The Strain Recap: Rest in Hairpiece

L-R: Kevin Durand as Vasiliy Fet, Ruta Gedmintas as Dutch Velders. Michael Gibson/FX
The Strain
The Strain
Episode Title
Quick and Painless
Editor’s Rating

When the world is being ripped from your control, you hold on to whatever choice you have left. In a vampire apocalypse, that could mean the choice to determine how and when you die after being infected, or whether to be by your loved ones’ side as they grow ill, or watch as they’re quarantined for the greater good. Or if you’re among the one percent, you might elect to go on dining at Michelin star restaurants or slow dancing with beautiful young assistants as the city burns outside your penthouse window. As for the latter’s preference, Palmer puts it all too perfectly when he quips to Coco that “denial is a special privilege of the rich.” And in doing so, he neatly sums up this season’s cautionary messages about ignoring the plight of maligned and mistreated populations.

It’s hard to tell what Ms. Marchand makes of all of this. Is she a rogue anti-vampire crusader manipulating a smitten old man? Or is she more like Fitzwilliam, loyal at first, but bound to see through his self-interest and, per the theme, choose a different path? Perhaps she really is ripe to be groomed for evil. Maybe she’ll even take out Eldritch so she can assume the power position, and rival Councilwoman Faraldo for baddest female figurehead in the land. Whatever her motives or machinations, let’s just hope she keeps any smoochy-time between her and Palmer behind closed doors.

Speaking of friends with benefits, Fet and Dutch have cooled off their romance a bit the past couple of weeks, focusing instead on the business of battening down Red Hook against a siege of strigoi. After an initial misunderstanding with Captain Kowalski (Paulino Nunes), Fet’s been sprung from his holding room (see ya later, Roselda!). That’s thanks to Nora, who in return helps Faraldo avoid quarantines by conducting quickie infection inspections. The councilwoman, who’s been militant in her leadership, loses composure when it turns out her nephew, Mikey, is crawling with worms and has to be put down. She may yet work with Nora and the gang to find a forceful, but compassionate approach to the crisis. Whether Kowalski can keep playing nice with Vasiliy and Dutch is a different story, but for the moment, they seem to mutually appreciate each other’s skill sets and insights into fighting off the undead.

The biggest obstacles between them and extermination might in fact be the Master’s littlest charges. Those feelers, or “spider kids” as Kowalski indelicately christens them, are fast and furious and, up to this point, an unknown quantity to our lead players. Fet and Dutch get acquainted soon enough as they stake out and slay a tiny monster scurrying about behind a bathroom wall. For Fet, this is basically his wet-dream adversary: creatures with sophisticated vampire function and the sneaky mobility of vermin. And they’re also just a lot of fun to watch flit around and chirp for Kelly’s approval. They’re like those homicidal kids from The Brood with some of Cha-Ka from Land of the Lost’s DNA.

All of this makes you wonder why Eph is so insistent that Zach kibosh his “magical thinking” about Kelly coming back from the dead. After all, he’s on his way to Washington, D.C., with a satchel full of anti-virus that could stave off a plague of vampires being omnisciently instructed by a centuries-old personification of inhumanity. It’s not as if we’re dealing with too many absolutes here. Couldn’t hurt to encourage the kid’s fantasies a bit. Or be less of a dick. Whichever is likeliest to keep his son close, but also help him mature through this epidemic. Choices, choices.

Lo and behold, Fitzwilliam has made up his mind, having hopped the ferry back to Red Hook to battle bad guys with Abe (not before needlessly stalking Abe for a couple of city blocks). There’s something tragic about Reggie, and you can’t help but think he’ll pay the ultimate sacrifice for his noble commitment to correcting his former boss’s wrongs. His righteous stance could be too little too late, and he may ultimately confront and accept consequences for standing idly by all those years. We’ll cross that bridge (be it the Brooklyn, Manhattan or Williamsburg, or we can just keep it in the metaphorical realm) when we get there, but at present Abe will take any edge on Palmer he can get. Now the big unknown is — whose inside connects will land them the Lumen first? Abe’s got Alonso Creem on the case, while Palmer’s got some inside dirt on its whereabouts from unsavory Cardinal MacNamara (Tom Kemp). Guys like the Cardinal and Palmer have no taste for, as Palmer puts it, “aesthetics.” They pursue objects that represent others’ loss and their preeminent survival in equal measure. For Creem, it’s only commerce. For Abe, finding the Lumen is a key to restoring goodness and putting restless ghosts to bed.

Fret not, Professor Setrakian, as more reinforcements appear to be on the way. A plane lands in a restricted airspace in New Jersey. The crew claims their “client” has headed off in the other direction. We see him emerge on a roadside, cloaked in a hood and appearing onscreen with all the potential and intrigue of Michonne’s initial moments on The Walking Dead (though, hopefully, he’ll end up more compelling). We see his face, and it’s that of a vampire, but like Vaun and his late army of Ancients protectors, there’s a different light in his eyes, something that suggests consciousness and cunning. He steps inside a black sedan where his driver, Eve (Miranda Edwards), is waiting. They speed off in the snow.

Could this be the Quinlan we’ve heard so much about, the Master’s son who defied his unholy father and lives and dies by his own ethos? (It is, and in the form of Rupert Penry-Jones.) And if so, maybe he can be that hero Zach’s been looking for, and save him from Kelly’s approach as she zeroes in, using her to get closer to dear old dad. At minimum, his arrival hopefully means we get to revisit those ferocious Ancients, who’ve gotta be pretty hungry by now. The Strain has found its stride as a city panics in the face of ruin and uncertainty. Contrary to Kowalski’s dictate, there is no standard procedure anymore, but the chaos sure is fun to watch.

Apart from all that:

  • RIP Corey Stoll’s toupee. You were an ally and a friend. Though sadly, it most definitely won’t grow back.
  • RIP (we think?) Everett Barnes. You really didn’t think you were just gonna waltz away and get the cops, did you?
  • Bit of a stereotypical portrait of a Chelsea gay bar. And nerdy-hacker dude.
  • I’m far less distracted by the Toronto-as-New York stuff this season. That has to indicate I’m more caught up in the action.
  • This guy’s really excited tonight.