Truth be told, after last week’s episode “New Horizons,” I wasn’t exactly jumping for joy with how the season was going, particularly the pace. Our group was fractured, there were too many storylines going at once, and just the general atmosphere didn’t feel like one of a show in its final season and heading for the home stretch. Of course, as would be Murphy’s Law, as soon as I had that thought and after screening tonight’s episode earlier last week, can you take a guess what happened next? Yeah, I had to immediately eat my words as this week’s episode, without a doubt, will go down as one of the best of the entire series.
DR. GOODWEATHER AND ALEX FINALLY CONNECT THE DOTS…BUT AT WHAT COST?
Without a doubt, this episode will be remembered solely for one particular storyline when, in fact, it features three. I’ll get to the arc that I’m sure the fandom will be buzzing about non-stop until next Sunday, but first, let’s discuss the other 2, both of which are equally good and equally shocking.
First, as some of you probably know, I haven’t been thrilled with the direction they’ve gone thus far with the Dr. Goodweather (Corey Stoll) arc. My main complaint is knowing what we know about Eph, his actions just don’t make any sense. We have all seen Dr. Goodweather on the front lines with Setrakian, Fet, and Quinlan, and he knows full well that the solution is not killing strigoi. Even if you manage to knock out a nest of a couple thousand strigoi, that’s nothing, and it will easily be replaced in just a matter of days. The only solution is to take out the source, and that means killing the Master. Eph knows this, and so, it seems pretty foolish that a man as intelligent as Dr. Goodweather would resort back to something that he knows will have zero impact. Oh, and by the way, Alex (Angel Parker) and her brother managed to survive on their own since the beginning, but as soon as Eph shows up, boom, Alex is the only one left. Well, the good news is while Dr. Goodweather’s actions may have been a bit foolish, they do finally pay off tonight with he and Alex getting the full 411 of the Master’s grand plan for humanity.
As we recall from the end of last week’s episode, Eph and Alex finally connect the dots between the New Horizons delivery schedule they found in the Partnership house and the pamphlet they found outside the school that had been raided. Suspecting that the shipments are of humans and determined to get confirmation of that, they set out on a road trip. Unfortunately, they run out of gas and are stranded in the quaint suburban town of Quarrysville, PA. As they walk through the streets, they immediately sense something is “off.” Not a soul in sight, and even more importantly, there are no signs that anyone put up a fight. WTF?? Yes, you and me both!
However, by a mere stroke of luck, Eph finds a young girl’s cell phone in the grass, and very conveniently, it still has some juice. The phone had belonged to a girl named Emily Stevenson, and on it, Eph finds several videos from her vlog. From these, we learn her family was planning on leaving soon for New Horizons, but Emily doesn’t want to go.
We’ll have a garden, and you can play outside anytime you want — Mr. Stevenson to Emily
Of course, we know this is all bullshit, and by the end of the episode, we discover the fate of those who are naive enough to fall for the Partnership’s propaganda.
As it turns out, one resident of Quarrysville got some seriously bad vibes when they arrived at the “Welcome Center” of New Horizons and managed to sneak out before going in. Her name is Francis (guest-star Tonya Pinkins), but unfortunately, she’s been infected and will be a full-blown strigoi very soon. Even so, this is still good news for Eph and Alex, because until she’s completed turned, Francis can lead them to New Horizons. Given that it’s likely her last day on Earth and her wanting to do the right thing, Francis agrees and leads them to where they were dropped off, being too fearful to go any further.
As they go further, what Eph and Alex finds is what nightmares are made of. First, they encounter a huge pile of luggage in the snow, and when Eph looks closer, he can see the nice, shiny new suitcase that he remembers from Emily’s vlog. Then, when they make it to the top of the hill, they look down in horror at what was most definitely these poor people’s final destination — literally. What they see is nothing more than a modernized version of a Nazi concentration camp and probably an exact copy of the blood farm Dutch Velders witnessed at the end of last week’s episode.
With that, I’m sure there’s not a single viewer who didn’t immediately get flashes of poor Emily being strung up on a meat hook, drained of her blood and pitched aside like some disposable carcass. The symbolism and metaphors are very strong here, and all of a sudden, Emily Stevenson immediately becomes the modern-day Anne Frank, with the vlog on her phone becoming the new “Diary of Anne Frank.” We even have the detail of Emily supposedly hiding in the secret compartment in her bedroom, much like Anne Frank and her family hid in the attic during World War II. But, even with all that, she was still found, dragged out of her home and to a horrific death, just like Anne Frank had been.
