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Recaps

The Strain “For Services Rendered” 

Photo Credit: FX
Photo Credit: FX

Warning: Spoilers Ahead

At the end of last week’s episode, Setrakian (David Bradley) realizes that tracking down all of the plane passengers is hopeless and comes up with a new plan. That new plan is to lure the Master out and to use Jim Kent (Sean Astin) as bait. Oh boy. The last time Jim interacted with Eichhorst (Richard Sammel), it didn’t go very well and I have no reason to believe this encounter will be any better. But when you are faced with an outbreak of epic proportions, I guess this plan is as good as any.

The Good

Thomas Eichhorst is a magnificent character and Richard Sammel’s portrayal is equally amazing. That said, I have come to expect that any scenes featuring Eichhorst are going to be some of the best of any episode and tonight was no exception.

Through another series of fantastic flashbacks, we learn more of the backstory of Eichhorst and Setrakian and what we discover about Eichhorst in some ways is a two-edged sword. As could be expected, Eichhorst is just as monstrous back when he was still human, which is demonstrated when he begins killing prisoners one-by-one until the one who secretly carved a Jewish idol comes forward. At the same time, it becomes evident as Eichhorst gets to know the young Abraham (Jim Watson), that there is a human side to the monster and he acts as if he actually wants to be Setrakian’s friend. He seems to enjoy the conversations he has with Setrakian and he offers Abraham a sandwich at the end as an expression of his gratitude for a job well-done, something that a commander would never have done to a prisoner in a concentration camp.

Photo Credit: Michael Gibson/FX
Photo Credit: Michael Gibson/FX

However, what we learn about Setrakian is equally as shocking. He said in episode 4 that “inaction is the greatest evil.” If you think about it, there is a great deal of wisdom behind that saying and I don’t think any of us would have guessed that he learned that from Eichhorst himself.

 Oh, the nobility of the victim. You comfort yourself with the fantasy that you are morally superior but you’re not. The first day you arrived, I asked if there were any carpenters, and you eagerly threw up your hand! And, from that day on, you’re labored here working on behalf of the Third Reich! — Eichhorst

 I had no choice! — Young Setrakian

Yes, you had! But, you’re afraid of the choice, the alternative — Eichhorst

At that point, Eichhorst gave Abraham the opportunity to kill him, the very man who had murdered his entire family and made his life a living hell for years on end. But when the moment came, he couldn’t do it, thus proving Eichhorst’s point that it’s much easier just to stand by and do nothing. And right after that, we learn the true nature of the secret project Eichhorst had tasked Abraham with. Some of you may have thought he was just building something for the Third Reich and if only it were that simple! Instead, one of the biggest shockers of the episode is revealed when we learn that Abraham had created the Master’s coffin. Holy crap. Not only did Abraham pass up the opportunity to kill this monster Eichhorst, this man who in many ways was responsible for the epidemic they were facing, but he also was the one who created the Master’s resting place and refuge. I wonder how much of Abraham’s drive to blot out the Master and his strain is fueled by sheer guilt.

The Bad

Oh my, what in the world did they do to the Jim and Sylvia Kent (Melanie Merkosky) characters! The last time we saw Sylvia, she was this sweet, terminally ill woman who was in tears to learn she had been accepted to Stanford’s clinical trial for a new cancer drug. Tonight, the woman morphs into a total bitch from hell. Granted, I might have been a little pessimistic if my husband was considering joining a group of vampire hunters, but at the same time I think the last thing the character would have done is leave her husband standing, the same husband who risked his life and career in order to save hers. Some gratitude.

And Jim’s reaction to the entire situation was equally out-of-character. One of the last things Jim said to Eph in episode 4 was “You might not understand this, Eph, but I would do anything to save my wife’s life.” It was touching, it was sweet and it demonstrated that Jim was devoted to his wife above all else, including his job and all of his friends. So why now the change of heart? I don’t think he grew a conscience overnight because otherwise, he would have chosen to help Eph and his cause on his own, and not after he showed up on his doorstep. And to top it off, he stayed behind and watched his wife, this woman who meant the world to him, ride away all by herself and into a world that was being invaded by a race of vampires. Really?

