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'The Strain' recap: Face to face with the Master

'The Strain' recap: Face to face with the Master
Eph listens out for "the Master" in FX's "The Strain." (Michael Gibson / FX)

There may be at least a few good reasons why the swag-savvy folks at FX don't rush a latex replica of the Master into every Party City and Hot Topic in America, just in time for Halloween.

The Master, the uber-villain of FX's hit drama, "The Strain," shows his face for the second time in this week's episode. Though lethal and medieval as a character, he may never launch a mass-market line of King of the Undead masks.

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Sorry Fox Consumer Products, but this rubbery-looking mug borders on Nosferatu lite. In fact, fans armed with silicone spray and glue guns could probably come up with their own reasonable facsimiles. DIY project for the kids!

That's a snarky way of saying that there are a couple of genuinely terrifying moments in the hour dubbed, "The Third Rail," but the Master's confrontation with Dr. Ephraim Goodweather isn't one of them. He does nearly choke out the renegade hero, and he starts and then stops unfurling his tentacle-like stinger, which clearly would've spelled disaster for Eph.

But seeing him in the flesh, as it were, doesn't pack quite the punch it should, especially on second inspection. It turns out that the idea of the Master is way creepier than the visual of the monster himself.

Is it the Joker-ish mouth, or, as noted last week, those elf ears? Either way, unless you have time to explain exactly how badass the Master is, expect to get your candy jacked if this is your costume on Oct. 31.

But back to those seriously bone-chilling scenes -- neither lasts long but each makes quite an impression. They both take place deep in the bowels of the New York subway system, where our intrepid band of vamp hunters, a strigoi-fighting Scooby gang, searches for the Master's nest.

They find it, but they also stumble upon a massive hive of bloodsuckers as far as the eye can see. That the long-view shot is bathed in an eerie red glow makes it all the more effective. Have the heroes ever seemed so small and outnumbered, their battle so utterly unwinnable? Nope, not even when they were trapped in a bodega and surrounded by vamps on all sides.

And the other nightmare-inducing part of "The Third Rail," – not when a monster gets fried by the 625-volt third rail because that's just cool – is Vasiliy Fet squeezing himself through a snug tunnel with a pasty-faced vamp on his heels.

Again, the camera angle and the lighting do wonders for this spine-tingling scene, in which the monster growls and gurgles and moves with horrifying dexterity. Haunted house purveyors out there, take note. This is how you do creepy crawly.

There's heartbreak, too, in this hour because Abraham Setrakian, Holocaust survivor and lifelong Master hunter, is steps away from lopping off the noggin of his (and all humanity's) mortal enemy.

But it's not to be. Fet tosses an ultraviolet strobe into the mix so that Eph can live, dropped from the Master's clutches in the pop of light. In a split second, the Master is gone.

Setrakian loses it, sputtering things like, "He was in my sights," and smashing the Master's coffin that he himself unwittingly crafted in a concentration camp during World War II.

It's just too much for the old man to bear, and he wants to chase after the Master because, "We've got him on the run."

But that strigoi is slippery and quick – and he can fly, remember? – so Setrakian is completely, understandably bereft. There, there, fine warrior. The show's already been picked up for a second season, and there are three books by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan in "The Strain" series. You will have another chance.

Meanwhile, Momma Martinez sure picks a bad time to have a nic fit. Zach, Eph's young son, leaves the safety of Setrakian's Batcave-lair-pawnshop in Harlem in search of smokes for her. He finds looters, a vamp, street thug Gus and two packs of ciggies on his trip to the corner store. Light 'em up, Momma. The kid risked his neck, after all.

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And speaking of Gus, he makes his way home, still wearing his orange jail jumpsuit, only to find his couch-potato crackhead brother turned into a vamp but still glued to the TV. A baseball bat to the head really is too good for that guy, but it'll have to do.

But where is Gus' beloved mom? Sadly and predictably, she's also infected but not yet a full-fledged stinger-wielding vamp. Even though Gus has offed his best (contagious) friend, he doesn't have the heart to "release" his mother. The shady landlord? That's another story. Hint: quick decapitation, head rolls down stairs.

Viewers now know that Gus will somehow join with the Scoobies because all these crossed paths have to add up to an alliance. Plus, he's a pretty tough dude who's now fueled by dead(ish) mom revenge fantasies.

Setrakian, Fet, Eph and Nora will need all the help they can get, judging from that face-to-face with the Master, who declares, "I am a drinker of men." He means business when he promises to "take everything" from Eph, as he did from Setrakian. He's already claimed Kelly, Eph's ex-wife, whose disembodied voice he uses to lure and ensnare Eph in the subway bowels.

Looking pretty bleak for our heroes, yes? Prepare for the ragtag resurgence, or at least the nascent stages of it, in the remaining two episodes.

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