The Strain Recap: Trouble’s Lumen

Corey Stoll as Ephraim Goodweather. Photo: Michael Gibson/FX
The Strain
The Strain
Episode Title
Fallen Light
Editor’s Rating

Boy, that shootout at Riker’s gave new meaning to bad cell reception. Just when Gus and Angel thought their plan to spring a bunch of cooped-up cons and recruit them for Quinlan’s army was in full flourish, a couple hotheads offed a CO, woke up the strigoi, and started a bloodbath. To make matters worse, they didn’t even make it onto Gus’s school bus before the ungrateful escapees tried to stage a mutiny. That’s when the real Angel de la Plata stepped up, took out the would-be rebel leader Hector (Ian Paola, whom you may recognize from Orange Is the New Black or this horrifying photo) with a sawed-off shotgun and ensured that all the other machete-wielders were on their side. (It’s a bit curious that the remaining thugs didn’t opt to overwhelm and overtake Angel and Gus, but as with many head-scratchers on The Strain, we’ll digress.)

Sadly, that was the extent of the duo’s misadventures in “Fallen Light” (though not the end of Gus’s concerns), which otherwise refocused its gaze on the larger Goodweather clan, Feraldo’s increasing influence, and Abe’s desperation to outbid Palmer for the Lumen. The good news in all this for many viewers is that Zach appears headed off to his grandparents’ abode in Sea Island, Georgia. After all, as Nora reminds Eph, “We can’t just park him at home while we’re out fighting.” (Even though it’s worked just dandy the past couple episodes.) Then again, now that Nora’s along for the trip to help Eph ensure Zach’s safe arrival (i.e., babysit Eph), it’s inevitable that something on their journey down South will go terribly awry.

The benefactor of their little trip? It’s Feraldo herself, who’s been promoted to special director of security by the same City Council that was ready to shove her out. Luckily for the councilwoman, her adversary, Mayor Lyle, took a bullet to the head, and Palmer subsequently advocated for her new seat of power. And thus Feraldo’s likely transformation from noble civic rep to megalomaniacal bureaucrat begins. Palmer certainly hopes so. Eichorst, naturally, has his doubts that she can be so easily controlled, though as we’ve seen via flashbacks with Helga and his underestimation of Coco and Dutch, he knows little about the fairer sex. However, he’s still the Master’s favorite man-pire, and as such, has been tapped to represent the forces of evil when they and Abe stage a bidding war for Creem’s copy of the Lumen. It’s a fair guess that Alonso’s selfishness in wanting to prolong the apocalypse as he continues to profit from it means he’s not surviving the finale. Hell, this show meted out moral justice to Fitzwilliam for far lesser sins. But the bigger question isn’t who’ll depart the encounter at Roosevelt Island alive (or still undead) with Occido in hand, but what the hell happened to Rudyard? And is it pronounced Ruh-dyard, as in Kipling, or Rue-dyard, the way Setrakian prefers? We need to know!

What’s no longer up for debate is that, even in a city overrun by vampires, Nikki really sucks. And she did from the moment we were introduced to her, making it all the more puzzling and enraging that a woman with Dutch’s toughness would ditch a guy like Fet to waste her time on someone so one-dimensional. Suffice to say, this has been 2015’s most questionably devised TV love triangle not involving Dolph Ziggler, Lana, and Summer Rae. On the bright side, a scant several scenes were harmed in the making of that story line, and now Ms. Velders and Vasiliy can return to a blissful life of clandestine skinny-dipping and slashing stingers.

The same can’t yet be said for Nora and Eph, whose love story has been underdeveloped at best, though the current status appears to be “It’s complicated.” Though a series of flashbacks charting their rocky romantic road (welcome back, Sean Astin!) concludes with Nora presciently uttering a line that’s been echoed through the Master’s siege: “It just goes to show, you only have to choose well once.” Though in fairness, her inspiration was Jim’s wife Sylvia, whose illness later resulted in Jim’s disastrous choice to help Eichorst unlock the gates of hell. Like we said, it’s complicated.

You don’t have to tell that to Gus, who thinks everything’s hunky-dory when he relays details of the successful Riker’s jaunt to an approving Quinlan. Only catch is Quinlan, who heretofore seemed innocuous enough to well-intentioned humans, informs Gus that Setrakian might have to go bye-bye. Rightfully, Quinlan doesn’t trust the old pawnbroker’s assurances that after he procures the Lumen, he’ll peruse it and then bequeath it to the Ancients. Once more, Abe’s stubbornness about taking down the Master on his own terms does him no favors and makes him no friends. It’s hard to blame Quinlan for protecting his reptilian neck, but this presents quite the quandary for Gus, his chosen assassin.

Pity for Palmer (and, for that matter, Coco), then, that he no longer has the luxury of self-determination and picking sides. He’s in deep with the Master, deeper than he ever imagined. He chose poorly when it mattered most, wrongly intuiting that the Master’s juju would enable him with freewheeling omnipotence. All it really did was make him ultimately co-dependent on “the white,” the wormy extract that brought him and Coco back from the brink and, as it turns out (and as Abe already knows), necessitates a refill every time and again. He and his lady-friend are very much the Master’s property, far from partners, and providing Coco with a second chance at life was just Eichorst’s way of keeping Eldritch even tighter on the leash. Bravo.

And so all of us are on the hook for one more chapter in The Strain’s sophomore run. A betting man could look ahead and wonder aloud whether Nora seems primed for peril, perhaps impelling Zach to stay in New York with Eph and avenge her and Kelly’s deaths together. Or if Gus elects to take Abe’s side and war with Quinlan and the Ancients over possession of the Lumen, which takes on more of a meaningful role next year. Or, most enticing, if the Master makes a frightful cameo before we cut to black, at last enthralling us all with the live sights and sounds of Bolivar in concert! A strigoi can dream.

Apart from all that:

  • What? Like Nora could have been a brilliant biochemist and not also irresistible to a married man with a fantastic hairpiece?

  • About that swine flu of ’76 

  • What exactly did Gus do to share a prison block with those lunatics?

  • Cohen, Bernstein & Marello: Here for all your City Council and personal-injury-litigation needs.

  • Apparently, Adam Goldberg wasn’t available for the part of Paul Sampson. (No offense to the bizarrely prolific Alex Karzis.)

  • Careful, it’s … it’s … Michelle from hell!

  • Hey, Feraldo’s cops can protect the city and get paid. Why can’t she?

  • Eichorst: “Ungrateful whore.” Palmer: “Misogynistic son of a bitch.” Gentleman, please.