Martin Carr reviews the seventh episode of The Strain season 2…
Once again I’m late to the party with fleeting impressions of episode seven. After another blinding forty minutes of television my conclusion is simple. The Strain was worth every penny they paid to adapt these contemporary tomes.
Bouncing back and forth between ancient Rome and Albania in perfectly integrated flashbacks, we spend our first proper time with barbarian gladiator Quinlan. Portrayed with a cultured edge by Rupert Penry Jones, we get biblical back story, calculating savagery and clinical detachment. So magnetic is he in fact that other elements pale into insignificance. Depicted through expositional voiceover by Bradley’s Setrakian, it felt in part like Ridley Scott’s sword and sandal epic minus the mighty Reed. Thankfully Penry Jones is no Russell Crowe, which gives him the ability to embrace other more intriguing characteristics beyond hack and slash soldiery.
Quinlan is defined here by his all-consuming passion to destroy ‘The Master’, which imbues him with a strange humanity. In part because passion, all-consuming or otherwise, indicates an emotional core irrespective of the detachment on display. That his birth is shrouded in mystery, defined by legend, yet based in reality makes him even more the enigma. Much like campfire stories shared about musicians who indulge in excess and survive, Quinlan is both legend and folklore. Existing as a bedtime story for those seeking solace from their night-time terrors. Yet another manifestation of the defensive mentality employed against the evils of this world. So powerful is this portrayal that fan boys and fair weather fraternities alike, are flocking like moths to a flame. In part because The Strain has built up such tremendous momentum recently, which each actor has subtly contributed to. Whether it’s Bradley’s Setrakian, Durand’s Fet or Stoll’s Goodweather, each has played a part in turning this show around.
Nowhere is this more keenly felt than in Setrakian’s exchanges with Quinlan, or Durand’s moments with Dutch. There is now an emotional heft here which was lacking before. This fragmentation which is borne of emotional honesty, rather than contrived necessity continues to intrigue. Yet it is exactly the quality which makes things work. Whether peppered by self-interest or driven by human need, the end result makes for a more satisfying conclusion.
Combined with the rejuvenation of ‘The Master’ through Gabriel Bolivar, we now have an adversary who looks more contemporary than before. Somehow making for a more realistic central villain, especially bearing in mind Penry Jone’s interpretation of Quinlan. Now there is a real sense that something special is happening. A coalescing of forces converging upon an ancient threat. Which combines both an arcane and modern-day means of attack, making The Strain a truly unique viewing experience.