So, even with the horrors of what Eph and Alex just uncovered, it’s still good news because now they know the truth and the Master’s ultimate plan. However, the price for this knowledge turns out to be quite high. After Francis leads them to the welcome center, Eph wants to release her, which, of course, would have been the right thing to do. But, Francis begs him not to and requests that she be allowed to leave this world on her own terms — and Alex agrees. She stops Eph from shooting her, but that decision I think will really come back and bite them both in the ass. In the final moments of the episode, Francis returns to Eph except now, she’s being controlled by the Master.
Goodweather. I knew you’d surface. Perhaps you hoped to hear from me about your son — The Master to Eph
After getting confirmation that Zack is, indeed, still alive, Eph finally snaps out of it and shoots Francis, but by now, it’s too late. The Master now knows their exact location, and Eph, you’d better high-tail it out of there fast because his minions will be coming for you.
DUTCH VELDERS MAKES A COMEBACK AND YES, I’M NOW A FAN!
Ironically, while I never really cared for the Dutch Velders/fertility clinic storyline up to this point, it turns out to be one of the strongest arcs in tonight’s episode. To be honest, Dutch (Ruta Gedmintas) annoyed the hell of me last week with her looking out for no one but herself. However, it seems the tongue-lashing from her pregnant friend may have rattled her, because tonight, Dutch really steps up and grabs the bull by the balls. As is shown in the promo released by FX, her actions get the attention of Eichorst (Richard Sammel), which results in another stomach-turning pineapple dinner. Yes, this includes Eichorst drooling all over Dutch, smelling her hair, etc. etc. etc. Ewwwwww. Please hand me a bucket so I can hurl! However, if you think this is going to be a good day for Eichorst, then think again.
The downward spiral for Eichorst begins when we learn of his true motivation for wanting to see Dutch. It’s not to continue their last encounter, but to attempt to bribe her for the location of Abraham Setrakian. He bribes, he threatens, he acts like he’s in complete control and has the upper hand on Dutch. Then, Dutch drops the bomb on him and quickly wipes that disgusting smirk off his face.
Your minions separated us when they brought us in. I’m sure Setrakian has been drained and discarded by now. The very system you created has robbed you of your greatest victory. You’ll never have the satisfaction of lauding your big win over him — Dutch to Eichorst
Well, this is where Eichorst has a serious lapse in judgement and allows his emotions and his undying obsession for Setrakian to get the best of him. After consulting with Sanjay Desai (Cas Anvar), Eichorst learns that by some miracle, Setrakian is still alive and is part of a bone marrow experiment designed to prolong the blood-producing ability of elderly patients. So, without thinking, Eichorst storms out to research room #7 where Setrakian is being held, thus leaving Sanjay to handle Dutch. Given what happened last week, you’d think Eichorst would realize that is probably not a good idea.
And, it’s not. Sure Eichorst finds Setrakian and he gets his 5 minutes of posturing and displaying his power while Setrakian helplessly lays strapped to a hospital bed, but make no mistake, those 5 minutes will turn out to be quite costly. As most of us probably suspected, Dutch causes another big incident by informing everyone what is really going on at the facility, thus giving her the opportunity to escape and find Setrakian. Yes, after more than 3 months of being separated, Dutch and Abraham are finally reunited, but with Eichorst emerging from the shadows at the exact same time. The part that is so funny is he’s still cocky and still think he’s won, but that is about to change courtesy of Dutch Velders.
Yeah, I had a bad feeling as soon as Dutch grabbed that bottle of formaldehyde. In our reality, President Trump winks at neo-Nazis & white supremacists, even in the wake of such tragedies as the Charlottesville massacre this past weekend in Virginia. But, in the reality of The Strain, this is what we do to such people. Burn, baby, burn, Thomas Eichorst, you disgusting Nazi prick! Don’t get me wrong, I certainly don’t think Eichorst is dead, but I can’t imagine even the Master bringing him back from that.
QUINLAN’S BACKSTORY OF ACCEPTANCE, FAMILY AND LOVE FINALLY REVEALED
Now, on to the storyline that really is the focal point of the episode, and as some of you may have suspected, it’s the one involving Quinlan (Rupert Penry-Jones), It starts back in North Dakota, with Fet (Kevin Durand), Quinlan (Rupert Penry-Jones), Charlotte (Rhona Mitra), and Roman (K.C. Collins) hot on the trail of that strigoi convoy which is likely carrying the plutonium pit they need for their prized nuclear bomb. Ever since the season 4 trailer was released 2 months ago, the scene of Quinlan fighting a strigoi on a truck going 60+ MPH has been the buzz around the fandom, and fortunately, the wait is over. Amazing sequence of scenes with exceptional choreography and without a doubt, some of the best of the season thus far. Kudos and plaudits to everyone involved.
