As Sunday began to approach this past week and the time was coming for me to sit down and write my review of tonight’s episode of The Strain, I knew without a doubt it was going to be Sunday Depression Sunday. Assuming you’re caught up and watched last Sunday’s episode (and if you aren’t, you need to stop reading right now as major spoilers are ahead), you know what’s coming. In the final stand of a desperate, dying man, Setrakian (David Bradley) overdoses on the blood thinners Dr. Goodweather (Corey Stoll) gave to him in last week’s episode and lures Eichhorst (Richard Sammel) to his death by baiting him to drink his blood. So, while most may have cheered the death of the Master’s #2, who at times seemed just as powerful and invincible as the Master himself, one may have forgotten that Setrakian is now infected and so, it’s only a matter of time. If you haven’t got the tissues ready yet, better do so now.
A HEARTFELT REUNION AND A PAINFUL GOODBYE
Given that we know the Professor is infected at the end of last week’s episode, the big question that has been on fans’ minds for most of the week is whether Fet (Kevin Durand) and Quinlan (Rupert Penry-Jones) would make it back to Manhattan in time to say good-bye. Not just to say good-bye but also to give Setrakian the piece of mind before he died that Fet didn’t fail and he got the Professor his nuke just like he had promised 9 months ago. Just think about it. How awful and tragic would it have been for Setrakian to have sacrificed so much — including his own life — and not be able to die in peace knowing that it wasn’t all for nothing. I was a tad bit worried, but I was also cautiously optimistic that the writers wouldn’t do that to the fans, and fortunately for everyone, my optimism was on point.
I’m not entirely sure how Fet and Quinlan knew the rest of the group was holed up at the Met Cloisters (perhaps it was an agreed-upon rendezvous point??) once they made it to Manhattan by boat, but the point is they make it and just in time. They encounter Gus (Miguel Gomez) first who is keeping guard, but he doesn’t have the heart to tell them what had happened. Instead, while the Professor is feverishly writing down what he learned from the Lumen, Fet enters the room smiling, but that happiness quickly turns to heartbreak when he sees Setrakian’s face. His eyes are red, worms are visible underneath his skin, and within a matter of minutes, he begins to hear the Master’s voice. It’s time. <Queue sobbing>
You know, over the course of the past week, I’ve been pondering who would release Setrakian. I couldn’t imagine Fet or Dutch doing it because they’ve grown too close to the Professor. Dr. Goodweather, maybe. However, after the Quinlan flashbacks in episodes 5 and 6, and Quinlan being left with the heavy task of releasing his new family, I finally decided on it being Q. What’s more, it becomes clear in those episodes that Quinlan understands mercy, which is evident with his not really supporting Louisa’s decision of not releasing her brother all in the name of “compassion.” Instead, Quinlan’s definition of “compassion” is allowing a person to die with dignity and on their own terms, and so, with that, Setrakian turns to Quinlan and hands him his sword. Okay, if you don’t have those tissues yet, you **definitely** want to get them now.
With Dutch and Fet now crying, Setrakian gets on his knees, nods to Quinlan, and with a quick swing of his sword, the Professor is gone. Dutch begins to sob uncontrollably, but the most touching part of the scene is actually Quinlan’s reaction. After Setrakian’s lifeless body falls to the floor, Quinlan closes his eyes, and a look of terrible sadness appears on his face. Ever since Quinlan was introduced back in season 2, there’s been a running theme of his humanity vs. his strigoi heritage. Of course, things like his killer instinct exemplify his strigoi background. However, it’s also moments like these that make us realize that while Quinlan may be a human/strigoi hybrid, he is often just as human — if not more — as the rest of us.
However, the humanity of Quinlan is exemplified even more in the next scene of the ad-hoc “funeral” for Setrakian. Given that this is the final season of the series and we have only 10 episodes, I wasn’t quite sure if there’d be time for a proper send-off for any of the characters, let alone any type of burial or funeral. However, at the same time, I was also so hoping that the writers would at least make the time for Setrakian. After all, in a way this is his story, and it all started back in the Pilot when the plane touched down at JFK and the Professor made the futile attempt to get through to Dr. Goodweather. Well, it seems the writers may have felt the same way because we do get a proper funeral for Setrakian, and what’s more, when Fet asks if anyone wants to say anything, it’s actually Quinlan who steps up and shows his humanity once again.
