This review contains spoilers.
3.3 First Born
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 favourite 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 in 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 it’s Guillermo freakin’ del Toro.
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 humanises 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 (the filmmaker 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 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 The 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 favourite 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.
Happily, instead of being shot for treason or thrown in a cell, Gus and Angel are conscripted to become militarised 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!
I had fun with this one as The Strain hits a rhythm that is intense, fun, and serves the characters very well.
Read Marc’s review of the previous episode, Bad White, here.