The Strain S02E07 “The Born” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on Watch, Wednesdays, 10pm
Writer: Chuck Hogan
Director: Howard Deutch
Essential Plot Points:
- Setrakian meets Quinlan for the first time when the Master-hunting strigoi/human half-breed spectacularly rescues the professor and Fet from a bunch of feelers.
- All three have tracked the Master to his warehouse lair – Quinlan is less than impressed, though, when Fet’s dynamite fetish ruins his chance to kill the Master.
- Setrakian’s research reveals that Quinlan has been around since Roman times when his nickname was “The Born”.
- Dutch is reunited with old girlfriend Nikki. Fet goes into a sulk.
- Coco seduces Palmer.
- Eph returns from Washington and drinks New York dry before announcing he’s going to kill Palmer.
- Zach is slightly less irritating than usual and his permaconfused look actually coincides with a scene in which he’s supposed to be confused.
Finally Quinlan shows why Vaun was killed off to make way for him to enter the series. It’s a shame this episode wasn’t his debut because a) it’s a lot more impressive than cutting a wire fence and hitching a lift, and b) all his scenes from the past two episodes could have been replaced by one or two lines here with absolutely zero negative impact on the ongoing story.
So here we have Quinlan being cool in ancient Rome, using dirt for suntan lotion and wowing the crowds in the arena with some throat skewering. We have Quinlan being cool in 19th century riding a horse in a voluminous cape. We have Quinlan being cool in 21st century New York slicing up feelers and doing that patented, badass gun-in-each-hand shtick. And we have Quinlan looking like he’s throwing all his toys out of his pram when Setrakian buggers up his plan to kill the Master. Which isn’t so cool.
Let’s be honest – as respected an actor as Spooks’ Rupert Penry-Jones is, he’s struggling to give Quinlan the same cheeky charisma that Stephen McHattie gave Vaun. When he’s given kick-ass things to do, Quinlan is fine; when he’s just chatting, he’s a tad flat. Not terrible. Perfectly acceptable. Does the job. Just… Vaun had more personality, if not as much backstory. But if we get a bit less jaw jaw and a bit more gore gore from Quinlan in future then all’s good.
Speaking of that showdown with the Master, though… what was going on there? The Master clearly had no fear of Quinlan so what would have happened if Setrakian and Fet hadn’t blown the place up? Did the Master have a plan? Or was he just confident he could take Quinlan down in a fight? Surely Quinlan – after centuries of cat and mouse – would have suspected some kind of trap or trick with the Master so happy to present himself for an open attack? The whole situation felt incredibly artificial. And that includes Setrakian’s request for Fet to dynamite the warehouse, a plan so full of potential pitfalls and opportunities for the Master to escape that it makes no sense at all.
Elsewhere, Eph spent the episode pissed, but, believe it or not, entertainingly pissed. His reaction to Nikki is a peach (“The track star!”); his philosophy on alcohol is worthy of the ancient Greeks (“The bar tender made me promise that I’d sip this… booze is supposed to make you feel good not taste good”); and his reaction when Fet leaves the hide-out in a huff is wonderfully childish (“It’s not me he’s running away from,” he tells Dutch). Could Eph be the Fun Bobby of The Strain? Not that his final line of the episode is a laughing matter: “I’m going to kill Eldritch Palmer.” Damn, that might mean he’ll have to sober up if he wants to shoot straight.
Talking of Palmer, at the risk of sounding ageist: Coco and Eldritch? Eeewwww! It’s not so much the age gap as the fact he’s just downright creepy. Jonathan Hyde wonderfully captures the sense of how awkward a man of advance years who has never had a relationship might be around a beautiful young woman, but that hardly makes him much more of a catch. Are we supposed to assume Coco is primarily after his inheritance?
Overall, “The Born” is an improvement over recent weeks because it returns to what the show does well in a big way. Sadly there’s also a big dollop of what the show doesn’t do well; relationship drama. The Strain has a real problem when a main character is in love with someone that the other characters seem to hold in the same contempt as the audience. Let’s hope Nikki does another runner as soon as possible.
- Quinlan killing the feelers: wonderfully gratuitous, over-the-top action that finally shows what he can do. The bit where he steps on the entrails of a feeler that he’s just sliced in two to prevent the top half crawling away is The Strain at its gory best.
- All the pithy little comments about Nikki doing a runner (“She hurt herself running away” ).
- The opening teaser showing Quinlan’s Roman past is excellently shot. The arena fight puts anything seen in Atlantis to shame.
- Fet’s expression when Dutch invites Nikki to come back to their hideout (in fact, Fet’s surly attitude throughout is fun, though you wouldn’t want a friend that moody in your own life).
- The idea that Ducth would fall back into Nikki’s arms is utterly unbelievable. No wonder Fet’s in a sulk. Nikki is such a non-character that Dutch is lessened by her through mere association.
- The Albania flashback is dull and blandly shot.
- The showdown with the Master is static and unexciting.
- Setrakian asking Fet to dynamite the warehouse is a bizarre plan to say the least.
And The Random:
- When the Master taunts Quinlan, “I’ll make you scream out in agony as I did your mother,” you have to wonder, is the Master Quinlan’s dad? (We checked and the answer is in the original novels but in deference to how spoilerphobic you might be we’ll let you Google that yourself if you want to).
- It’s notable that Palmer says, “Complacency is the enemy of empires. Just ask the Romans,” in an episode that features a Roman flashback. Did the Strigoi have a part in downfall of the Roman Empire?
- How come Nikki stayed in hiding so long after Fet and Dutch barged into her apartment? Didn’t she recognise Dutch’s voice?
- The lamp in Nikki’s apartment is an attention black hole – it sucks your eyes inexorably towards it whenever it’s on screen. We think it may be an Iron Chicken egg.