7 days. 7 more days, and the levy broke wide open. The government exhausted its resources trying to contain the infections in Washington, Atlanta, Dallas but then, it spread to 20 more cites, then 50.
This is the opening to tonight’s episode, and it seems the infection has begun to spread exponentially and not just in New York City, but worldwide. Things are spiraling out of control, and the world is teetering on the fall of mankind. It goes on to raise a very good question — is there any chance at all of overcoming this plague, or are we simply forestalling defeat? I don’t know if we can answer that question yet, but judging from the events tonight, I definitely think it’s an uphill battle and one that’s getting worse by the minute.
EVIL DEED IN THE PAST BECOMES GOOD IN THE PRESENT
Truth be told, of all the death and gory imagery in The Strain trilogy, the one part that still creeps me out to this day and gives me nightmares is the tale of Setrakian and Dr. Dreverhaven. You may recall that Dreverhaven was a doctor stationed at the same concentration camp as Thomas Eichhorst and was known for torturing and performing unauthorized “experiments” on prisoners. We have seen the man only once, and that was last season in the episode “By Any Means” when the young Setrakian (Jim Watson) finds him as the owner of an antique shop and in possession of Sardu’s silver cane. Dreverhaven (Nigel Bennett) isn’t a strigoi yet but is turned by Eichhorst (Richard Sammel) at the end of the episode when he is unable to deliver the cane after Setrakian steals it.
What we haven’t seen is what comes next for Dr. Dreverhaven. If you’re familiar with the source material, you already know, but even if you’ve never read the books, you’ve already been spoiled on Dreverhaven’s fate. Remember this jailhouse conversation between Eichhorst and Setrakian in Season 1:
Dismemberment? And, then, throwing the parts in the North Sea? Wow. Some may have thought that conversation was a one-off especially since we’ve seen Dreverhaven only once since then. But tonight, we get to see Setrakian’s rage unleash on the Doctor in a wonderfully-crafted series of flashbacks, and trust me, the images aren’t ones that will be easy to get out of your head.
The flashbacks are from 1972 Amsterdam, and we find Setrakian visiting a strip club/brothel but not for its entertainment. Instead, he’s there to speak with the Madam, Saskia (guest-star Erin Noble), as she has been brokering a deal for Setrakian — or as he’s known here “Mr. Perk” — to sell the Lumen. Of course, we know “Mr. Perk” isn’t in possession of the Occido Lumen at this time and is likely using the transaction as a ruse to lure out Eichhorst. This is reinforced by the fact that Setrakian is very curious about the identity of the potential buyer, this “Mr. Krueger.”
Is he a German? – Setrakian
Yes — Saskia
Was he loyal to the fatherland during the war? — Setrakian
I heard he was employed at one of the concentration camps in Poland. Doing good work there, in my opinion — Setrakian
I wouldn’t know anything about that — Saskia
Saskia gives Setrakian “Mr. Kruegar’s” address, but when Setrakian arrives, the person who answers the door isn’t who he had expected. It’s not Eichhorst, but Dr. Dreverhaven. Setrakian is able to hold back his surprise (as well as leave his silver cane outside), and Dreverhaven doesn’t seem to recognize him… or so we think. Once inside, it’s all business. Dreverhaven opens up a briefcase full of cash, and with that, he wants to see the Lumen. Once he does, Dreverhaven immediately sees it’s a fake (it’s actually a Biology textbook that opens to the chapter on Natural Selection. LOVE it! At least Setrakian has a sense of humor about it!), and that’s when he drops the act. Dreverhaven says he recognized Setrakian the moment he opened the door, and then, he attacks. But, Setrakian came prepared and sets off a silver bomb (seriously, how much more like father and son can Setrakian and Fet be?!), resulting in Dreverhaven being severely burned.
This was meant for [Eichhorst], you see, but in his absence, Dr. Dreverhaven, I’ll settle for you” — Setrakian
Setrakian’s initial plan is simple: open the curtains and just let the sunrise burn Dreverhaven up and rid the world of this evil once and for all. But, then, he finds the Doctor’s torture chamber. It’s a basement-of-horrors full of surgical equipment and off in a corner, a whole slew of body parts — legs, arms, torsos, and with the blood still appearing fresh, all of this seems to be recent. A true monster.
With that, Setrakian decides killing Dreverhaven with sunlight is “too good” for him and feels a lesson in Karma would be more appropriate. Then, in a series of chilling, grotesque scenes, Setrakian does to Dreverhaven what he has been doing to his victims for decades — straps him to the table, whips out a hacksaw, and dismembers him, no anesthetic, no nothing. Then, as a final payback for all of his sins, he puts all of the parts in a trunk, wraps the box with a chain, and dumps it in the North Sea, leaving Dr. Dreverhaven entombed and in anguish for all of eternity. Take-away from all of this? Never, ever, piss off Abraham Setrakian!
