Warning: Spoilers ahead for those who have not seen the season 2 finale
The Strain hasn’t surprised me too many times this season, but when the show does, it makes one hell of a rumble. Vaun’s horrific death in “Fort Defiance.” Eichhorst’s long, lost lust and secret past in “Dead End.” And, then, there’s tonight’s season 2 finale. Of all the surprises this season, this was some humdinger. I think most fans strongly suspected we were going to lose a main character, and for the past week or so, there have been running bets on social media on who would take a final bow and not make it to season 3. Ironically, the character who ultimately got axed was one that virtually no viewers suspected at all, which means, in the end, the writers did a stellar job in setting the storyline up. Bravo to the creative team for that! Fist-bump.
On the flip-side, the one death that was very much expected by the fans of the trilogy did not happen, thus leaving everything wide open on where the writers plan on taking us as we end this chapter and head into season 3.
NOTE TO SELF — NEVER, EVER MESS WITH STRIGOI KELLY’S KID OR MAN
Ever since Fet (Kevin Durand) and Dutch’s (Ruta Gedmintas) relationship hit the skids, there has been big hints that Fet may be moving on and has Nora (Mia Maestro) in his sights. His being in awe of Dr. Martinez with her quick thinking and abilities in “The Battle of Red Hook.” Nora’s touching Vasily’s arm at the beginning of tonight’s episode, as Eph (Corey Stoll) glares at them suspiciously (or perhaps jealously?). And, if you are familiar with the trilogy, this all shouldn’t be too surprising since Vasily and Nora end up together and eventually marry in the books. The writers did an impeccable job in setting up a future romance between the good doctor and the fan-favorite rat catcher, and so, very few thought the romance would be cut short by an untimely death. Not to mention, Fet and Dr. Martinez are the last 2 main characters standing at the end of book 3, and so, you’d be hard-pressed to find a fan who seriously thought either would get the shaft so early in the series. Well, I think we all learned a very harsh lesson with this finale — never say never, and no one — I mean no one — is safe on this show.
If you take a look at the forums and fan boards, you’ll see that most of the attention for the finale was focused on Setrakian and the Occido Lumen storyline. There was very little focus on Eph, Nora, and Zack attempting to leave the city, even though there has been 2 separate attacks by Kelly Goodweather (Natalie Brown) to reclaim her son. This turns out to be a grave mistake as that is where the vast majority of the danger was lying.
Unlike the books, where the massive train attack is achieved by a slew of strigoi latching onto the sides and top and breaking through the metal, the television version, in my opinion, is much more spectacular. With a horde of strigoi throwing themselves in front of the train, this causes an immediate derailment and fiery crash. Hot damn. And, can you take a wild guess as to whom is behind it? Well, it’s Strigoi Kelly of course!
You know, in the scene earlier in the season of Kelly crying on Eichhorst’s shoulder and saying “She’s replaced me,” (referring to Dr. Martinez) I had wondered if eventually there would be a confrontation between the 2, but then forgot about it. It just so happens that was an omen, because the jilted wife and former lover of Dr. Goodweather square off in the train tunnels with terrified Zack (Max Charles) looking on. To my surprise, Nora handles herself quite well, considering she learned how to fight these things literally just a few weeks prior. In fact, she gets some good stabs in at Kelly and was about to make the kill — but then, Zack cries out to Nora to stop. This distracts her long enough for Kelly to lunge her stinger at Nora and latch onto her wrist. Boy, if the fandom hated Zack before this episode, they sure as hell hated him now as he effectively just got Dr. Martinez killed.
But, as we know, Eph was behind them because he was in the train’s club car getting his booze fix when the crash occurred, and so, he shows up way too late. Our poor Nora is sucked half-dry and left to turn on the tracks, while Kelly walks away with Zack at the command of the Master. Well, shit. But, wait folks, because it gets worse — much worse. In a very touching moment, Nora understands her fate very clearly and knows all too well that if she lives, she will turn and seek out those she cares the most about — Eph and Zack. She explains this to Eph, and tells him that it is certainly something she can’t let happen. Then, in the mother of all tear-jerkers, she flips her sword over on the live Third Rail, and Eph can do nothing but watch as Nora is electrocuted and her lifeless body falls on the tracks. Sigh. RIP Nora Martinez.
This trip started as a hopeful one with Eph, Nora, and Zack on their way to Washington D.C. — and it ended in tragedy with Eph surrounded by death and all alone on those train tracks. Now that seriously blows. Eph, all I have to say is perhaps you should take a break from relationships, because every woman you hook up with dies!
For the average viewer, this may have been a tragedy and for some quite surprising. But, for the fans of the trilogy? Well, this is**huge**. As I had mentioned before, Fet and Nora are the last 2 main characters standing at the end of book 3. So, basically, they just killed off one of the 2 survivors of this apocalypse, which I’m sure will send a shockwave throughout the fandom and raise questions of how this shocking event will change the course of of the story going forward.
MR. QUINLAN’S RALLYING CRY AS THE TEAM PREPARES FOR BATTLE
After Gus (Miguel Gomez) and Angel (Joaquin Cosio) succeed in getting Quinlan (Rupert Penry-Jones) “20 hungry wolves” for his new sun-hunting “dream team” in last week’s episode, I knew a face-to-face meet between the dhampir and the group wouldn’t be far behind, and I knew it wouldn’t go over very well — at least initially. I mean, think about it. How would you react to learning your leader looks just like the enemy? Uh huh.