So, while these scenes are fantastic, what actually makes the arc phenomenal and the episode so memorable is a wonderful series of flashbacks depicting what is likely the final chapter in Quinlan’s backstory (and what will ultimately make him even more determined in finding the Master and destroying him). If you’re familiar with the trilogy or the comic-book series, you probably at least know the theme of these flashbacks. But, if you don’t, you may want to have some Jack Daniels ready — or, if you’re not into hard liquor, maybe a big tub of ice cream and some wine.
The flashbacks take us back to 1888 in the East End of London, England. A upscale woman by the name of Louisa (Hannah New) is looking for someone, and we quickly learn that someone is Quinlan. From the looks of it, the place she inquires at appears to be a massage parlor or possibly some kind of brothel, and so, she’s not exactly in the good part of town and definitely appears out of place. She’s eventually attacked by an unruly group of young men, and that’s when Quinlan appears. He corners Louisa and wants to know why she’s looking for him. Of course, he thinks she’s somehow working with the Master, and so, he’s quite taken back when she says it’s because of her brother.
He seeks your gift. Immortality <then, offering her neck to Quinlan in return for his help> — Louisa to Quinlan
You’d do that for your brother? — Quinlan
This is the part that really intrigues Quinlan. All of the almost 2000 years of his life, except for the brief time with his adoptive Mother, he’s known nothing but pain and misery. Humans trying to hurt other humans and certainly nowhere near the apparent love and devotion Louisa obviously has for her brother. Quinlan is certainly curious, and because of that, agrees to go with Louisa to see her brother for himself.
As soon as Quinlan sees Louisa’s brother (who also turns out to be her twin), he immediately recognizes his affliction. It’s the later stages of syphilis, and because it has now invaded his brain and is affecting his mind, there’s no hope of any kind of treatment (as a sidenote, this should also explain why the Thai woman appeared to be familiar with Louisa’s brother in the earlier flashback, as it’s likely he contracted the disease by frequenting such establishments). And, that’s why Louisa is so desperate and has turned to her brother’s stories of the dark arts and specifically, of the strigoi. Unfortunately, because Quinlan doesn’t carry the worm, there’s nothing he can do for Louisa’s brother even if he wanted to. Because of that, you’d think Quinlan would leave and be on his way. But, as we will see, he decides to stay. We may never be sure of the reasons why, but I do think one of them is the defining moment when Louisa’s daughter, Lydia, runs into the room and says she had a bad dream about a monster. Quinlan promptly turns away, hoping not to scare the girl any further with his appearance, but then, an amazing thing happens.
Welcome, Mr. Quinlan, to our home like a proper lady — Louisa to Lydia
Lydia then turns around, cracks a small smile, and curtsies him like she would anyone else. She shows absolutely no fear, which clearly astonishes Quinlan. This marks the beginning of what will become a very special and very beautiful relationship.
We don’t know exactly how much time has passed, but by the 3rd and final flashback, Louisa’s brother is very near death, and Quinlan is clearly living with them. It also becomes abundantly clear that Louisa has grown very fond of Quinlan — actually, I would say she has fallen in love with him. And, because of that love, she gives him one of the most precious gifts I’m sure he has ever known. You know, one of the recurring themes with Quinlan since we met him for the first time back in season 2 is his perception of himself as a monster. “A monster from the beginning” he tells Eph last season, and he’s constantly hiding his face and lurking in the shadows. But, what if he didn’t have to do that anymore? What if he could walk among people, without everyone staring, without all the whispering, without all the double-takes? That’s one of the gifts Louisa gives to Quinlan, and it’s one of the most mesmerizing, most beautiful scenes in the entire series.
Please. Will you indulge me? — Louisa to Quinlan
You are one strange creature — Quinlan to Louisa
As we may recall, in one of the earlier flashbacks, Louisa said she was quite good with stage make-up and for a while, could cover up the rash from her brother’s disease. With that, Louisa takes Quinlan’s hand, leads him to her bedroom, and in the next scene when Quinlan turns around, oh my God. Oh. My. God! When I screened the episode for the first time, this scene nearly took my breath away. With her impeccable skill, Louisa transforms Quinlan into the beautiful man that we all know he is. The best part is when Louisa turns Quinlan towards the mirror, and he sees the transformation with his own eyes.
