The Strain “First Born” Review (Season 3 Episode 3)

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After a bit of a slow start this season, “The Strain” finally delivered the goods with a tense episode primarily revolving around the enigmatic Quinlan (Rupert Penry-Jones), in which his many, many years of preparation for a showdown with the Master (Jack Kesy) finally came to fruition, with a valuable assist from the team, in “First Born.” But did he truly succeed? #squadgoals

We began with an interesting scene in which we witnessed Zach’s birth and saw that he was born surrounded by a caul that encased him within a sac-like structure, not unlike the fleshy egg that hatches into a butterfly.

If you know your old-school folklore and superstition, then you might know that, while children born with a caul were often thought to be lucky and destined for greatness, others believed that a child born with a caul was destined to become a vampire upon their death. Might that also be Zach’s ultimate fate?

We’ll have to wait and see on that one, but there must have been a reason that the Master was so determined to get a hold of Zach, and not just to toy with Eph (Corey Stoll) and get the book, either. After all, he risked blowing the proposed trade-off by showing up without Zach altogether.

Granted, one could chalk that up to hubris and his thinking it wouldn’t even come to that, but I don’t think so. I don’t think he wanted to risk losing Zach, personally, which is the real reason he left him behind. Of course, I’m guessing things didn’t exactly go according to his plans, either, given the outcome.

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Indeed, there were all sorts of ways this could have all gone wrong, including any number of unexpected developments along the way that only served to ratchet up the tension. For instance, it turned out that the wily Fet (Kevin Durand) had planted a tracker within the binding of the book, thus ensuring that, in the unlikely event that the book was stolen, they would be able to track it down again.

Furthermore, the Master had a considerable amount of back-up, despite Eph telling him to essentially come alone, with only Zach and his ex-wife, Kelly (Natalie Brown). Not only did he have a few companions alongside him, but a hidden vampire kid underneath the hood that was supposed to be Zach himself.

While Eph dealt with both the kid and Kelly, another vampire joined the fray, with Kelly managing to snag the book and run back to the Master in the melee. Then, just when it seemed things couldn’t get worse, a cadre of soldiers arrived, seemingly the Navy SEALS that Fet worked with in the premiere episode, judging from his reaction to them.

Thankfully, Eph had an ace in the hole in the form of Quinlan, who came out guns blazing, albeit a little late in the game, which may have cost him dearly from the looks of things. Thanks to an silver grenade assist from Fet and Abe (David Bradley), though, Quinlan was not only able to succeed in his goal, but in a pretty spectacular fashion at that, complete with a graphic decapitation of the Master. GOOOOOAAAAALLLLLL!!!!

Alas, just when it seemed that said goal had been achieved, the mother of all vampire worms crawled out of the corpse and headed straight for a nearby sewer grate. So, was the Master truly defeated, or merely his host body? It would certainly seem that way.

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That’s what Quinlan and Eph get for going off half-cocked without reading the book. Turns out there was a method to Abe’s madness after all. Had Quinlan and Eph not been so gung-ho to finish things, they would have known that, in order to truly defeat the master, you had to take out that worm, too. I’m guessing by fire, most likely.

Now, how much you want to bet that the worm is going to infect Zach next? After all, what are the chances that Eph would be able to kill his own son, no matter what the situation? That would certainly be the smart move on the Master’s end. Then again, we don’t know for sure how capable of rational thought the Master is in worm form, so it’s hard to say if that will happen right away.

So, my second guess is that the Master will inhabit another form in the short-term, before eventually making his way into Zach. Kelly did say the Master had “special plans” for Zach, after all, but not bringing him would seem to indicate that those plans weren’t quite ready for fruition just yet.

Perhaps he was waiting for Zach to age up a little bit more, making him a little less vulnerable? Hard to say. (And no, I haven’t read the books, so no spoiling in the comments section.) Whatever the case, Zach wasn’t there, so one assumes he was back at wherever the Master was holing up at the beginning of the show. We shall see.

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On other fronts, we saw that Gus (Miguel Gomez) was weakening himself by feeding his vampire mother his own blood, which was also discovered by Angel (Joaquin Cosio), who tried to get Gus to kill her, to no avail. Then, the vamp hit the fan when Justine’s police task force arrived to clear Gus’ building.

Forced to relocate ASAP, the two put Gus’ mom into a wheelchair and taped her down with a “Mexican seat belt”- aka duct tape, lol- and covered her head and tried to wheel her out of there. It was a move destined to fail, what with all the cops scattered everywhere, but mom did seem to get away, even if Gus and Angel didn’t, eventually ending up in the custody of the cops.

