First of all, let me apologize for the lack of last week’s recap. I had to travel very early on Monday morning to NYC for io9/Gawker shenanigans, and was unable to watch last week’s episode, which is a shame, because it was definitely the highlight of the season. Rather than ignore it, I figure I’d give recaps of both for you much smarter souls who are only watching the showing vicariously through my suffering.

“The Born”

It’s the Quinlan episode! That is to say, it’s the episode where we finally get a real introduction to the supposedly badass vampire with the British accent who can walk in the sun and wants the Master dead. We learn that he’s been kicking around since ancient Rome, as a shockingly accepted gladiator (with bone-white skin and pointed ears), and is a half-breed of some kind, which basically makes him Blade, which Guillermo del Toro directed the second Blade movie, which makes his back story pretty lame.

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Still, Quinlan is the closest thing to a competent protagonist the show has given us since the Spec Ops Vampire Ninja Squad died like punks, as evidenced by the fact that he can kill the spider-kid vampires when Fet, Eph and the rest fail spectacularly to harm the at all. In fact, Quinlan is so functional that he—actually, let me save that for a sec.

Fet and Dutch head back to Dutch’s apartment to get some of her clothes, and discover Nicki, Dutch’s old roommate/lover, hiding in the closet (you may remember Nicki as the girl who ran away from the convenience store back in season one, or the girl whose mother put up missing ads so Dutch and she could have a brief, meaningless conflict). Dutch of course brings the petrified Nicki back to HQ, and Fet becomes instantly jealous. No, wait; jealousy implies that Fet handles the arrival of Dutch’s former beaux with a modicum of maturity. Instead, he acts like a bratty 6-year-old whose parents force him to share his toys. He is shitty and passive-aggressive and hilariously unempathetic, and it is wretched.

Meanwhile, Eph inexplicably manages to get back to NYC for DC—while shot—and immediately gets drunk instead of going home. This feat, which took an entire episode to chronicle when he went to DC the first time, is not even explained away with a line of dialogue. Oh, and Coco fucks her boss Eldritch even though Eldritch is gross and weird.

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I know this sounds bad—it is—but it’s mostly saved when Setrakian takes the sullen Fet to the industrial factory that Fitzwilliam told them about last episode before dying. They investigate to discover that it’s where Eichorst made the spider-kids for Kelly, and where the Master transferred his consciousness into Bolivar (evidenced by the Master’s old corpse chilling on the floor). It’s also where Quinlan pops up, introduces himself, kills the aforementioned spider-kids with ease and style, then tells Fet n’ Set that the Master is actually here, in the building, and he’s going to go kill him.

Obviously, being episode 7 of the second season, this does not happen, and doesn’t happen in perhaps the stupidest way possible. But to see a character on The Strain cut through all the bullshit and attempt to actually do things actually brought a tear of joy to my eye. And Quinlan does track down the Master in his Bolivar-body and the two begin a little smack talk as Eichorst and Setrakian arrive. It looks like there’s going to be a fight scene with the Master that doesn’t end with a weird anticlimax—e.g., discovering sunlight does not kill him and they’ve been completely wasting their time—but instead Setrakian has told Fet to blow up the building. Why? No idea. I also have no idea why when the building explodes, it literally only make a small pile of rubble between Quinlan/Setrakian and Master/Eichorst. I also don’t know why Quinlan doesn’t cross over the rubble, and there is a large, clearly visible space above it which Quinlan could use to cross over to the other side with virtually no issue. And I most of all don’t know why, since the Master was 20 feet away when the “building” “exploded” Quinlan doesn’t continue hunting for the Master when he obviously couldn’t have gotten very far, but instead gives up.

The tragedy here is that as dumb as the non-resolution is, between seeing someone get that close to actually fighting the Master, and Eph’s final line of the night, where he flatly declares “I’m going to kill Eldritch Palmer” I couldn’t help feel like things were finally kicking into high gear for The Strain. In fact, I had watched this episode yesterday morning, and was genuinely excited to watch the new ep last night. Seriously!

“Intruders”

This was dumb of me, because things immediately grind back to a screeching halt, even though Quinlan makes an appearance. There’s a strong start, actually, as Eichorst gets Kelly a makeover to look like a living human again, which led me to believe the Zach storyline would go somewhere. This is not the case.

