The Strain First Born Review
The Strain, season 3, episode 3, ‘First Born,’ promised quite a bit. What I expected, was to learn about The Born identity, before events brought the Master (Jack Kesy) to a Born ultimatum. What I got was more of the latter than I had bargained for, and less of the former than I had hoped. Not that I’m complaining.
The titular subject was, of course, Quinlan (Rupert Penry-Jones), aka the Daywalker, aka The Born. We were shown neither his actual origin, nor any stretches of his long history. ‘First Born’ instead focused on the roughly two year period in which he was made to understand who & what he was, and what he was up against.
Since the Strigoi have always seemed a little derivative (of the genetically modified Vampires of Blade 2), I suppose Guillermo del Toro can be forgiven for the familiarity of Quinlan’s origin (Blade 2 was Guillermo del Toro joint, after all). It was less an origin of Quinlan, however, as it was the opening act to his feud with the Master (Paul Aspland, at the time).
By the time that fact became obvious, I did find myself grateful that 1): more time, for more Quinlan background detail, will be available (does anyone expect the ‘prophecy’ to be fulfilled, at this point?); 2) the Quinlan-Master feud made the episode’s other family feud worth sitting through.
To be fair, there was some satisfaction to seeing Eph (Corey Stoll) get what he deserved (for such ridiculous planning), and then getting what he was due (a ‘productive’ face-to-face, with the es-stragoi-ed wife); but Quinlan enabled or not, it was still a lot to risk on such a crafty quarry. It could’ve also amounted to a burned bridge, where Setrakian & Fet (David Bradley, Kevin Durand) were concerned.
In distrusting Quinlan, in the first place, it looks like Fet got some of that Setrakian father-figure approval, after all. It was actually kind of fun watching them bond, over a Daywalker hunt. Much more fun, when it turned out that all that bonding malice allowed them to be the salvagers of the rogue mission, and not the spoilers.
No, the prize for ultimate spoiler team remained with Kelly & Zach (Natalie Brown, Max Charles). Every time I see them together, I get why the Master thinks them the perfect headache for Eph, and feel some of suffering the Master insists Eph be left to.
At one point, I had hoped some consistency (to Zach’s brattery) would turn the tables on Mom & Master; but I guess arcane promises of destiny was where Eph failed to keep him under control. Eph didn’t have White, either. So the slow screw to the brain, that has been the Eph-Zach-Kelly dynamic – let’s just call it the melondrama – rolled on.
Ah, but in the event you think my distaste for this dynamic be too harsh, I present my take-away, from the moment Kelly seemingly placated Zach. <Eh-eh-ehem>
“Hey, Zach, at birth, you were no mere boy or girl – you were an Adams.”
“What does that even mean?”
“Job security. You get to keep sucking for a while.”
“Speaking of sucking -“
“Let’s just pretend that was the first time you saw me feed (never mind that you actually knew the last victim).”
“Clearly, I don’t care about… whatshername; but this time, it was a kid like me. There’s something extra ‘future therapy’ about that….”
“Never mind him. We made you less of a wheezer, when you whine – doesn’t that feel better than a an oddly-timed sense of decency & moral dilemma?”
“…Hey, you’re right – I do feel better. That other kid can get sucked in the ear!”
“Yesss, the suck flows strong, within you. Give in to the White side.”
Too harsh? We’ll see; but somehow, Zach actually wasn’t the prize-winning most-screwed-up-mamma’s-boy of the episode. Nope – weren’t Quinlan, neither.
I don’t know what pissed me off more – Gus (Miguel Gomez) going full Zach, over his Strigoi mother, or the fact that he was also willing to sacrifice a cast-mate in the process. The only reason it wasn’t an obvious choice: Angel (Joaquín Cosio) lost a lot of points, indulging that brand of jumping bean crazy. Under less dire circumstances, I’ve known looters to get the shoot-on-sight treatment. Given the severity of their crime, under the circumstances, I’d say Gus & Angel got off pretty easy.
The payoff, to the Quinlan-Eph gamble seemed to go typically wrong, in ways that both should’ve expected (Eph really waited too long – and let Kelly get too close – before having ‘Zach’ verified). It also didn’t take the Master long to put his new toy soldiers to good use.
That said, I think it says something when an episode registers by getting everything going wrong… well, wrong. Whether that something has to do with the show pulling a bait-and-switch, every other episode, or my own lowered expectations, because of that, I dunno.
Of all the crazy, all the stupid, all the screwed up things to come out of this show, I was left wrestling with the notion that the biggest WTF moment of the series, so far, was the one that left me looking around at no one, thinking “it can’t be that easy.” I mean, I was treated to a promised showdown that actually delivered; but beware of geeks getting gifts, man.
I know for a fact that it’s not over. It will most certainly get worse. Yes, I’ve seen snippets of the remaining season, proving just as much (I also know about some of the source material – that I hope the show avoids with prejudice); but more to the point, Little Wormy Foo-foo, crawling down the storm drain, likely means another promotion pass-over, for Eichorst. That, and a whole new dimension to the Eph-Zach-Kelly melondrama (oy, these guys).
Best, then, to put the ‘First Born’ outcome in the ‘careful what you wish for’ column.
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