Aside from a handful of cheesy quotes and clichés, I’ve said very few negative things about this show. But, honestly, I did not like the complete 180 these two characters did in this episode. It was distracting, it was unbelievable and it somewhat negated the heartfelt sentiment I had towards Jim Kent and everything he had been going through. Even still, there is one upside to this development — for those who are still rooting for Jim, he at least has a better chance at survival now that he doesn’t have to worry about protecting his wife.

The Really, Really Good

When I read book one of The Strain trilogy, there were two scenes that scared the pants off of me, and even to this day, still occasionally give me nightmares. The first one is when Roger Luss returns home from a business trip only to find his quiet neighborhood of Bronxville turned into a suburb of horrors courtesy of his vampire wife, Joan (Leslie Hope). The second is when Joan tracks down her children at Neeva’s home and attempts to break down the door to get to her “dear ones.”

So when it was rumored that the fan favorite from the books, Mr. Quinlan, was going to be introduced in season one, the question was how were they going to pull it off given the fact that the character doesn’t show up until book two.  What’s more, Guillermo del Toro had teased that when Quinlan did finally appear, his entrance was going to be huge. Well if you want to give a character the biggest possible introduction, what better way than to make the character the hero in two of the most terrifying scenes in the book? That’s exactly what they did and it worked quite well, making the last five minutes the best of the entire episode.

In contrast to the source material, Joan doesn’t track her children to Neeva’s (Kim Roberts) home, but instead they cross paths when Neeva returns the Luss children, per the request of the husband Roger (Aaron Douglas). Joan has Neeva, the two children and Neeva’s daughter cornered in a wine cellar and just when they are about to be attacked, Luss is shot dead by a mysterious vigilante in a black hoodie. And this stranger is Mr. Quinlan (Stephen McHattie).

So, who is this guy? He looks like a vampire. He even speaks like a vampire. But his actions say otherwise. Just from the way he looked, this guy would be terrifying to most children, but he knows exactly what to say and how to say it to put them at ease. He bends down to inspect the children, to make sure they are OK and he speaks softly and kindly to them, almost as if he has experience with children of his own.

Photo Credit: FX
Photo Credit: FX

Did they injure you? — Quinlan

No. — Neeva

Good. Bring the young ones to me. Ah, come over here. I wanna have a look at you, make sure you’re OK. Did they, uh, scare you? I bet they did. Good, you look OK. Come here, what about you? (motions to Audrey) Did they, uh, hurt you? No? Well, that’s a good thing to know, huh. And, how about you? (motions to Neeva’s daughter) — Quinlan

It’s just a nick, I’ll be OK — Neeva’s daughter

Oh, may I see? (examines her). Um, yeah, good. Take the children, go! — Quinlan

After Quinlan examines the wound, he closes his eyes, almost as if he’s saddened and a part of me knew what was coming. Even still, I jumped when he shot the girl. Poor Neeva! But at the same time, it was clear that this mysterious hero knew this disease, knew there was no hope of treatment for the girl and didn’t hesitate to do “what needed to be done,” as Setrakian put it so many times before. Kind, gentle, but also just as ruthless.

So now the question that is probably on everyone’s mind — good guy or bad guy? Definitely a good guy and definitely on our side, you can trust me on this one. Remember, just because Quinlan killed the girl doesn’t make him bad because if that were true, we would have to label Setrakian bad as well. He certainly knows how to fight these creatures and we will eventually learn that he has a very personal link to the Master that will prove to be invaluable in this new war we are about to face. Definitely a character that we will be seeing a lot more of, you can bet on that.

Next week on The Strain we have the bottle episode that Chuck Hogan spoke of at San Diego Comic-Con. The majority of the episode takes place in a convenience store, where vampires are coming in from everywhere. It’s also when a good deal of the main characters are brought together and meet for the very first time.

Episode 1.08 is titled “Creatures of the Night” and airs Sunday at 10/9c on FX.

