepathic link, is able to send and receive thought and sensory information to and from its Ancient progenitor. In this manner, the Ancient vampires direct the actions of their individual spawn through mental communication, regardless of distance. Perhaps akin to its radiation shielding properties, the element lead has the effect of blocking this mental connection.
In spite of their biological inability to speak, vampires can communicate with humans through telepathy, transmitting thoughts directly into a person’s internal monologue. Those vampires seeking to pose as a human can train themselves to move their lips in a pantomime of speech, but the actual communication is still via thought-transference.
An Ancient vampire is also able to use this telepathic ability as a weapon; known as the “murmur,” this mental shock-wave has the ability to completely overwhelm the minds of surrounding human beings, rendering them unconscious.
Vampires also experience an overwhelming compulsion to infect family members and those they cared about as humans (their “dear ones”). They possess a unique ability to locate such targets, this sense being likened to a pigeon’s homing instinct.
Weaknesses [ edit | edit source ]
Many of the traditional vampire “weaknesses” of common folklore remain effective, although their potency is explained in terms of specific effects on vampire biology.
- Sunlight is the vampire’s ultimate destroyer, specifically ultraviolet light in the UVC range (Ultraviolet C-rays, are the short wavelength variety, which has the ability to destroy the DNA machinery which allows organisms to heal and multiply. This includes micro-organisms such as bacteria & viruses). This is due to the germicidal properties of the wavelength, as it breaks down the virus-laden tissues of the vampire’s body. A localized source of UVC light, such as a fluorescent lamp, can be used to repel a vampire, much as a burning torch can repel an animal. Complete exposure to either direct sunlight or a powerful UVC source will result in complete desiccation of the vampire’s body, leaving behind nothing but ashes.
- Silver, in the form of a metal weapon or even a fine chemical mist, can also wound or kill a vampire. Much like sunlight, this is due to the disinfecting properties of the element damaging the vampire’s viral biology (It has been known to interfere with sulfur bonds in bacteria). While conventional weapons (lead bullets, steel blades) can cause physical damage, they will not repel a vampire. Silver causes vampires both debilitating pain and a certain amount of fear; binding a vampire in silver will completely incapacitate it.
- Despite conventional weapons being unable to repel a vampire, they can kill be killed by severe brain trauma. This can be achieved through shooting them in the head with firearms or smashing the brain (typically with a close combat, or melee weapon).
- Severing the spinal column through any method is another effective way to destroy a vampire. While the vampire’s simplified internal organ structure makes it difficult to harm it with attacks on the body, decapitation will result in the vampire’s death.
- Warfarin and possibly other pharmaceuticals that reduce blood clogging, colloquially thinning, have toxic potency on vampires. For instance, Eichhorst was rendered immobile after feeding on Setrakian, who had taken a large dose of warfarin prior, and this was coupled with his inability to vomit the toxic blood. Setrakian was able to exploit this situation and behead him. It is unclear if the poisoning alone would have killed Eichhorst but the poisoning of a partnership blood harvesting truck led to the massive kill of vampires in Philadelphia by a poison cocktail designed by Ephraim Goodweather.
- Strigoi are typically feral and lack of sentience unless it is granted by their Master. This lack of sentience can be exploited to lead them into traps or kill them in far more efficient ways than a toe to toe fight. Without sentience or direction from their Master, a vampire’s attack will be uncoordinated and lack strategy.
Through the wonders of genetic engineering, it is possible to mate select micro-organism to produce offspring with desirable characteristics: 1) Minimal deleterious effects to Humans 2) Fatal to Strigoi yet transmissible to the rest of its cohort population. In this case, a bio-weapon which is neurotoxic, that is, it was created to feed on cerebrospinal fluid, which prevents cells from communicating with each other, as well as other strigoi.
Although there appears to be no biological imperative behind it, vampires cannot cross running water. This is alluded to as having something to do with the origin of the Ancients, but no further explanation is given. This aversion to water can be overcome, however, if the vampire is assisted (or “invited”) by a human.
Traditional religious protections against vampires, such as a crucifix or holy water, display no practical effect. Garlic, another common folk defense, has no noticeable use in repelling vampires.
Silver-backed mirrors, while they will not harm a vampire, will reveal its presence. While a vampire does indeed cast a reflection, it is blurred and distorted, akin to an image vibrating at an impossible speed. Modern chrome-backed mirrors, however, will not have this effect, and the vampire will appear normally in such a looking-glass.
Differences from the books [ edit | edit source ]
- In the books, the strigoi will lose their external ears in addition to their nose. This doesn’t happen in the show; in fact, the ears will grow larger and more pointed. The physical changes also progress much more slowly in the TV show, as the Master is shown to still have a nose in his Jusef host after around hundred years of possessing him.