However, rather than taking them to jail, they took the two to a reconfigured former school, which would seem to be the training ground for an ad-hoc task force made up of criminals and the like, who were then put to work on the streets, clearing out the city of vampires.

Kind of like a criminal version of the “Hunger Games” training camp, as it were, or that’s how I read it, anyway. I guess we’ll have to wait and see if I read the situation right or not, but that would seem to be what they were getting at there.

If so, kind of a cool idea, though I’m not entirely sure how they would expect to get any of these people to cooperate with such a nutty plan. Maybe there’s a sort of “Suicide Squad”-esque thing going on in order to control them that we don’t know about yet. (Think “Escape from New York,” if you haven’t seen that film yet.)

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Beyond that, we got some cool back-story on Quinlan. In what was probably my favorite of the flashbacks we’ve gotten on the series so far, we saw that Quinlan has been around since the Roman era, circa 58 AD. Actually, for some time before that, as he was already looking like we saw him now, more or less.

When we first see him, he’s being held captive by a carny-like man who is displaying him in a sort of proto freak show-type scenario. Enter Ancharia (Deanna Dunagan, “The Visit”), who purchases him from the pseudo-ringmaster and takes him to an isolated camp elsewhere to teach him about who he really is and how to talk and fight and the like.

Unfortunately, before his training is complete, her tent is set upon by a group of vampires sent by the Master, forcing them to head elsewhere for the time being. They eventually land in a cave, which turns out to be ruled over by another cadre of vampires, the leader of which decides to teach Quinlan a thing or two by trapping him inside the cave with Ancharia and no food, assuming that he will eventually revert to his vampire roots and kill her.

Quinlan manages to control himself, but Ancharia naturally begins to starve to death under the circumstances. Knowing that death is imminent, she begs Quinlan to feed on her and put her out of her misery, using her life blood to give him the strength to escape. He’s hesitant, but agrees and it does the trick.

Though he isn’t successful in trying to kill the lead vampire in the cave, who is much too fast for him, he is able to escape and head elsewhere, presumably to continue his training, as per Ancharia’s wishes, who warned him not to go after the Master until he was good and ready, which she felt he wasn’t yet.

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I think the fact that he couldn’t even defeat the cave vamp proved to him that she was right, which is why he left well enough alone and got out of there while he still could. While some have groused about the fact that it’s taken him so long to get to the point where going up against the Master and defeating him was even a possibility, I think he just wanted to make sure he was ready, as he knew he would likely only have one shot at this.

We learn this in the scene where he talks with Eph in the car, in which he also reveals the details of how he became to be half-vampire, half-human. It seems that his pregnant human mother was attacked by the Master, even though it was forbidden to bite a pregnant woman.

However, it would seem the Master didn’t know this until he had already fed on the woman, thus infecting the baby in the process. The question is, and Quinlan didn’t know the answer: why didn’t the Master kill her on the spot, once he did realize she was pregnant?

After all, the reason his kind weren’t supposed to feed on pregnant women was that there was the possibility that the resulting child would be the Strigoi’s undoing, according to prophecy. It also stated that when the Master dies, so will Quinlan- but does that apply if the Master is not really dead, per se? Hopefully not, as the show wouldn’t be as good without him.

Let’s face it, Quinlan is the best thing to happen to the show in some time- maybe the best thing, period- really upping the coolness factor and taking the show to the next level. Quinlan is a total bad-ass, and it would be a shame if this episode was his last, more or less. Hopefully, his injuries weren’t as bad as they seemed.

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As it stands, though, there was a lot of cool stuff going on in this episode, which bodes well for the future of the show, after an admittedly shaky start with far too much set-up and not enough action and fun set-pieces. Here, we got plenty of both, plus set-up that was actually pretty promising, so it was easily the best of the bunch so far.

Hopefully, the show will continue to build on the promise of this episode and only get better, but we’ll see. Fingers crossed, because I like where this all seems to be headed, though I’m sure some of the Zach haters are grumbling at the very thought of his becoming the “new” Master. I think it could work if handled the right way.

After all, a lot of people already hate the kid- why not just make him an outright villain? It might actually win some people over, if you think about it. He’s already a character a lot of people love to hate. Making him the lead baddie would only reinforce those feelings. The real question, though, is whether or not actor Max Charles is up to the challenge. I guess we’ll have to wait and see on that one, as well.

Until then, this was a great episode and really entertaining on the whole, I thought. What did you think? Sound off down below with your thoughts on the latest episode of “The Strain” and your thoughts on where all of this seems to be headed. Remember, no spoilers from you book people! See you next week!