The time has come, fans of “The Strain,” to talk about Quinlan.
First, he’s the most compelling person, place or thing in this episode, dubbed “The Born.” And second, we have some catching up to do.
Let me preface with a small but important digression: co-creator Guillermo del Toro and showrunner Carlton Cuse have been having a bit of fun with fans of the bestselling trilogy on which this thriller is based.
That’s the nice way to put it. More bluntly, they’ve been yanking us around, making us think that vigilante vampire Vaun, who first showed himself in the first season, was the much-ballyhooed Quinlan from “The Strain” novels.
When pressed about it in interviews, the writer-producers were cagey, intentionally so. They simply would not be pinned down on the identity of this dark-world double agent.
Then, Vaun introduced himself early this season — while kidnapping street thug Gus Elizado (Miguel Gomez) and vampire hunter Abraham Setrakian (David Bradley) — causing us geeky book readers to ask, “Who the hell is Vaun?”
Chatter erupted around the genre blogs and various social media. Bandy about your theories, fans, but here’s what I think: The drama’s creators hadn’t decided who the character was or what his arc would be when they initially threw him on screen.
Then they flash-fried him in a bath of UV lights, just as fans had really bonded with him. Bye, bye, Vaun! And also, boo!
It should come as no surprise, then, that the actor playing Quinlan has said he was anxious about stepping into the role and replacing a hard-core warrior who’d quickly become a fan favorite.
“The Born” may help his cause, with Quinlan (Rupert Penry-Jones) going full Tarantino on some Feelers and smack talking the Master to his (new) face. I’m already warming to this half-breed, accepting this as just another head-scratching twist in the bizarro ride. Quinlan seems tougher than Vaun — get a load of that femur-sword! — and he’s chattier, which should provide some decent backstory.
He says he wants to go it alone, but no one believes that. He and the Scoobies will make a powerful team in the Vampocalypse 2015 battle.
Elsewhere in this hour, Fet gets dumped (unceremoniously), Eldritch Palmer gets propositioned (romantically) and Dr. Ephraim Goodweather gets drunk (predictably). Those developments are a bit of a snooze. Soooo, back to Quinlan?
We get some of his origin story via flashback to ancient Rome, when he was dubbed “the barbarian gladiator” and the “night demon,” who defeated every man and beast thrown his way. He has monster blood and a human mother, though he’s sometimes called the Master’s son. Important aside: Vampires can replicate, but they can’t procreate.
Here’s how he came to be: the Master infected Quinlan’s mother while she was pregnant, and she gave birth to a half-bloodsucker half-human baby who later became a legendary soldier. With severe Daddy issues.
Quinlan has been searching for the Master all his life, with nothing but destruction on his mind. He’s sentient and articulate, able to move freely in daylight but still dependent on human blood.
The learned Setrakian, a former professor and occult scholar, thought Quinlan was a myth but should’ve known better. Honestly, his ignorance here is a little tough to swallow, since he’s the guy who separates fact from fiction and knows unequivocally that ghost stories are real. At any rate, he comes face to face with Quinlan as he and Vasiliy Fet (Kevin Durand) are tromping through Palmer’s industrial warehouse.
They’ve just seen the “nursery,” the loamy spot where the Master hatched the Feelers. And they are fighting off some of the little spider kids, which Fet not-so-affectionately calls “little monkeys,” when Quinlan steps in.
And he makes quite an impression with an action flick-style gun-in-each-hand assault. He fells a couple Feelers, bisecting one that refuses to die. He finishes off the creepy kid as it drags its upper half along the floor in what may be one of the grossest scenes of the season.
He’s up to speed on the current war against the Master, he tells Setrakian and Fet, and he knows where the king of all vamps is nesting. It’s right there in that very warehouse. Dun, dun, dun!
Scurrying ensues. Fet, armed as always with dynamite, sets about imploding the place. Quinlan wants only to confront and destroy the Master, who’s now firmly ensconced in his new goth rocker body.
When the two meet, Quinlan can’t resist a few questions and jabs. He wants to know why the Master would risk exposing himself with this extremely high-profile plague. And he gets in a dig about the Master being schooled, a.k.a. daylighted and singed, by Setrakian. The Master, in turn, says mean things about Quinlan’s mom. As previously stated, the Master is a massive jerk.
Just as the insults are about to turn to action, Fet does his explosion thing, which turns out to be fairly anticlimactic and not at all cinematic. The Master gets away, and Quinlan is seriously miffed. That’s when he gives Setrakian and Fet the “I don’t need you” speech. Sure, sure.
As for the rest of the Scoobies: Dutch Velders (Ruta Gedmintas) makes a run to her old apartment and finds her roomie/former lover hiding out with a twisted ankle and a sob story. Fet’s along for this trip, and he isn’t at all happy to see Nikki.
What does this mean for his budding relationship with Dutch? He finds out quickly when Dutch brings Nikki back to Scooby HQ and sticks like glue to the gal instead of going on the Master-hunting adventure. Sad trombone music for Fet. Looks like that hookup party is over.
Side note: It’s kind of hilarious that everyone in the Good Guy crew recognizes Nikki as “the girl who ran away” from the bodega vampire siege in season 1. No one is subtle about bringing up that cowardly move, either.
And speaking of unsubtle, Coco Marchand (Lizzie Brochere) slips into a slinky backless jumpsuit and puts the moves on Palmer (Jonathan Hyde). This has been building for some time and seemed to tip over the edge with a helicopter ride above Manhattan. Nothing like a citywide pandemic to fire up the libido? I can’t ponder that bedroom scene any longer, so, please, let’s move on. Suffice to say there are a lot of firsts for Palmer these days. Ick.
Eph, wounded in Washington by a Stoneheart assassin and dispossessed of the bioweapon, makes his way back to Brooklyn with a slug in his shoulder. He also has a bunch of whisky shots in his belly, courtesy of his stopover at the neighborhood watering hole.
Nora (Mia Maestro) is there to console and heal him, of course, but he’s despondent. He knows now that Palmer has been “five steps ahead” since the infected plane landed at JFK, and he learns from Nora that Kelly is closer than ever to snagging her “dear one,” Zach.
The off-the-wagon Eph has been much more entertaining than the sober one, but he’s kind of sloppy and sad here. One thing we know for sure, from a conference call that Stoll recently had with reporters: “He does not sober up the rest of the season,” Stoll said unequivocally.
But the disgraced former CDC epidemiologist digs deep because there’s so much at stake for him in the battle against the Master and his strigoi contagion.
“He’s lost more in the last week than he has in his entire life,” Stoll said during the call. “He’s always been a very alpha guy and very type A. He’s been knocked down numerous pegs and is admitting such, but he still can’t let go on either front, so it’s personal, but it’s also professional.”
Over more cocktails at the bar with Fet — just two boys crying in their beer — he makes a critical decision. “I’m going to kill Eldritch Palmer,” he says to his fellow fighter.
Now we’re talking.