- In the books, Strigoi cannot speak but simply mimic speech by moving their lips while telepathically communicating with someone. However, this is not the case for the Strigoi in the tv series, in which the only trouble a strigoi can have is to speak in their original voice.
- In the books, Strigoi die out after the death of the Master. In the series, they just became feral and unorganized.
Vampire Lore and The Strain [ edit | edit source ]
According to a 2014 ComicCon Interview, Guillermo del Toro said that his rendition of the Vampire is an actually a composite of two creatures: the Aswang and the Strigoi. The Aswang is a creature found in the Philippine Islands, which attacks its prey by projecting its tongue. The Strigoi, of Eastern European fame, on the other hand, has a stinger under its tongue.
The following is a transcription of select portions of said interview:
I collect and know a lot of vampiric lore, not fiction; I read all the fiction but I collected lore. When I was a child of the 1970’s, it was an explosion of myth, re-evaluation, occultism, post-hippie occultism, recuperation. People were re-evaluating, Charles Fort, Colin Wilson was coming out with beautiful essays about not only about the outsider but fringe science, and paranormal. You had Jacques Verger, he. [unintelligible]. the UFO. There was a real interest. There was a book called Passport to the Supernatural by Bernhardt Hurwood the collected lore from India, the Middle East, the Far East, Europe, The Americas about Vampirism. And. That was my first time when I started realizing how the Vampire that interested me was not the Vampire that was romantic but the hollow corpse that was inhabited by an unholy will.
The Strigoi particularly in Eastern Europe. Everytime, the body was possessed, it would resurrect and go and drink the blood of the family first, and then would propagate the disease all over the world. I was fascinated by many of the Eastern European lore, like for example lores about cemetery and not the sedentary corpse came out of a vampiric tale in Europe that was called the shroud eaters. It was because the corpse foamed a bloody discharge full of bacteria that ate the shroud. They open the coffin and saw the teeth and they thought the corpses got up and ate people throught the shroud.
I have been fascinated by fringe vampiric lore mythology. I read one of these things “Mad” Montague Summers . Every single essay ever done on Vampiric folklore and genealogy
The vampire when it was birthed by John W Polidori in the English language with the story of the Vampire, he was birthed as a romantic hero and a monster at the same time. So either obsession was correct. No one was doing the brutal vampire.
. I been a morbidly biologically obsessed kid. The metabolism is so hard, so quick, they become really hot, their hair falls off. My rationale is also their lungs dry off, so they don’t need to breathe because they don’t need the oxygen to produce erythrocytes, to produce red cells, their bones becomes brittle. if touched by silver they can break. The idea of them not having a breathe, makes them non-human, they develop a parasitic heart.
In terms of mythology, I borrow from a vampire [tale] in the Philippines called an Aswang, which projects a tongue. He drinks the blood of a baby inside the mother. The idea of the tongue also connects with the Strigoi, the Eastern European Vampire, who has stinger under the tongue, and again goes to drink the blood of the family.
The only time I have seen the vampire the way I like it is on a tv series that The Strain is very very influenced by which is Kolcheck the Night Stalker. I wanted to go back to you know horror being first and foremost brutal and fun. Its not about. it makes you reflect about the loneliness. Its like a perfect summer horror series.
The Strain can take liberties with vampiric lore because it is not adopting a novel.
Interviewer: What is the challenges to taking your idea and bringing it to screen. Del Toro: The way I wanted to design the show. All the episodes you see, every effect goes to me, every single makeup effects go through me of all the episodes.I do a final color correction on the cinemaphotography of all the episodes myself. Its because I want to give a uniformity in the look. The way I tried to design the look, was supersaturated colors that almost felt comic-book like. I color coded the show with everyone saying we have basically two colors cyan or blueish and gold. If you watch the episodes, I wanted to say no reds except if there in the real world like a fire extinguisher or siren of a patrol car. yes. but no reds, so we can reserve the red for the blood. That way we have a stringent color code and even if you don’t notice it, the show has a style, you know, and thats the first thing. The second thing I tried to do was to try to give it a cinematic look and give it scope. We did for the budget, we did it for the schedule, but we wanted to make it ambitious. So those were the challenges, to try to do a spectacle, and big effects,big visual effects within the budget and schedule.
Special emphasis is placed on Vampire – also referred to as Strigoi – biology as mirroring that of parasitic creatures as opposed to supernaturally immortal undead of pop culture. The life cycle and physical adaptations of a human-turned-vampire are covered in detail. They serve as the universal…