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The Strain: “The Born”

“The Born”

Episode

Now over halfway through its second season, The Strain is falling into a pattern that’s typical of a lot of shows. New characters and a shifting set of priorities strengthened the first half of this season. For a while, The Strain was transforming into a different show, one that embraced its camp and gothic influences while moving its dreadfully boring and contrived emotional storylines to the sidelines. This week’s episode, “The Born,” when coupled with last week’s installment, sees The Strain in a holding pattern. The storylines, specifically the one involving Eph travelling to Washington, are purely expository. It’s as if the show has hit pause in an attempt to regroup, getting everything in place for the season’s final arc.

That final arc will be Eph hunting down Palmer in the hopes of killing him, but for that to happen, a number of things need to take place. The Strain understands that Eph can’t just want to kill Palmer; that as a former employee of the CDC, his first instinct is, and should be, to fight the virus biologically, and therefore take down Stoneheart. What the show fails to execute though is proper character motivation. By the end of “The Born” it’s clear that Eph’s two-episode trip to Washington is nothing but a contrived way to create conflict between Eph and the Stoneheart Group.

Eph wanting to kill Palmer makes a lot of sense. He’s not only actively trying to stop Eph from getting his pathogen into the right hands, but he also has tremendous financial and social influence. The Stoneheart Group is a massive corporation that trumps any kind of publicly funded government project that might go against the Group (note how Palmer says Eph’s recently delivered biohazard is in “friendly hands”), including plans from the CDC or its former employees. Still, “The Born” does little to flesh out this conflict, instead boiling the entire storyline down to revenge. Eph wants to kill the man who had his friends killed. Considering that this storyline involves a potential global crisis, the bad blood between Eph and Palmer is severely undercooked.

“The Born” also struggles to land its emotional beats. When Fet and Dutch find Nikki holed up in Dutch’s old apartment, it’s a reveal that’s meant to introduce tension into their relationship. After all, Fet and Dutch were just getting close, and here comes Dutch’s ex-girlfriend to ruin everything. Introducing a past romance isn’t a bad way to create conflict between two characters, but The Strain has never been able to inject its romantic and familial drama with enough stakes to make it meaningful. The storyline hits all the predictable beats, to the point that any group of characters could be repeating the same lines and it would have the same effect. There’s no sense that this situation is unique to Fet and Dutch, no insight into how it’s impacting them on a deeper level. “The Born” is satisfied with just going through the motions, showing that Fet is hurt and jealous while Dutch is conflicted. It’s The Strain painting with the broadest strokes possible, reducing Fet and Dutch, who were finally being fleshed out this season, to mere caricatures.

“The Born” does find one source of inspiration though, and that’s the half-breed vampire hunter known as Quinlan. He’s the embodiment of the campy/gothic influences mentioned above, the flashbacks in this episode showing that he was known as The Barbarian Gladiator, viciously destroying any opponents who came before him. He’s been hunting the Master for some time now (as a flashback to Albania in 1873 confirms), and when he “felt” the Master after Eph and Setrakian forced him into the sunlight, he picked up his hunt again. Quinlan, and actor Rupert Penry-Jones, has a presence that’s unmatched on this show. Sure, he doesn’t have a lot of heavy lifting to do; he just gets to be a badass and walk around with a bone club, but for now, that’s enough. Considering that The Strain seems to be perfectly happy putting Gus and the Silver Angel on the backburner, once again refusing to give them any screen time or sense of momentum and character development, Quinlan is a breath of fresh air, a character with clear, understandable motivation, driving the actual vampire hunting narrative forward while the rest of the storylines stagnate.

With any luck though, “The Born” is the end of the holding pattern. With Quinlan chasing the Master and Eph telling Fet that he’s going to find and kill Eldritch Palmer, there’s potential for The Strain to find the kind of frantic pace that made the earliest episodes of season two so compelling and promising. However flimsy and contrived, Eph does have motivation now, and Quinlan is ready for a fight; it all depends on how the show uses that motivation to move the story forward.

Now over halfway through its second season, The Strain is falling into a pattern that’s typical of a lot of shows. New characters and a shifting set of priorities strengthened the first half of this season. For a while, The Strain was transforming into a different show, one that embraced its camp and gothic influences while moving its dreadfully boring and contrived emotional storylines to the sidelines. This week’s episode, “The Born,” when coupled with last week’s installment, sees The Strain in a holding pattern. The storylines, specifically the one involving Eph travelling to Washington, are purely expository. It’s as if the show has hit pause in an attempt to regroup, getting everything in place for the season’s final arc.

The Strain: First Born Review

Things take an epic turn on The Strain as the secret origin of Quinlan is revealed while in the present, the Master makes his move.

This The Strain review contains spoilers.

The Strange Season 3 Episode 3

The Strain is at its best when it bounces through history to build the immense mythology that keeps the series from becoming just another survival horror drama, and this week, things go all sorts of period as we travel back to ancient Rome in order to discover the secret origin of everyone’s favorite altruistic bloodsucker, Mr. Quinlan.

