The Strain seems to have regained new life somewhere around episode five. I wrote a piece a few weeks ago about straining to watch The Strain. Bad puns aside, it was pretty difficult to watch sometimes. However, a lot of what is plaguing the Strain seems to be slowly disappearing. Much of the credit should be given to the flashbacks generously used in the series.
The Strain works well when flashbacks are used. It helps the series flesh out characters more than simple dialog. Normally, I would say the use of this amount of flashbacks is a crutch for bad writing and, honestly, it is a crutch for bad writing. The Strain’s characters and story development have been one dimensional throughout the series. Developing a character through acting and action won’t work in this series. The showrunners have to use flashbacks to develop the characters. The Strain, however, makes these numerous flashbacks work in their favor. “The Born” was no exception to this rule.
“The Born” finally reveals the name of the mysterious vampire from last week’s episode- Quinlan. Yes, readers of the book already knew his name, but many viewers haven’t read the books. Having a name to go with the face was nice, but it was his flashback scenes that were some of the best in the episode. A vampire gladiator? That’s almost as cool as a lucha libre vampire fighter.
The Strain, however, keeps stumbling on the other characters.
Fet getting overly jealous of Dutch’s girlfriend was cliched. He knew she was into women and had a girlfriend. Why was it so surprising Dutch would run back to Nikki? She thought her girlfriend was dead and she wasn’t. She already told Fet she was into volatile, passionate relationships (or words to that effect.) Those aren’t words that translate to “stable relationship material.”
The biggest problem with the reintroduction of the girlfriend is the showrunners are creating drama where there doesn’t need to be any drama. It’s a love triangle we are sure to see more of, but will only drag that element of the story down.
Surprisingly, Corey Stoll actually entertained us in the few minutes allotted to him in the episode. Perhaps this was because there was no discussion about the events in DC. Stoll was drunk for much of his screen time. It’s no stretch of the imagination to assume had there been some in-depth discussion of what had happened in DC, Stoll would have over-emoted his way through every scene. As it was, he managed to ignite some tension by revealing Dutch and Fet were sleeping together. It didn’t feel natural how that piece of information was revealed. Who says they’ll sleep in so so and so so’s room. No one, except someone on The Strain.
As far as characters are concerned, “The Born” was all about Quinlan. The previously mentioned flashback to Ancient Rome introduced him not only as a bad ass vampire, but a vampire we wouldn’t want to face in a dark alley. This feeling was reinforced when he easily dispatched the remaining creepy vampire kids Fet and Setrakian couldn’t kill. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to kill the Master.
The short interaction between the Master and Quinlan was rather interesting. It seems Quinlan has been hunting the Master for a very long time. As he tells Setrakian, he has been hunting him all his life. We assume he means vampire life- a vampire life that stretches back to Ancient Rome or earlier. More flashbacks of Quinlan’s earlier life will be very interesting.
It would be remiss not to compare Quinlan with another del Toro character, Blade. Blade is technically a Marvel character, but del Toro did direct the very cool Blade II. Both Quinlan and Blade are half human and half vampire. This could explain why Quinlan isn’t like other vampires in the world of The Strain. Both characters can walk in the daylight. Yes, Quinlan rubs mud on himself in the flashback scene, but he’s still walking in the daylight. We can’t wait until the first person calls him “Day Walker.”
“The Born” had some snags. Overall though it was another step in the right direction towards an outstanding episode.