You’re quite beautiful — Louisa to Quinlan
The following scene is probably the one that will cause the most buzz around the fandom, but it’s also the one that seems to answer some of the big, lingering questions about Quinlan’s physiology. For those familiar with the trilogy, you know Quinlan had a wife and an adoptive daughter, but it was also implied that even though Quinlan is a human/strigoi hybrid, he doesn’t have male genitalia and thus, can’t be intimate with a woman in that way. Well, when Louisa unbuttons her blouse, exposes her neck and then, lays on the bed, there’s a group of the fandom that I’m sure thought we were about to get that sex scene some have been speculating about. But, nope! While I’m sure Quinlan enjoyed the intimacy as it’s something he has never experienced, the scene doesn’t culminate with sex but instead with Quinlan drinking Louisa from her leg. Of course, we don’t know what happens next because it quickly switches to the funeral of Louisa’s brother, but the implication is drinking Louisa is Quinlan’s equivalent of sex — which is perfectly acceptable to Louisa because it’s obvious she loves him and because she seems to enjoy it anyways.
Now, isn’t that a beautiful story? I could watch it a 100 times (and probably will eventually!), and I’m certain I would tear up every single time. However, with the final moments of the 3rd flashback, we now know this love story is probably going to end with tragedy. After the funeral of Louisa’s brother, the head priest finds a coffin full of soil in the back of the church, and when he turns around, wait for it, wait for it….yep, it’s the Sardu Master who promptly drinks the priest and snaps his neck. The last time Quinlan chose humanity over his strigoi heritage was back with his adoptive Mother, and from the flashbacks in episode 3.03 “The Born,” we know how that turned out. Well, with Quinlan having found a family and someone to love, he’s once again put aside his strigoi legacy and chosen his human side, which I’m sure has enraged the Master. Stock up on that bourbon because you can be sure this isn’t going to end well.
Oh, and one last thing to ponder. These flashbacks are triggered by Charlotte’s (Rhona Mitra) kindness towards Quinlan, and her helping to secure blood for him from the locals who are assisting with the search for the nuke. These are happy memories, the good ones that Quinlan remembers and is associating with being accepted and treated kindly by Charlotte. Well, if things goes sideways (and the Sardu Master’s arrival really hints that they will), what event do you think will trigger flashbacks to that moment? Think about it. Yes, I do think we should be scared for Charlotte now.
First, and foremost, I want to say that this episode is spectacular, and it’s right up there with “White Light” as my favorite of the series. All 3 arcs are gripping and compelling, the choreography in all of the scenes is superb, and perhaps most importantly, the changes the writers made from the source material in the Quinlan flashbacks of his family in my opinion are nothing short of genius. GENIUS. I’m sure this may end up being a very unpopular opinion, especially among my readers who are die-hard fans of the trilogy, but I have thought about it for almost a week now, and it’s my objective opinion that the changes have actually made the story **better**. Let me explain.
For those who are trilogy virgins, in the books (as well as the “Mister Quinlan” comic-book series), Quinlan is given a Berber slave to take as a wife. The woman has a young daughter, and Quinlan ends up adopting her, becomes a farmer, and gives up his strigoi heritage for a life of normalcy with his wife and daughter. The story that is told from that is simple: Quinlan falls in love, has a family, and for the first time in his life, is happy. People, the story doesn’t have to take place in the time of the Roman Empire, and his wife certainly doesn’t have to be a slave and have brown skin. You are blind and very prejudicial if you think otherwise. Anyways, after I watched the episode for a 2nd time, the one part that really made me realize what a phenomenal job Carlton Cuse, Chuck Hogan and the writers did with the changes they made was the funeral scene of Louisa’s brother. Take a close look and tell me what you see.
You see many things here, but among them is a Quinlan who is accepted, who is loved, and who is happy. But, the big thing to note is thanks to Louisa’s amazing talent, he can now be a normal, functioning member of society. Assuming he marries Louisa like in the books, he can be a husband, a father, an upscale gentleman in London, England like any other man — no more hiding in the shadows, no more going out only at night so that no one sees his face. He’s, for the lack of a better word, normal, and for someone like Quinlan who has strived to be more human all his life, this must be like a dream come true.
Finally, the changing of the timeframe was yet another stroke of brilliance, and I certainly don’t think the year 1888 was chosen at random. Because of the time, the Sardu Master is the one Quinlan will be facing, and for those who are keeping track, this will be the very first time these 2 have interacted in the series. Of course, it also provided the writers the opportunity to bring back the wonderful Robert Maillet one last time, which the devoted fans who have watched since the very beginning I’m sure can appreciate. All in all, a big high five and fist bump to Carlton Cuse, Chuck Hogan, the entire writing team, and everyone else involved in the making of this fantastic episode — you did good. As in A+ good.
The Strain airs on Sunday at 10/9c on FX.
Critic Grade — A+
Random thoughts and observations:
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