Warning: Trilogy spoilers ahead
As I had mentioned in my Advance Preview, the past couple episodes of The Strain have been a slow build for Mr. Quinlan in my eyes. “Quick and Painless” gave us only a quick glimpse at the beloved dhampir, but those brief 3 minutes made clear that a formidable presence had just arrived on the scene. Then, last week, that opening scene? Hot damn! All that sass at the roundtable with the Ancients. The Ancients may be the head honchos by virtue of who they are, but I think we all could see who’s really in charge just from that single scene.
Well, all of this was making way for tonight’s big episode. Appropriately titled “The Born,” (which is explained by the end of the hour) this episode is focused so much on Q and his backstory that I’ve been dubbing it “The Quinlan Show.” No, seriously, except for a few very minor romantic arcs, the episode belongs to Quinlan — the character, his past life, and his obsession to destroy and kill the lead vamp we know as the Master.
The episode opens with the first of 2 fantastic Quinlan (Rupert Penry-Jones) flashbacks. For those who are not familiar with the trilogy or the comics, Quinlan is nearly 2000 years-old, and while not all of his history is known, we do know he was a Roman gladiator for a period of time. The first flashback is actually the opening scene, and while it lasts for less than 5 minutes, it is definitely one of the most memorable, and it tells us volumes about Quinlan. And, of course, we get to see a shirtless Quinlan with his beautiful, chiseled physique which I’m sure all the fangirls flipped out over (actually, my ears are still ringing from all their screams when Q enters the fighting arena!).
So, what do we learn? First, as most of us expected, Quinlan is one daunting bad-ass warrior. Holy crap. He doesn’t even budge when his opponent strikes him and only casually glances at his bleeding shoulder as if it’s nothing at all. But, more importantly, we learn a great deal about Quinlan the man in these scenes. Notice how once his opponent goes down and he is expected to kill him, you can tell Quinlan doesn’t want to and that he has compassion for the man. Of course, the rules of the game say that what the crowd — as well as the Roman rules — wants, that’s what goes.
It’s not I who wants this outcome. Mankind demands it — Quinlan
We are then introduced to another character from the trilogy who is important to Quinlan’s back story, Senator Sertorius, and who sponsors him as a gladiator and introduces him to the life as a Roman soldier. Being a half-breed, Q appears to embrace his human heritage much more and is very eager to learn. Whether he truly wishes to help Quinlan or he’s merely curious, Senator Sertorius is more than happy to help and suggests to Quinlan that if he truly wishes to learn human nature (i.e. human savagery), he should become a Roman soldier. Of course, the funny thing about this is while Quinlan is only half human, he seems to be more human than all the rest, including Sertorius.
I’m a student of human instinct and behavior. I find I learn best as their instrument — Quinlan
If you want to learn of man’s true nature, I can offer you a complete education. On the field of battle — Senator Sertorius
This is the first step in Quinlan’s “education,” and as those who have read the trilogy know, Sertorius offers Q something else later on that will change his life forever and ultimately put him on the relentless mission to hunt and kill the Master.
And, that brings me to the 2nd Quinlan flashback. I’ve been watching the chatter on social media, and it seems that a good deal of the fandom had hoped we would get a 2nd flashback to the days of the Roman Empire, but it appears the writers decided to spread that love out over multiple episodes, or possibly multiple seasons (which I personally think is an excellent idea), and instead, we are fast-forwarded all the way to 1873 in Gorrim, Albania. Of course, by now the Roman Empire is ancient history and whatever transpired between then and now put Quinlan on his never-ending quest to find the Master. Quinlan finds himself in the same village Jusef Sardu was from, and not too long after he had been turned and transformed into the Master. Unfortunately, the village had already been labeled as “damned,” the remaining survivors had scattered, which also means the Master was likely gone too.
This tale brought me to this place, but now, I fear I’m too late — Quinlan
And, he is. The Master is long gone, and the only thing he finds is that silver cane. Well, almost. The trip isn’t a total loss, as what Quinlan discovers in the chief strigoi’s liar tells him that the Master doesn’t necessarily see Quinlan as just another enemy he can easily squash. The Master fears him.
I suppose that’s why he left these here. To taunt me. But, your vision inspires a deeper concern. Your fear — Quinlan
While these flashbacks are, of course, fantastic and definitely serve as one of the highlights of the episode, what are equally amazing are the scenes where Quinlan meets up with Fet (Kevin Durand) and Setrakian (David Bradley) for the first time. Using the information that Fitzwilliams had provided, Vasily and Abraham are led to one of Palmer’s factories in the Bronx. Well, Quinlan made good on his request to the Ancients in the last episode, because he got the Professor’s name from them and followed him to the factory. For those who have a penchant for details, you may recognize this place as where Eichhorst took the feelers (and the school bus confirms it), which means those little boogers, as well as the Master, are likely nearby.