I have been a witness to human mortality for more than 2000 years. I know that a single human life is often just a flicker in the darkness. You should not mourn this man. His death was inevitable. Instead, we should remember what it is that he showed us. That the real impact of a life depends on will, the determination to keep on fighting no matter the cost. His life was a beacon, for all of us — Quinlan
Then, Quinlan turns to Fet (who is now visibly sobbing) and hands him the sword, “Mr. Fet, he would want you to have this, to carry on his work.”
It’s okay, you can cry now, because you can be sure we all are. A big kudos and plaudits to the entire writing team for putting together one of the most emotional, memorable and compelling scenes of the entire series.
A NEW RIDDLE — KILL THE COLLABORATORS, KILL THE MASTER
So, after Setrakian’s burial and our heroes are finally able to regroup, it’s now a matter of what to do next. With Fet having promised the dying Professor that he’d continue his work, he now has the arduous task of examining what Setrakian had found in the Lumen moments before his death and debating whether to push forward with their original idea of “the face of God” equating to vaporizing the Master with a nuclear blast, or taking a closer look at Setrakian’s final epiphany.
The power of the beast doesn’t reside within itself but within its limbs. Those who willfully do its bidding and provide it sustenance. Humans acting out of deluded self-interest. Once we cut them away, he will be weakened and we can then strike. But, this last move will come to cusp. It will require an act of self-sacrifice — Setrakian
Even though it was a terribly sad and heart-wrenching moment, one of the things I so liked about Setrakian’s death scene is no one in the group argued among themselves. As Abraham rattled off this theory in his final breaths, Quinlan could have easily become argumentative and raised his objections then. But, he didn’t — which made it even more clear that while Quinlan may be a half-breed, in some ways he’s more human than the other members of the group.
However, now that Setrakian is dead and they’re getting back to the business of destroying the Master, Quinlan holds nothing back and is ready to use the nuke and if necessary, vaporize the entire city if it means it’ll kill the Master in the process. Wow, Quinlan. A little ambitious and impulsive, don’t you think? This is when all of the arguing commences, and if Setrakian were still alive, I just can see him jumping in and berating them all for their pointless bickering. Ultimately, Quinlan ends up losing the argument when Fet makes the very good point to the Wormless Wonder that no matter how trigger-happy he may be, they’ve got a bigger problem to solve first — they don’t know where the Master is. Doh! Quinlan, I love you and most of the time you’re full of 2000 years worth of wisdom and solid advice, but dude, you just had a dingey blonde moment. This revelation pretty much decides what the group must do next, and the good news is Dutch has the perfect collaborator in mind who can help them with their problem.
THE TALE OF 2 COLLABORATORS — SANJAY DESAI AND ZACK GOODWEATHER
One of the things I’ve always loved about The Strain is if the writers decide to keep a character around, you can be damn sure it’s not just for “filler,” and they’ll end up serving some purpose. Such is the case of Sanjay Desai (Cas Anvar). First, he survives that horrific car crash at the end of last season (originally, BTW, the character was slated to die in that crash, but then the writers, as they were planning the final season, decided to keep him on). Then, he survives the wrath-of-Dutch in episode 4.04 “The Blood Tax,” and even more surprisingly and unlike the very unfortunate Alonso Creem, he makes it through his first meeting last week with the Master. Sanjay is a survivor (or perhaps just very lucky), and finally in tonight’s episode, we learn the creative reason for that.
As I had mentioned, Dutch ends the argument over what the group should do next by revealing that Sanjay Desai can probably tell them where the Master is hiding — and as an added bonus, he’s a collaborator and so, this would also fit into Setrakian’s new theory that cutting off the Master’s human collaborators is the key to his demise. Basically a win-win for both sides of the argument. So, with that, the entire group heads off to the Partnership facility on their very **FIRST** mission. Yes, everyone, with only 2 episodes left after tonight, Team Fet, Quinlan, Dutch, Eph and Gus finally have come together as a single group. Just look at the below photo? Isn’t that great! Of course, in a perfect world, I would have liked to see this happen a long time ago, or at least a little earlier so that we can see more of the group dynamic. However, it is what it is, and the important part is they’re all on the same team now.