Now, back to present day. These are some pretty abrupt flashbacks, and one may wonder what they have to do with the main storyline. Well, if the writers had stuck to the original source material like a script, the answer would be a big nothing, and the flashbacks would have felt more intrusive than anything else. But, in a move that is just genius in my opinion, they embellish on the mythology of the Ancients from the books and create a magnificent tieback to the Dr. Dreverhaven story. Hang onto the rails because things are about to get bat-shit crazy.
So, armed with the new information from Lar and the Ancients, Setrakian (David Bradley) and Quinlan (Rupert Penry-Jones) are back hitting the Lumen hard, desperately searching for answers. Well, at least a photocopy of the Lumen. It seems that Setrakian isn’t going to chance losing the Lumen a 2nd time to a half-breed with sticking fingers, and so, they have resorted to studying copies of the pages. Quinlan is studying a chapter on strigoi-hunters, and apparently, there’s a long line of them dating back to the Ancient Samaritans.
There’s a commonality among all these hunters — the desire to act alone — Quinlan to Setrakian
The only downside to this approach of being a loner is that it often invites madness, and the irony is you have 2 strigoi hunters sitting at the table who had been working alone all their lives.
Well, I’m glad to see that doesn’t apply to you, Professor — Quinlan
Nor to you — Setrakian
What Quinlan doesn’t realize right away is that his perception of Setrakian isn’t entirely correct and that Setrakian has flirted with madness many times before — including the incident with Dr. Dreverhaven.
Quinlan continues reading and ultimately makes a huge discovery.
An Egyptian hunter was able to bury a plague, ending its terrible reign forever
At first, it doesn’t make sense — I mean, how can you bury a “plague.” But, then Setrakian recalls an earlier passage — “The 7 plagues mortal only to the face of God.” So, is “plague” actually referring to an Ancient? Setrakian asks about the remaining 3 Ancients, and Quinlan admits that not all of the Old World Ancients are accounted for. This is it. This is what they’ve been looking for! it has to be. But, how did the Egyptians do it? How did they destroy the Ancient? This is when Quinlan makes a good argument that if they have any hope of figuring this out, it would be very helpful if they were looking at the original article, and not some photocopy. Initially, Setrakian pitches a fit and basically says “No effin’ way!,” but then, finally relents.
However, even after looking at the real pages of the book, for some reason, the Lumen seems to be deliberately hiding the details of how they defeated the Ancient, but why? As Quinlan points out, no strigoi would be able to read the Lumen because of the silver. Setrakian’s response? “Yet, here you are.” PRICELESS!
But, that is exactly the clue that Setrakian needed to solve the puzzle. The details of how they defeated the Ancient is something so big that the authors would want to make sure NO strigoi would ever be able to read it. And, how could they do that? The **sun**. Apparently, there’s text hidden within the pages that can be viewed only with sunlight, and once Setrakian takes the Lumen up to the rooftop, he’s able to see it all (also, this is the answer to all of the smart-asses as to why they don’t just make a photocopy of the Lumen).
The living plague was contained within a stone sarcophagus, lined with an alloy of silver and lead. A tomb for the creature and for the crimson worm in it, trapped for all eternity.
This is big, folks. In fact, it’s huge. First, they now have an alternate way to neutralize the Master, in the event they can’t figure out a way to kill him outright. Just follow these instructions, and he will be rendered powerless because of the silver, and he won’t be able to communicate with his minions because of the lead. This is good. However, the scary part is the fact that this Ancient is likely still alive, and so, anyone could theoretically resurrect him if they knew where to look.
Well …. cut to Palmer at the Stoneheart Group. As I mentioned in my Preview, we are introduced to a new character tonight by the name of Sanjay Desai (Cas Anvar, “The Expanse”). He’s a new associate of Eichhorst and Palmer, and can you guess what his role in the Master’s plot is? He’s in charge of a vessel that left Egypt 21 days ago, and it’s Palmer’s job to insure the ship ports in New York City. Did chills just run down everyone’s spine like they did with me? Could it be that they are trying to resurrect the Ancient mentioned in the Lumen, and if so, why? To join the Master in taking over the world? Either way, I sense some crazy shit brewing on the horizon.
MICROWAVES AND STRIGOI BRAIN WAVES
As I had said in my review of last week’s episode, to my surprise I enjoyed watching Eph (Corey Stoll) and Dutch (Ruta Gedmintas) paired up and working together. They understand each other, and they don’t judge. It just works. Well, as it turns out, their skill sets also compliment each other, which comes in pretty handy in tonight’s episode.
As most of us saw in the Promo, Eph has been studying the biology of the strigoi and thinks he has located its central nervous system. It’s a big ball of blood worms in the middle of the strigoi brain, and yes, it’s disgusting as hell.
Annnnd I’ll never eat noodles again — Dutch
Guess what, Dutch? Me neither. Nothing too exciting yet and Eph had actually just began working on this angle, but then, Dutch decides to heat her morning coffee in the microwave. To Eph’s amazement, the worm ball begins to vibrate as if it’s responding to the microwaves. Okay, that was unexpected. What if that’s the key to how the strigoi communicate? What if their signal uses microwaves? If that’s the case, then it seems plausible that if they could flood the frequency with “white noise,” they could block their communication. Get them back to how they were a week ago, feral and much easier to control and contain.