At this moment, we have, hands-down, one of most intense, kick-butt fight scenes of the entire series courtesy of Mr. Quinlan who has to step up after Fet and Setrakian demonstrate they don’t know what the f*ck they’re doing in fighting these feelers. One is shish-kabob’ed against the wall. Another has its stinger ripped out, and yet another is sliced in 2 while getting the bone sword through the brain. All of this in under 15 seconds. Oh, and Quinlan doesn’t stop there. Out comes 2 automatic weapons to take out the rest. The fans wanted a big Quinlan fight scene — well, I think they just got it.
But, Quinlan doesn’t miss a beat and immediately tells Setrakian that he’s there for him. What’s more, he congratulates Abraham on his victory of wounding the Master and also the fact that he just stumbled on the Master’s nesting ground.
The Ancients gave me your name, Professor Setrakian. I followed you here — Quinlan
Who are you? – Setrakian
My name is Quinlan. And you and I have something very much in common — Quinlan
What’s that? — Setrakian
We are both hunting the Master. I see you’ve been hunting the Master for some time — Quinlan
Most of my life. You? — Setrakian
All of mine. [The Ancients] told me about a mortal, who succeeded in hunting down and wounding the Master. The Dark Lord has taken on various forms over the centuries but always by choice. No one has ever forced him to transform. Until now — Quinlan
Notice how Quinlan bows his head towards Setrakian. That shows respect. Abraham may be a human, but human or not, he was able to do what Quinlan, nor his best hunters, could not for centuries — locate the Master. Yes, the Master is in this building, and we are about to see the confrontation we’ve all been anticipating. Between Setrakian and the Master, and even bigger — between Quinlan and the Master. This is the meeting that Quinlan crossed continents and spent centuries waiting for, and it was about to happen. It is also here that we finally learn the big issue (or at least one of them) Quinlan has with the Master, and just like the Roman gladiator flashback, it reveals a very human side of the dhampir.
What a team you two make. United and crippled by a lifelong hatred — The Master
This human embarrassed you. Now, I’m about to destroy you — Quinlan
On the contrary. I’ll make you scream out in agony, as I did your mother — The Master
What this tells us is first, Quinlan was not created but was born a strigoi (thus the title of the episode), but second, the Master is filled with nothing but hatred and evil as we can see the pure joy he is taking opening up and pouring salt on old wounds for Quinlan. And, of course, this elicits the very human emotions of sadness, anger and revenge from Quinlan, causing him to charge the Master. EXCELLENT scene. The only bad part is Fet has to come along and f*ck the entire thing up. Per Setrakian’s orders, Vasily attempts to destroy the building with his favorite boom-boom toys, which does nothing but bring down the ceiling and create a barrier between Quinlan and the Master. There goes Quinlan’s chance. Quinlan is not pleased to say the least and leaves Setrakian there standing. Something tells me those 2 won’t be working together again for a while.
But there’s a bit of good news that comes out of that train wreck at Palmer’s factory. Quinlan may be ditching Setrakian for now, but 10 bucks says Gus is next on his list to find. Now that is one meeting I personally can’t wait to see.
There you have it. In my opinion, Quinlan was this episode, and it they had cut out all of the scenes not related to the character, the episode would still have been perfect. However, the writers decided to inject a couple of minor romantic arcs, which for me, only served as a very unwelcome, unwanted distraction from Quinlan. However, being that they were so minor, let’s see how quickly I can summarize them for you. Dutch (Ruta Gedmintas) is finally able to locate her lesbian BFF, Nikki (surprise! surprise!), which means bye-bye to Vasily … for now. Well, until helpless Nikki becomes strigoi chow which should be soon, because, hey, we have to have some angst on this show. And, over at Stoneheart, that Vampire Viagra finally pays off when Palmer (Jonathan Hyde) gets to dance a **real** dance with the lovely Coco Marchant. The only thing of any consequence that comes out of all this sappy, romantic mess is a lonely-hearts meet-up between Dr. Goodweather and Fet and the reveal that Eph’s new plan is to kill Eldritch Palmer (Really? We saw how that went for Vaun and Co). And, that is it. And, I don’t care. Any questions? Now, please excuse me while I go heave.
No, really, aside from the latter “disruptions,” this was a fantastic episode and perfect in every way. The Quinlan flashbacks were magnificent, very well-executed, and holy hell, that fight scene with the feelers and the confrontation with the Master? If anyone had any doubts about the new Quinlan or Rupert Penry-Jones‘ ability to bring a true rendition of the fan favorite to the small screen, I think those doubts were put to rest tonight. Also, keep in mind that this is a very new and different role for Rupert, and to be able to pull if off and at the same time, earn the love and admiration of the fandom in 3 short weeks, that should tell you something about the amazing talent we have here.
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