In fact, even though Kelly and a few spider-kids are the titular intruders of the episode, they basically don’t reappear until there are maybe five minutes left. Most of the rest of the episode is taken up with Eph acquiring a sniper rifle to shoot Eldritch, which of course he doesn’t use, and Quinlan recruits Gus, even though Gus has never achieved anything iovr the season and a half his character has been around. Even to get to these two scenes, where forced to watch in detail as Eph does surgery on some a gun dealer we’ve never met before and certainly will never meet again, and for Gus and Angel to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to get Mr. Gupta to abandon his Indian restaurant which is shockingly hard to do given that tentacle-mouth vampires are running constantly through the city committing mass murder.

The last thing is that the Cardinal who has dined with Eldritch Palmer once or twice before shows up to Palmertech HQ to announce he has the Occido Lumen book—the maguffin that supposedly has a way to kill the Master which everyone is 100% works for no real reason—and is taking bids. Obviously Eldritch bids and gets snappy when he’s told there are other bidders; later Setrakian pops by the church with a higher bid and the Cardinal is smug. Of course, Palmer is going to have someone steal the book later that night, so Setrakian decides to steal it first.

Now, despite the fact Setrakian knows in his heart Palmer and Eichorst will be making a play for the book that night, he and Fet still manage to show up late, after Eichorst has shot him full of worms who will eventually force the Cardinal to reveal who has the book. Fet n’ Set force Eichorst away with help from a silver grenade, and the Cardinal reveals who has the Lumen in exchange for Setrakian’s killing him before the turns—it’s Rudyard Fonescu, the boy from the Viennese monastary that Setrakian and Palmer investigated all those years ago. The one that ran into the vampire pit forcing Setrakian to save him, kind of? The one I don’t even think I bothered to mention in my recap because the episode made him look like yet another waste of camera time?

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Of course, finding out who has the Lumen is more than enough plot advancement for The Strain; stay tuned next week when our heroes learn where the person is, then the week after when they find the person, and the week after that when they ask for the book and Rudyard Fonescu says maybe, and then the episode after that where Fonescu agrees to give them the book, to be followed by the episode where he gives them the book, which means Setrakian and the crew should be able to read the damn thing… oh, about the season 3 premiere, I guess.

At least Kelly and her spider-kids enter Red Hook and make a play for Zach (although to be fair, she doesn’t as much “intrude” as much as she’s “let inside” because “Zach” is “a moron.” Eph and Nora of course are not paying attention but run in at the last second, and Kelly tries to kill Eh and the spider-children try to kill Nora and suddenly Eph manages to kill one and he shoot Kelly but the other spider-kid leaps in front of the bullet and Kelly flees. So now Zach has seen his mother use vampire children to try and kill his dad, so I’m sure he’s finally understood now that his mother is an agent of darkness and wholly evil—ha ha no, I’m kidding, Zach’s an imbecile, Eph is going to have to duct-tape his stupid kid to the ceiling if he wants him to have a chance of living through this low-key vmpire apocalypse

Maybe it’s because I made the horrible mistake of watching two episodes in one day, or maybe I’m irked because episode 8 was a let-down after episode 7, but The Strain’s glacial pace has stopped entertaining me. We’ll see how I feel next week. Maybe if someone can explain to me what the hell the character of Gus is even for, I’d feel better. But I kind of doubt it.

Assorted Musings:

• So Nicki has been living at her apartment for several days, in safety, and has never once called her mother to let her know she’s okay? Either something sinister is up with Nicki or it’s just more phenomenally lazy writing. I will be pleasantly shocked of it’s the former.

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• The show vaguely implies that the Master is Quinlan’s father. I hope this means the Master is responsible for his vampire-ness, like he infected Quinlan’s mom when she was pregnant, resulting in a half-breed? Because if the Master is Quinlan’s physical father, that makes him Blade and Luke Skywalker, and Guillermo del Toro should be arrested.

• While Fet’s line about who’s calling in a bomb threat (“Me!”) got a chuckle out of me, he was like 10 feet away from a bunch of dudes, and all he was holding was unlit sticks of dynamite. Those guys could have easily stopped him before he destroyed anything if they’d wanted to.

• When the Cardinal tells Eichorst to “get the hell out of my house!” do you think him cursing is dumber or him referring to the church he lives in as “his house”?

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• Eichorst asking god to help the Cardinal admittedly got another chuckle out of me, mainly because Eichorst seemed so earnest. He was sincerely giving God a chance to show up.

• Zach is still so stupid, you guys. I mean, it’s unbelievable. In a way he’s the perfect embodiment of The Strain—characters being willfully stupid to further delay the paper-thin plot.

• I am not exactly sure how the character Nicki’s name is spelled but I am 100% sure her character is not worth the 15 or so seconds it would take to look it up on Google.


Contact the author at rob@io9.com.