‘The Strain’ recap: Hello, Lumen; goodbye, Nora in ‘Night Train’
If there’s one character that’s been consistently levelheaded, caring, loyal and fierce throughout the second season of “The Strain,” it’s Dr. Nora Martinez. She finds her place in the human resistance, gets out from under Ephraim Goodweather’s thumb and becomes a fairly formidable warrior in her own right.
And now she’s gone, and it really hurts.
She’s not the only casualty in this finale episode, dubbed “Night Train,” but her death is the devastating one. And it’s as far off book as anything that takes place during this sophomore season, which, as I’ve pointed out before, strays from the bestselling trilogy source material in ways both minute and wholesale.
Nora (the always lovely Mia Maestro) protects Eph’s son, Zach -- forever to be referred to as “sniveling, double-crossing stupid little brat” -- and pays the ultimate price for her bravery.
In a dank subway tunnel, she battles mightily with Mama Goodweather, the world’s most single-minded strigoi, and wounds her in the process, but ultimately falls to the stinger.
Instead of waiting to turn into a vampire, the dreaded outcome of the infectious lashing, Nora electrocutes herself on the third rail before the undead-roaming-the-earth chapter can begin.
Should we know, fellow fans, that she’s doomed when Eph professes his love and takes her hand as they try to flee the plague-ridden city? She softens, and it looks for a split second as though they can be together again.
Foreshadowing in its most unkind form.
There are few clues, meantime, to tell us that Coco Marchand could meet an untimely end, but I hadn’t been too focused on any of them. That’s because Coco (Lizzie Brocheré) is a smug social climber who could go the righteous Fitzwilliam route but chooses to stay curled around billionaire Eldritch Palmer’s arm.
And now she’s gone, and it doesn’t hurt even a little.
Palmer (Jonathan Hyde) feels differently, of course, and he has revenge in his heart, no doubt. (He also has her worm-infested heart, literally, in his hand). But when will this megalomaniac ever learn? The Master wins, and he loses. Poor, sad old (newly single) fool.
The big season-ender question: Is there hope at the end of this hour? Is there a chance that the Scooby gang, in some iteration, can defeat the Master and free New York from Vampocalypse 2015?
If so, it lies with a couple of Mexican gangbangers, a half-breed strigoi, an aged professor and a rat catcher on a boat. And no, that’s not a setup for a joke. But it’s a decent launch for Season 3, which fortunately has the green light but unfortunately doesn’t happen until next summer.
First, we get a glimpse at that “rendering” plant in Throggs Necks that Thomas Eichhorst has been so diligently building for weeks. There are giant hooks hanging from the ceiling, an incinerator on the way and cages are far as the eye can see. What kind of animals will you be butchering here, the foreman asks Eichhorst.
“Sheep,” he says brightly.
Oh, no. (Geeky aside: We’re back on book with this terrifying development.)
Over on Roosevelt Island, the auction for the ancient text turns out to be a much more civilized affair that I imagined. There’s Champagne! But only Alonso Creem sips it, while Setrakian exchanges “pleasantries” with Eichhorst (the incredible Richard Sammel).
I love that both Setrakian (David Bradley) and Palmer never miss an opportunity to twist the figurative knife into Eichhorst’s gut about the Master’s new host. (The Master chose to inhabit a third-rate pop star instead of second-in-command Eichhorst, and his nemeses never let him forget it.)
On the way to Creem’s lair, Setrakian makes it clear that he and Vasiliy Fet (Kevin Durand) will win the book, steal it or die trying. Fet, who’s spent the morning Mad Maxifying their transportation, is less than thrilled with that plan.
As it turns out, the bidding is tense for only a few minutes because Eichhorst’s access to Palmer’s fat Swiss bank account disappears just when the numbers get outrageous. Eichhorst thinks he’s won the Lumen, allegedly the key to worldwide vampire eradication, but Palmer publicly emasculates him by yanking funds.
Think that defiant act will go unanswered? Heavens no. Eichhorst is furious, later confronting Palmer and summoning the Master.