Last week, Quinlan and Eph made a pack to try to lure the Master into a trap by stealing the Lumen from Setrakian. This week, Quinlan and Eph make their move and plan to set their trap as Eph tries to exchange the ancient book for his son Zack. You might imagine that Setrakian is mighty pissed when he finds his precious Lumen gone, because after all, that tome contains the secret to destroy the Master once and for all. Happily for Setrakian, he has Vasiliy Fett forever at his side. Fett reveals that he placed a tracker in the book and we are off to the races.

All this is a backdrop to reveal the origin of Quinlan. We get to witness his days in ancient Rome when he was locked in a grotesquerie, forced to eat goats (does that make Quinlan the first chupacabra?) and live in a constant state of torment. This is such a sad fate for a creature we know to be so noble, but it was not to last because an old woman named Ancharia (Deanna Dunagan) buys Quinlan (then known as Quintus) and teaches him how to be a man. She teaches Quintus to speak again and to be proud of his existence as a half human half strigoi. In the present, Quinlan continues his story and tells Eph about how the Master turned his mother when Quinlan was en utero. This allowed Quinlan to walk in the daylight and keep control of his hunger. I know, it’s very Blade, but if anyone is allowed to steal from Blade its Guillermo freakin’ Del Toro, ’kay?

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We are also treated to Quinlan’s first encounter with the Master in ye olde days. You see, there is a prophecy that only a strigoi born of woman can kill the Master, so ol’ Master-pants is desparate to destroy the daywalking vamp. The battle happens after the death of Ancharia who basically becomes Quinlan’s Uncle Ben figure after she dies of old age. It’s all very moving as The Strain creates this perfect circle between past and present, presenting Quinlan as this eternally patient hunter bound to kill the Master. Now, with the Lumen as bait and Eph by his side, in the 21st century, Quinlan has a great shot of making his dream come true.

I have to say, I am loving this bond between aged vampire hunter and super exterminator. It is so much fun to watch Setrakian and Fett together. It’s like a buddy movie between a hundred year old obsessed hunter of the supernatural and the most bad ass New Yorker, like, ever. There interactions never fail to bring a smile even in the most intense scenes and Fett really humanizes the often cold Setrakian. Fun stuff.

While Setrakian and Fett banter and speed towards the Lumen, Eph and Quinlan spring their trap. Eph is in deep guano when Quinlan arrives, Uzis a blazing in the most Del Toro of Del Toro scenes. Now, Del Toro did not write or direct this episode, but he certainly inspired it. Quinlan and the Master were face to face, stinger to stinger, and the two thousand year old battle was on. The Master lasts longer than CM Punk did in his first UFC debut (love ya, Punk), but not by much.

So, two take aways from this sequence. One, who will that worm inhabit? This seems like a perfect time for Eichhorst to step and achieve his dream of allowing the Master to use him as a Nazi meat puppet, but that’s a bit too obvious, no? Perhaps, Kelly Goodweather might become the new Master and wouldn’t that create drama in the strigoi ranks? The second take away, is now that Quinlan has succeed in killing the Master (or at least, its corporeal form-for now), he must bid farewell to a Strain player that has been with us since day one. Actor Jack Kesy has been eating innocent victims and scenery since he first appeared as Gabriel Bolivar. We witnessed Bollivar’s transformation from bumbling, drug addicted, dickless rock star to the Master’s right hand man to finally the Master himself. And now, that Quinlan’s bone sword has parted Bolivar’s head from his enhanced strigoi body, it is time to say farewell to Kesy and his awesomeness. We’ll miss you Mr. Kesy, it was fun watching your penis fall off.

So to recap: Eph did not get the Lumen back. Quinlan is a four thousand year old super hero who manages to kill the Master’s powerful rock n’ roll body, Setrakian has his book back, Fett is awesome, and the Master is now a worm in the sewer looking for a new host.

If all that isn’t enough, ladies and gentleman, our favorite vampire killing luchador Angel is back! Yes, it’s been three episodes and we finally have our battling tecnico returned to help his pal Gus out with some mama drama. You’ll remember that poor Gus is keeping his mama alive even though she turned into a strigoi. The whole thing is a powerful analogy of living with a loved one who suffers with mental illness except for the fact that mama is an undead parasite that wants to eat her son. Angel takes pity on Gus and tries to help get mama out of their building before a special vampire kill crew task force does a sweep of the building. Hilarity ensues, we learn what a Mexican seat belt is, and Angel and Gus are captured while mama escapes.

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Happily, instead of being shot for treason or thrown in a cell, Gus and Angel are conscripted to become militarized vampire killers. Yeah, baby the tag team of Gus and Angel are going to be back in action. Someone get Gus a lucha mask, stat!

Yeah, I had fun with this one as The Strain hits a rhythm that is intense, fun, and serves the characters very well.

Things take an epic turn on The Strain as the secret origin of Quinlan is revealed while in the present, the Master makes his move.