Using a ruse of Quinlan delivering a group to be drained, our heroes infiltrate the Partnership facility, and the games begin. It doesn’t take long for Sanjay to connect the dots and realize the group is in the building, but as we have seen before, he’s no match for Dutch Velders. Of course, being the coward that he is, Desai does try to weasel himself out of the situation by holding the pregnant women at gunpoint and threatening to kill them if Fet and Dutch try anything. However, the one thing that I don’t think Sanjay was counting on is his own men turning against him. When Fet begins to break through the door, Desai orders a guard to shoot one of the pregnant women, but he hesitates — and instead, turns the gun on Sanjay himself. Desai does manage to make it out of that mess, but not for long because Dutch is right behind him. It all culminates with Sanjay crawling along a conveyor belt, and Dutch subduing him by stabbing him in the foot. Ha, Sanjay Desai, you’re so used to having power over all those women — how does it feel now to be pinned down and dominated by one? Love it.
Now, even though Dutch and Fet tracking down and capturing Sanjay Desai is the focal point of the mission, the scenes that I enjoyed the most are the ones of Quinlan and Gus. If you’re keeping count, the last time Gus and Quinlan had interacted was at the end of season 2 when Gus and Angel had recruited their ex-con acquaintances as a small “army” for Q (remember Quinlan’s infamous speech to those guys??). And, given the time they spent together and the special dynamic they had in the trilogy, I was so hoping we’d get some of that before the series ends. Well, thank you to the writers, because we get plenty tonight. Gus and Quinlan pair up at the Partnership facility, and one of the first things they encounter is that God-awful blood farm. People being pulled out of cages, drained of their blood, and then, incinerated like they’re garbage. Of course, Gus is obviously horrified, and given the look on his face, even Quinlan appears somewhat shocked. Then, what comes next is nothing short of magnificent.
In a superbly-choreographed fight sequence, Gus and Quinlan face off against the worker strigoi with each of them tag-teaming and saving each others’ lives more than once. Quinlan leverages his super-human speed and impeccable skill with the sword, while Gus gets to use the hand-to-hand skills Vaun taught him back in season 2. It all culminates with a fantastic scene of Gus and Quinlan teaming up and working together to take down the final mongrel and then, releasing all of the prisoners from their cages. Now, that is one hell of a Dream Team, don’t you think? Love it. Love it. Love it. I only wish we could have seen more of this before the series had to end.
So, back at home base while the group is waiting for Sanjay to regain consciousness, a new problem arises. Dr. Goodweather learns that a young boy was at the local market looking for him, and so, immediately, Eph thinks of Zack (Max Charles). Of course, we know from earlier in the episode that Zack is being sent by the Master and it’s likely a trap, but even still, we also know there’s no way Fet or Dutch can stop him from going to that market to find out for sure (I wonder where Quinlan was in this scene, because he would have raised holy hell if he knew what Eph was about to do!). The episode ends with Eph coming face-to-face with his son, and given everything that’s happen and now that Zack is 100% Team Master, I can’t imagine this ending well.
All in all, while tonight’s episode may not have been on par with last week’s stellar “Ouroboros,” it definitely is one of the better installments of the season. Number One — the group is finally together working as a team. All of them. That alone makes the episode one of the most memorable and climatic ones of the entire season. Number Two — superb cast performances. David Bradley, Rupert Penry-Jones, Kevin Durand, Ruta Gedmintas and everyone in those opening scenes of Setrakian’s death did an amazing job, and also props to all the writers for putting together those scenes and making the magic happen. And, finally, with only 2 episodes left, the episode also managed to raise new questions and put a big question mark on how this is all going to end. Who will give up the Master’s location? Sanjay Desai? Zack? And, what will Eph do about his son? Will he allow him to return to the Master? Lastly, what about Setrakian’s “epiphany”? The Master putting thoughts into Setrakian’s head? The delusion of a dying man? Or, is there some plausibility in all of the Professor’s ramblings? Who knows, but the part about “self-sacrifice” does have me thinking. I’m not going to say here, but if you’re a fan of the books, you may have an idea of who this is referring to, and if that’s the case, how this will likely end.
The Strain airs on Sundays at 10/9c on FX.
Critic Grade — A
Geeky computer and math nerd by day and TV fanatic by night. My beats are The Walking Dead, The Strain, Person of Interest, Z Nation, and anything that most people would call freaky. Editor-In-Chief and Lead Writer of TVGeekTalk.com