The end is nigh. With one episode left in the chamber, The Strain inches towards the Season 2 finale with an hour that looks back to the past to make sense of the present.
After spending a season on the sidelines, Nora finally gets a moment in the limelight. Picking up with a flashback sequence set during a scientific conference in 2005, “Fallen Light” sees the return of Sean Astin’s Jim — Eph’s best friend and co-worker who fell to the Strigoi infection mid-way through the first season — and the return of Corey Stoll’s infamous wig. The flashback reveals Eph’s first introduction to Nora. During his presentation at the conference, she speaks up, calling out the holes in his theory and impressing him enough to earn a job offer. The two feel an instant chemistry, backed by their shared intellect and confidence. The scene not only frames the relationship between the two, drawing the attention to their romance for the first time this season, but reestablishes the pair as scientists — a plot point that’s been sorely missing in the last few episodes.
Since Nora’s a super hotty and Eph’s marriage is already in shambles, Jim thinks it’s a bad idea to hire her. He’s not wrong. Before long, their work relationship becomes personal, generating heat, and as a result, even more conflict in Eph and Kelly’s marriage. When Eph tells Nora that Kelly has filed for divorce and sole custody, the two share their first kiss. Jim relents on his previous reticence toward Nora. If she makes Eph happy, he should go for it. And she does. While Astin’s presence doesn’t serve the episode much narratively, it’s nice to see Jim again, and it’s easy to miss his good-natured sweetness — a quality no other character on the show shares.
In the present day, Nora receives a good news call — Zack’s grandparents are alive. Great news for the kid, who’s lost so much already, and even better news for Eph, who might finally have a safe place to stow his hell child while he fights the Strigoi apocalypse. It also gives Zack a moment to finally mourn and act like a real kid. For the first time, he breaks down over the loss of his mother, and more impressively given the kid’s track record as world’s biggest little shit, it’s quite sympathetic. Nora and Eph head to Justine for permission to take Zack out of the city, and while their at it, get the supplies they need to mass produce their Strigoi bioweapon. Justine is all about it.
For her part, Councilwoman Feraldo is turning into a tyrant, backed by the city police after winning them over at the Battle for Red Hook, spouting a propagandist rhetoric about homeland and patriotism. After a confrontation with the mayor in which he calls for her indictment over her egregious and very illegal parcel tax, the mayor is executed. It wasn’t her or her people, but a new detective, Paul Sampson, doesn’t believe it and promises to be a thorn in her side. But if there’s a new officer in town to antagonize her, Feraldo makes a powerful friend in the form of Eldrich Palmer, who wants to team up in her efforts to save the city. Of course, we know that’s not his real agenda, but Justine is blinded by her thirst for power, and Palmer is exactly the kind of ally she needs in the face of divided political support.
After guaranteeing their passage to DC, Eph and Nora share a tender moment, and for the first time in a long time he tells her he still loves her. Nora is understandably upset and conflicted after his antics in the previous episodes, and unable to return the sentiment, she heads upstairs for a bit of a cry. I’m worried about Nora. Last time she was in the spotlight she lost her mother, and now as the finale looms with the threat of climactic casualty, she’s center stage once again.
In what will ideally serve as the conclusion to the narratively unfulfilling love triangle, Dutch pulls a real Dutch, and even after Fet rescued her from unimaginable torment at the hands of Eichhorst, she chooses Nikki. Fet takes the rejection in stride, ever the soft-spoken gentleman. “You don’t make it easy,” she tells him. “Nothing good comes easy,” he replies before she pulls him in for one last kiss and heads out the door. Because Dutch can only make terrible life choices, Nikki is leaving to live with her mother. She’s pissed that she didn’t hear from Dutch for two days, and before Dutch has a chance to say “I was kidnapped and nearly stinger-raped”, Nikki is outta there. Ugh, Nikki. Ugh. In a moment that mirrors Dutch’s dismissal of Fet, Nikki kisses her once more before leaving her behind. Just like that, Dutch is all alone.
Now that they’ve ushered the Guptas to safety, Gus and Angel head to the Rikers, the “biggest prison in the world” where Gus previously served time, to break out his old cellmates and build an army for Quinlan. This serves as the episode’s action backbone, as the heavily armed barrage of criminals and gang members shoot and slice their way out of the blood-spattered, Strigoi-infested cell block. They prove themselves more than capable soldiers as they dispatch of the monsters, and Angel proves his loyalty to Gus when he shows no hesitation in shooting down one of the criminals, who attempts to off Gus and steal the guns.
After watching the Occido Lumen slip from his grasp once more, Setrakian tracks the book down yet again, now in the hands of the entrepreneurial gangster Alonso Creem. Despite Setrakian’s warnings about the power of the Lumen, and the Master’s reliance on human greed in the face of extinction, Creem is decided on an auction. Setrakian plans to outbid Eldrich Palmer with a little help from the ancients and their deep pockets. Quinlan assures that the gold will be no problem, and agrees to an arrangement with Setrakian — the old man will acquire and inspect the book, before turning it over to the Ancients when he’s finished. But Quinlan has no faith in their arrangement, and when Gus delivers his new army, Quinlan orders him to use it to convince Setrakian to hand over the text, and if he refuses, simply kill him and take it.
Palmer gets the rug pulled out form under him when Eichhorst struts into his office, declaring that the Occido is too important, and he will handle the transaction. It’s a move that effectively takes the power out of Palmer’s hands, and Eichhorst puts some extra stank on that burn by putting Palmer in his place in the process, revealing that the curative powers of “the white” are only temporary, and if the Master refuses to heal him again, Palmer will “wither and die”. Coco seems to have easily slipped into the role of villainous Girl Friday now that she knows Palmer’s true agenda. A disappointing turn for such a likable character.
The auction for the Occido Lumen sets the stage for a climactic season finale battle — a setting for all the series’ major players and their conflicting interests come to a head. The last two episodes have done good work establishing promising threads for Season 3 — Justine’s tyrannical turn, Gus and Angel’s alliance with Quinlan, Eph and Nora’s renewed interest in the Strigoi bioweapon — with that groundwork laid, hopefully the finale will take the time to wrap up the storylines of Season 2, while undoubtedly dropping a few bodies in the process.
Episode Rating: ★★★
- Nora: “Bioweapons…not really my thing.”
- Setrakian: “Homeland, fatherland — when politicians use these words it usually proceeds murder on a grand scale.”
- Quinlan: “Your job is to convince him to give up the book.” Gus: “I don’t know man, the old bird is pretty tough. What if he doesn’t get convinced?” Quinlan: “Kill him and take it.”