Well, it plays out about as expected, with one guy showing his ass a little more than the others, calling Quinlan a “freak” and putting a gun in his face. Big mistake. The only thing this got the poor schmuck was a snapped neck, with the rest of the group quickly backing off. So what do you think Quinlan does next? Does he put the fear of God in the remainder of the team, or does he show he’s a true leader and inspire everyone and make them actually want to fight with him?
Remember, Quinlan is nearly 2000 years old and has led troops in countless wars all the way back to the Roman Empire. He wouldn’t be standing here if he didn’t know how to lead an army, and he knows that troops are much more likely to succeed in battle if they have a good leader and truly believe in the cause. To do that, he needs to convince them all that they are fighting on the right side and most importantly, that he’s on their side as well regardless of what he looks like. To that end, Quinlan succeeds with flying colors, giving one of the most fantastic, inspirational speeches I’ve heard in a long time.
Gentlemen, human life is fleeting. I’ve watched many men perish — good and bad. The act itself, the dying, is the same. What distinguishes the honorable from the dishonorable is how, in the few most important moments in life, they conducted themselves. How would you men like to be remembered? As human animals, marginalized, locked away in cages? Or, as warriors. Fighters of the highest order. Today, you fight for one tribe — humankind. It no longer matters what color your skin is, all that matters is the color of your blood. Red vs. white. Today, you will define who you are. Today, you will spill white blood & change the future. Are you with me! — Quinlan
Damn. That is one battle cry. With the exception of the big fight scene on the Third Rail and Nora’s heart-breaking death, I felt this scene was one of the best of the episode. Of course, **any** scene featuring Mr. Quinlan is magnificent by default as the the fan-favorite steals the show every single time, and my only hope is he’ll have a much bigger presence going into season 3.
TEAM SETRAKIAN + TEAM QUINLAN UNITED
As I stated in my Advance Preview, the outcome of the auction for the Lumen isn’t all that surprising. After all, if Palmer (Jonathan Hyde) and Eichhorst (Richard Sammel) had won, all hope would be lost and the story would effectively be over, right? Now, that wouldn’t be fun! So, yeah, Setrakian (David Bradley) wins and at a price of a whopping 323 million smackeroos (10X the price the book went for in the trilogy BTW), and the scene plays out quite similar to that in the books — but with a twist or 2.
First, the sole reason Eichhorst loses the auction is because Palmer decides to listen to Coco (who, BTW, has become quite foolish and annoying ever since she was gifted with “the white”) and cut off his funds, while demanding that both he and the Master start respecting him. In the books, the Master responds to the betrayal by killing Palmer, but here, the Master decides, instead, to take what is most important to Palmer — Coco. Unlike Nora, this death I saw coming a mile away, and in fact, I suspected from day 1 that Coco’s main purpose were to be a replacement for Palmer in this very scene.
However, in my opinion, the most important thing that comes out of this train wreck (no pun intended!) of an auction is the converging of 2 groups to form THE ultimate dream team — Team Setrakian + Team Quinlan. Oh, hell, yeah! As would be expected, Eichhorst retaliates and tries to take back the Lumen and this time, he has strigoi “friends” and lots of them. Luckily, though, as Fet points out, “someone else joins the party,” and that someone is Quinlan and his team.
Quinlan and Co. are able to neutralize the threat and send Eichhorst on his way, but there’s still the matter of the Lumen. As Q had suspected (I told you Quinlan must have been a good “student” of human behavior!), Setrakian refuses to hand over the Lumen, and just as Quinlan had promised, he vows to kill Abraham if he doesn’t. You know, Quinlan may have age over Setrakian by nearly 19 centuries, but man, Abraham does seem like the wiser of the 2 most of the time. Here, he proves it and offers up a compromise, one that will bring the 2 groups together and have them work towards a common goal.
The Ancients will destroy this book, rather than to allow its secrets to be revealed. But, when they do, they will destroy the 1 item in this world the Master desires — Setrakian
But as long as this book exists — Quinlan
It is bait. You want the Master? He will come for whomever possesses it — Setrakian
Check out the look on Quinlan’s face at this moment. Just like when Q realizes that Setrakian had led him to the Master’s resting place in “The Born,” he has respect and admiration for the old man once again. Had it not been for the fact that Quinlan is, you know, a half strigoi, I honestly believe these 2 men would have been good friends.
Now, THIS was some finale. First, there’s Nora’s death. While she isn’t the most important in the trilogy, she does survive until the very end, and so, obviously this will change the course of the story in ways we may not completely understand just yet. Second, Eldridge f*cking Palmer survives! If tonight’s episode had gone down like it had in the books, Palmer would have lost his head (literally!), courtesy of the Master. However, the writers for the show decided to spare him, which tells me they have much bigger plans for the character. And, of course, my personal favorite — Quinlan and his Mexican bandits teaming up with Setrakian and Fet. I’ve been secretly hoping for this even before the new Quinlan was introduced, and now that it’s happened, I expect nothing less than big things to come for this ragtag team come season 3.
There’s only 1 bad thing to report here — we’ve got to wait another 9 effin’ months to see what happens next. Son. Of. A. Bitch. Guillermo del Toro, Chuck Hogan, and all those sadistic bastards!
I’ll be talking to Executive Producer and Showrunner Carlton Cuse on Tuesday on this shocking turn of events and what to expect going into the new season, and so, feel free to post any questions you have in the below Comments section. Until we meet again, everyone!
The Strain returns for season 3 in the summer of 2016.
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