It definitely looks promising, but the real test is to try it on a strigoi that isn’t strapped down and cut open. That’s what they do, and at first, it seems like a success. The test strigoi is locked in a cage, and a pan of blood is placed outside. With the communication network fully accessible, the strigoi attempts to pick the lock to get out. But, once they flood the frequency with noise, the strigoi becomes like a wild animal and backs away from the lock. So, it does works… well, at least for a while. However, just like the bio-weapon, they find a way to adapt or get around the white noise, and so, the strigoi finally manages to pick the lock and break out of the cell. And, then, he’s greeted by Eph with a bullet to the brain.
Okay, so there’s some glitches they need to iron out, but I definitely think it’s a good start.
CENTRAL PARK, CENTRAL NEST
Besides being irritated at Eph for not making any progress on a new, more effective bioweapon, Feraldo (Samantha Mathis) is also pretty pissed that her so-called “Safe Zones” aren’t so safe after all because they are now being overrun by strigoi. Frank (Paulino Nunes) calls it bullshit because they had cleared these areas, but hey, they are seeing strigoi there with their own eyes, and so, Justine, in turn, calls his response bullshit. Too bad Feraldo had that reporter arrested last week because I’m sure she would have had a field day with this.
So, to help her solve this problem, Justine turns to the one person whom she knows will get the job done — Vasily Fet (Kevin Durand). His job is to figure out how the strigoi are getting in, and to do that, he decides to go in reverse — learn how they are **getting back out**. His technique is pretty simple — attach tracking devices to a handful of random strigoi, and then, just watch from your iPad where they go when the sun comes up.
Well, the plan works and very well. They lead him right to a group of sentient strigoi construction workers who had apparently been tasked to create a series of underground tunnels, thus bypassing Feraldo’s checkpoints and blockades. Okay, so he has found the answer to Justine’s question… but, what Vasily finds when he continues to explore the tunnels is the real mind-blowing part. He stumbles on an old chamber under Central Park, way deep down, something that even Fet had almost forgotten existed. There’s literally thousands of strigoi down there, and it gives Feraldo and her men something tangible that they can attack.
Central Park, Central Nest — Vasily Fet
Given that the title of next week’s episode is “The Battle Of Central Park,” I think it’s a safe bet that this discovery will be the focus.
A DEAL WITH THE DEVIL
So, if Setrakian and Quinlan’s plan of entombing the Master has any hope at all, they still had one big hurdle to get past — learning the identity of the Master’s new vessel. And, unfortunately, given what has just happened, it is highly unlikely the Master will show himself again anytime soon and simply remain hidden. So, Setrakian very unwillingly turns to the one person who might be able to find out who the Master has chosen for his new form — Eldritch Palmer (Jonathan Hyde).
Fortunately for Setrakian, he has some leverage he can use to get Palmer to act. As we know, Palmer had already come to him literally begging for the formula for the white, and as a kind of compromise, Setrakian offers Palmer a single **dose** in exchange for information about the Master’s new host. Of course, Palmer is just as surprised to learn that the Master is no longer using Bolivar’s body, and that, in turn, doesn’t give Setrakian a warm-and-fuzzy that Palmer can get the job done. But, Palmer is desperate and assures Abraham he can pull it off.
To a new alliance — Palmer to Setrakian
And, they seal the deal with a handshake. Of course, as Setrakian pointed out himself in the episode “Bad White,” his last handshake with Eldritch Palmer ended in treachery, and so, it really makes you wonder if history will repeat itself. The good news — right now, Setrakian is holding all the cards and hasn’t revealed any of his plans to Palmer. Let’s hope for everyone’s sake it stays that way.
All in all, a top-notch episode that manages to drop yet another gigantic twist in all of our laps. In 3.03, we have Bolivar’s reign as the Master cut short — literally — marking a major deviation from the source material. Then, in last week’s “Gone But Not Forgotten,” the Master wins the battle and manages to take another vessel before the group learns of the significance of the crimson worm. So, the situation is now even worse because our heroes are left searching for and fighting a faceless enemy. Now, all of this on top of everything. Another bad, rogue Ancient from the Old World whom the Egyptians managed to neutralize by entombing him in a stone sarcophagus? When I first screened the episode, I swear I thought my head was going to explode. What are Carlton Cuse, Chuck Hogan, and Co. trying to do to us?! Once again, another major deviation from the trilogy, but that is not meant to be a complaint or insult. It’s sheer brilliance, and if you’re like me, you’re mind is flooding with all the possible directions they can go now.
And, you know what is the best part — we’re only at the half-way mark of the season! The writers still have 5 more chances of melting the brains of the entire fandom. So, everyone, get the Jack Daniels and percocet ready because I have a feeling the back half of the season is going to be a hell of a roller coaster ride.
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
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