Palmer and Coco, obviously not realizing how precarious their positions are, demand respect from the Master. Equal footing? Even-steven partnership? “The white,” that liquid vampire vitamin, anytime they want it? If all those conditions are met, they’ll swipe the Lumen from Setrakian.
The Master won’t hear any of it. He has no partners or equals. And now he’s spitting mad, so to speak. He unleashes his stinger and drains Coco while Eichhorst makes Palmer watch. Talk about a stone heart.
Back to the good guys: It’s been a lifelong quest for Setrakian, but can it possibly be that easy that he simply walks off with the silver-bound Lumen, bought with $323 million in gold from the Ancients? Nope. He and Fet are attacked before they can make it to safety, with Eichhorst and a swarm of strigoi battering their fortified bread truck.
Good thing Gus (Miguel Gomez), Quinlan (Rupert Penry-Jones), Angel (Joaquin Cosio in a lucha libre mask!) and their mercenary band of armed-to-the-teeth convicts had already planned to snatch the book.
They show up at just the right moment and station themselves in prime position to machine gun dozens of vampires. Fet does a fine job of defending his crashed vehicle, but he’s greatly outnumbered.
There are some intense action sequences here, including an awesome camera angle that looks like a first-person shooter video game. But the real attraction is the Quinlan-Eichhorst face-off. These are by far the two baddest dudes in the series, and this is the first time they’ve come head to head.
Eichhorst recognizes Quinlan as “The Born,” and speaks to him as the Master, promising that, “Nothing will hinder the rise of my power.”
Quinlan begs to differ and tries to gun down Eichhorst. That never works.
With the pack of strigoi now littering the ground and Eichhorst on the run, Gus goes to wrest the book from Fet and Setrakian. But the truck’s empty, and Fet has left his usual calling card – dynamite! – to give them time to slip out a trap door and scurry down the nearest manhole.
Slogging through sewers, the two make it back to street level and to the water. Where? Doesn’t matter. There are boats, and Fet and Setrakian plan to hijack one. Close on their heels, though, are Gus, Angel and Quinlan.
Setrakian lays some truths on Quinlan. The Ancients will destroy the book, so he can’t turn it over to them as promised, even though they paid for it. And he reads Quinlan, knowing that the half-breed doesn’t want the Lumen destroyed either.
The book is bait, he says, and the Master will chase whomever has it.
Quinlan, saddled with centuries of daddy issues, wants only to end the Master. He realizes Setrakian may finally give him his best chance.
Is this a temporary or fragile-at-best alliance? Maybe. But they all get on a stolen boat together and sail away, even though they have no idea where they’re going.
Speaking of hightailing it, or not…
I knew with complete certainty that Eph (Corey Stoll), Nora and Zach would never make it out of the city. A quick trip to Georgia to drop the kid at grandma’s house? A short pop-by in Washington to pick up the bioweapon? Ridiculous, Eph! Kelly will not allow it, and to prove her unhealthy attachment, she brings a horde of vampires to clog the train tunnel. (Another crazy good scene.)
Eph is looking for a drink in the club car when the train derails, so he’s separated from Nora and Zach. He misses the whole confrontation between his ex-wife and his lover, somewhere below Penn Station, in which Zach plays the pivotal “idiot” role.
You have one job, Zach. Run away, like Nora says!
But he doesn’t, because he still somehow thinks Kelly is his mom, not a night creature. And he thinks he can break up the life-and-death fight in front of him by yelling, “Stop!”
Nora’s distracted, Kelly’s determined. Nora ends up on the ground, writhing in pain from Kelly’s sting on the arm. She can only watch as Kelly reunites with Zach and leads him away.
Eph makes it just in time to learn that Nora has white worms crawling under her skin and Zach is lost. Nora can’t bear even a minute as a strigoi, so she lays her sword on the third rail and fries herself in a horrible but selfless final act.
Setrakian’s voice-over ends the episode, as it did in Season 1, saying the Good Guys have “one last chance” to win back the world. They’ll have to be as cold, ruthless and savage as the Master without turning into monsters themselves. Can they do it?
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