Sunday, August 23, 2015

REVIEW: 'The Strain' - Quinlan and Setrakian Come Face to Face with the Master and Eichhorst in 'The Born'

FX's The Strain - Episode 2.07 "The Born"

Setrakian and Fet use Fitzwilliam's info to attack the Master, but a mysterious new player arrives. Dutch receives a surprise guest. Eph returns to New York City frustrated but energized to go after the one person responsible for killing his friends.

"The Born" fills in some important information about Quinlan's backstory. He is a very promising new character on the show this season. It's vital that the audience understands him, why he is the way that he is and why he is also hunting the Master. This episode provides so many answers that help explain why he should be a character worth caring about. Most of it does come across as exposition. But it also connects so strongly with what the core narrative of the show is that it doesn't distract from what most of the regular team are up to.

Quinlan is a vampire-human hybrid. That's why he has the physical appearance of the vampires but is able to walk outside during the day. He has been alive for centuries and has always been hunting the Master. Even when he hasn't been completely focused on that mission, he is studying the world around him in order to better understand his own reality. He served as a gladiator during the Roman empire. That has nothing to do with his quest to defeat the Master. But it does provide a chance to see him in battle. The audience now knows how formidable he is as a fighter. His action moments are the most exciting part of the episode. Granted most are brief because he is known for eliminating his opponents quickly. But they are all very effective - at least until the regular humans get in the way yet again.

It's easy to follow Quinlan's story because he is a creature unlike any of the others. He is a man with a mission. He is capable of great things and won't let anything distract him from what he needs to do. He seeks Setrakian and Fet out while they are scoping out one of Eldritch's new properties. They inadvertently led him right to the Master. Everyone gets to see the Master for the first time in his new form. Quinlan notes that the Master is no longer as intimidating as he once was. And yet, the old form wasn't that intimidating in the first place; it was just big. This new one is much better. That confrontation between Quinlan, Setrakian, Eichhorst and the Master was only about drawing the lines in this war and meeting the faces of the opponents. It was nothing more than that. There was no battle. Fet caused the structure to crumble and the Master and Eichhorst escaped. That created a divide between Quinlan and Setrakian - which could be interesting or not. They are both passionate about killing the Master. It's the only thing they both care about. And yet, if they are divided, they could get in each other's way which could grow annoying rather quickly.

But the prospect of what things will be like between Quinlan and Setrakian is much more promising than what the rest of this episode was up to. Dutch's roommate/girlfriend returned and Fet got erratically upset and mopey. Eph returned to New York City and promptly got drunk. And lastly, Eldritch and Coco gave in to their attraction to one another. All of these stories have purpose. The stuff going on with Dutch fueled Fet's anger when he went out with Setrakian. Eph's drunken despair and learning about what Kelly did last week leads to him planning an attack on Eldritch. That makes the romanticism of Eldritch and Coco tragic because soon people will target him and she will likely get hurt as a result. But all of these stories are being told in a way that just drags too much.

Nothing is interesting about Nikki miraculously returning and still being alive. Everyone remembers her because they all act like the incident at the convenience store just happened. Doesn't it feel like more time has actually passed since that the episode occurred? How in the world does she still have a sprained ankle because of it? And for it being strained, she sure spends a lot of time standing. Her return is meant as a narrative obstacle for Dutch and Fet's relationship. And yet, the two of them only got together and there's no reason why their relationship should be so important. Yes, it's understandable that during these end times people will connect in unexpected ways. But they shouldn't then act in a way that is similar to what the world was before. Things are changing. The circumstances here are unique to the situation. It was all an excuse for Fet to lash out at people. But even that occurred in very erratic ways. One second he was fine with Eph and then two seconds later in the conversation he was criticizing him for abandoning his child. That just makes no sense. None of it is all that interesting. Nikki is a character who is important to Dutch. And yet, their relationship isn't examined at all. Everything about this story is about Fet which is such a narrative mistake. But then again, there probably isn't a scenario where this story is interesting at all.

It was also clear throughout the season so far that Eldritch and Coco were growing more intimate together. But that only makes Coco seem dim. She is working for a man she idolizes. She is getting close to him. And yet, she doesn't seem to care about the number of secrets he is keeping from her. It's understandable from his perspective. But it only makes her seem like a bad character for not noticing that things are amiss. He has spent a lifetime being alienated from this kinds of intimate connections. His illness has kept him from enjoying the pleasures of life. The Master gave him the opportunity to find happiness. Of course, that will probably end tragically. That's the only way this story makes narrative sense. But so much of it is being told for Eldritch which makes her increasingly seem like a plot construct that the audience has to put up with every week. Something that has grown so common on the show.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Born" was written by Chuck Hogan and directed by Howard Deutsch.
  • Zach was less angry and upset at the world this week. Perhaps that attack from Kelly and the feelers did some good. Now if only he can be limited to one scene or less each week.
  • Fet brought up some things that Nikki did to Dutch in the past that she hated but she doesn't want to listen to those concerns now. It was an exercise to remember that the show had previously established that. It's just too hard to care.
  • Eph's alcoholism is definitely becoming a more consistent trait for him this season. But it's starting to feel like that is all that he does. Whenever he gets his way, he drinks. Whenever he doesn't, he drinks. It's becoming a little too overwhelming of the character.
  • Also, Eph seems pretty defeated about the bioweapon. He doesn't even think about it anymore which is a huge contrast with the last few weeks. Now he is solely about killing Eldritch Palmer because of what he did to his two friends in D.C. Hopefully, the bioweapon story isn't over with because that was the only time Eph actually seemed smart.
  • Didn't miss Gus, Angel or their female companion one bit this week.
  • Why did the Ancients direct Quinlan to Setrakian instead of Gus? Was it because he was easier to find? Or do they recognize that Setrakian is more committed to the cause? Or did they give both names and Quinlan just hasn't done anything with Gus yet?