One of the things I most enjoyed about the first season of The Strain is that we spent a considerable amount of time on Setrakian’s backstory, and two episodes into the second season, that throughline is still very much intact. In “By Any Means,” we get a look at the origin story of Setrakian’s relationship with Palmer, and we learn how Setrakian came into custody of his signature cane.
That arc begins in 1966 when Setrakian and Miriam are living and teaching in Vienna and a wheelchair-bound Palmer comes calling with a proposition that leads Setrakian to the cane, and a Nazi in hiding (Nigel Bennett!). When Setrakian gains custody of the cane after a chase through Vienna, a pleased Palmer drops a tease about the Occido Lumen, offering Setrakian a full endowment and chair position at the university if he can find the book. This is of course the very same book mentioned last week.
When we pick up in the current timeline,Â Setrakian is beating himself up because he cannot immediately recall the contents of all his books and he’s poring over them for any clue about the Lumen. In a fit of rage, he scatters all of them and then finds the single page from Palmer,Â which he’d forgotten.
Then Fet drives him over to Palmer’s fancy food pantry/vampire sourcing warehouse grand opening, where he confronts him about falling in with the Master. He taunts him that he injured the Master, and Palmer taunts back that he has Miriam’s heart and he’s looking forward to placing his alongside it. Those niceties out of the way, the Lumen is mentioned and Palmer shrinks a bit, which tells Setrakian what he needs to know before he and Fet make their escape. Palmer doesn’t have it, and doesn’t know where it is. So there’s hope yet.
Over at the lab, Eph and Nora sell the McGeevers on transforming in their custody to help them find a cure/way to kill the Strigoi. Mr. McGeever isn’t buying in right away, but when Eph throws out the idea that it could save their son, because he would be the first one they killed, his wife says they have to do it. And that is of course awful to watch as their humanity fades and they devolve. Eph vacillates between moments of genius and drunken rage, and I almost wonder if we’re going to find out that booze is an effective vampire weapon.
Nora has an exchange with Setrakian where she asks him if the Master can track them through the McGeevers once they turn, and he says as long as they don’t know where they are, he can’t find them, but he can still see through them, to what they’re doing. They argue a bit and Nora reminds him that they’ve all had a hard time. He acquiesces that she’s doing something for the greater good that two weeks prior would have been unfathomable. She says two weeks was a long time ago–and it’s interesting to frame it that the entire first seasonÂ spanned two weeks in the timeline.
Earlier in the episode, Fet and Dutch head over to the local rec center to flush out vampiresÂ and test Setrakian’s silver grenades. They successfully takeÂ out a nest and then celebrate with a skinny dip that escalates into pool sex. It’s a cute scene of levity in the middle of such seriousness, that begins when he admits he can’t swim because his parents spent their time teaching him architecture vs. the functional life skill of swimming. I haven’t read the books so I have no idea where that’s heading, but for now it’s a welcome moment of normalcy, and as only the second sex scene in the run of the series, it was less frenetic than the weirdlyÂ paced Nora/Eph scene that happened in Kelly’s bedroom last year.
Speaking of Kelly, she takes the Feelers home and dumps a collection of Zach’s clothes on the lawn for them to learn his scent and then dispatches them to find him. That’s not terrifying at all.
Eichorst is in play during the 1966 flashbacks when he goes to see the Nazi antiquities dealer–it turns out he was the original buyer of the cane. When he has to admit he lost it to Setrakian, he collapses at Eichorst’s feet and says he’s lost without the Reich, and Eichorst offers him a new, equally formidable leader if he’s interested. He says yes and Eichorst unloads the worms on him.Â So we may see Nigel Bennett again, which is always a good thing. But it’s repugnant that in Eichorst’s mind the Master is a new Hitler. That certainly explains his allegiance.
In the present timeline, Eichorst chats with Bolivar about the Master’s impending transition to a new host, TBD. Very curious who that’s going to be. Kelly, maybe? (No spoilers–I know nothing–and please don’t tell me in the commentsÂ since I haven’t read the books).
PalmerÂ has enticedÂ Ms. Marchand enough that she’s agreed to come work for him, and her first speech for him is a success, but she’s clueless about what he’s actually doing.
We alsoÂ meet Justine Feraldo (Samantha Mathis), the Staten island city councilwoman who essentially tells the mayor that he’s an imbecile and she’ll be handling the security for her borough starting now.
I have to give props to the show for having so many concurrent character threads, and for giving us aÂ legitimate bead on everyone. It was intriguing to find out about the early relationship with Palmer. Was he always trying to find the Master to heal himself, or was he truthful when he met Setrakian that his goal at the time was to take out the Strigoi?Â If it was the truth, what changed his mind?
I’m so glad this show is back.
The Strain airs Sundays at 10/9c on FX.
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