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8 Comments

  1. kayell

    Nice article, Mary. I got a question that has been itching me, do you know what happens to Joan Luss in the book? I’ve read it twice, don’t remember. I’ve skimmed through em, the last Joan Luss mention I could find was her showing up at Neeva’s house and then that was it for her character, maybe I missed a passage?

    1. Mary Powers

      This is a very good question! I honestly don’t think we are told what happens to her. You are right, she shows up at Neeva’s house, and tries to break down the door, and then, that’s it. I *think* the assumption is she probably was able to get into the house, but we never see that. Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan tends to do that alot, implies alot of things but never actually confirms them. They kind of did that with Roger Luss too in the books. You see him running down the street being chased by a bunch of strigoi, but we are never told that they actually caught up with him. But, that’s the assumption.

      Again, great question!

  2. Matthew

    “And right after that, we learn the true nature of the secret project Eichhorst had tasked Abraham with. Some of you may have thought he was just building something for the Third Reich and if only it were that simple! Instead, one of the biggest shockers of the episode is revealed when we learn that Abraham had created the Master’s coffin. Holy crap. Not only did Abraham pass up the opportunity to kill this monster Eichhorst, this man who in many ways was responsible for the epidemic they were facing, but he also was the one who created the Master’s resting place and refuge. I wonder how much of Abraham’s drive to blot out the Master and his strain is fueled by sheer guilt.”

    -A nice writeup but this most certainly wasn’t a shocker for my wife & I. I figured this out the minute he was forced to step forward, revealing his carving skills, after Eichhorst shot a fellow prisoner. It was also obvious that he was working on a large box(i.e. coffin) throughout the episode.

    1. Mary Powers

      You are very right, there were definitely some strong hints as to what Eichhorst was using Abraham for. And, of course, I knew since I have read the books. But, as I was following the comments on Twitter, I think alot of people were focused so much on Eichhorst and horrible he was that they weren’t paying as close attention on what Setrakian was doing. So, for them it was a little bit of a shock.

      But, good points and thank you for your response!

  3. Ricky

    I just re-read all 3 book and you are correct. The author’s love to end scenes (I shouldn’t say “cut short”), but as you mentioned, I just assumed Joan found a way in and made Neeva and her children part of the family. As well as Roger Luss since both are never mentioned again, and usually he’ll continue with their story if they somehow escape the strigoi.

    And on another note, that last 5 minutes with the introduction of Quinlan was definately my favorite scene so far. The actor Stephen McHattie is the perfect Quinlan after watching that episode in my opinion. I just pray the show can parallel the book and show him just being the master destroyer of the Master’s spawn.

  4. Mary Powers

    I am so happy you loved the introduction of Quinlan because I loved it too! I too hope they will parallel the book, and do think there were strong hints that they are heading in that direction. For example, it was obvious that Quinlan was good with kids, and he had to get that from somewhere. Well, if you know Quinlan’s backstory from the books (and without revealing it on here for those who have not read the trilogy), you can take a good guess where he might have gotten that. Just a hint at this point, but it does give some hope that they might follow the source material.

  5. inna mart

    “After Quinlan examines the wound, he closes his eyes, almost as if he’s saddened and a part of me knew what was coming.”

    Uh)) Thank you, Mary! Very cleverly written and insightful!
    English is not my native language. Excuse me.
    But I read with delight your article. After watching episode 7, I was just looking for information – like the one that: “who is this guy? He looks like a vampire”. And found your article.
    About Quinlan you have written very humanly and with warmth..
    I’m not a fan of “Strain”. Well, You can consider me a fan of Mr. Quinlan now. He’s awesome. Playing (the work of this actor) amazed me. Absolutely authentic. “..introduction of Quinlan was definately my favorite scene” (c). He saved this useless show, as for me.
    (Excuse me, my muddled speech, once again).
    Greetings from Ukraine.

    1. Mary Powers

      Thank you for your comment! I’ve read all of the books in “The Strain” trilogy, and Mr. Quinlan is by far my favorite character, both in the books and in the television series thus far. By the way, given that you like the character, be sure to check out the final 2 episodes in the season. He’s in Sunday’s episode, and he will most definitely be in the season finale. Again, thank you!

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