[This is a review of The Strain season 2, episode 12. There will be SPOILERS.]
When looking back at the first 11 episodes of The Strain's sophomore season, it's hard to believe how truly unproductive its characters have been and how little has actually happened along the show's major storylines. Coming into season 2's penultimate episode, Abraham (David Bradley) was still hoping to get his hands on the Occido Lumen; Eph (Corey Stoll) and Nora (Mia Maestro) still hadn't advanced their vampire bioweapon past the test phase; and every battle the survivors engaged in with Eichorst (Richard Sammel) and Kelly (Natalie Brown) only ended in stalemates. With so many narrative messes to clean up in such a short amount of time, the season's final two episodes were certainly carrying a heavy burden.
Tonight, that challenging work began with 'Fallen Light,' an episode that sought to build interest heading into the season finale, while also beginning to tie the show's narrative loose ends together. Amazingly, without actually closing off any of the arcs mentioned above, the episode was mostly successful in its venture by further shaping existing character dynamics into intriguing multi-dimensional alliances.
Perhaps the most important -- at least in the short term -- of those alliances was between strigoi warrior Quinlan (Rupert Penry-Jones) and Abraham. As hunters of The Master and seekers of the Lumen, combining resources to acquire the old book certainly made sense for both parties. With Quinlan's purchasing power and Abraham's connection to the book's seller, Alonso Creem, (Jamie Hector), it was clear that the two needed each other, but the reveal that Quinlan may only be using Abraham to get the book for himself shows us that their mutually beneficial relationship is a little more complicated. Does Quinlan have other plans in using the Lumen's power? Or does he just not trust a human he deems unworthy of that power? Either way, Quinlan's order to Gus (Miguel Gomez) to take Abraham out of the equation adds some welcome drama and needed conflict to the arrangement, while also making the Lumen storyline legitimately interesting for the first time since it was introduced.
Adding to that drama and potential conflict is the moral quandary Gus is placed in. After making a deal with Quinlan to recruit human soldiers for the fight against The Master, he certainly wouldn't want to disobey the order and possibly spoil his own deal with a powerful ally. However, at the same time, he has a history -- albeit a somewhat salty one -- with Abraham, and, as demonstrated in the immensely entertaining prison escape sequence, is beginning to develop an aversion to unnecessary violence (at least human-on-human) as a reformed criminal. Of course, he also has the greater good of humanity to consider in trying to determine whose hands the book should be in. Needless to say, it will be exciting to see what Gus ultimately decides to do.
And it is also exciting to finally see Eph and Nora utilize their partnership with Councilwoman Justine Feraldo (Samantha Mathis) as The Strain suddenly brought the couple's vampire bioweapon back into play after being entirely forgotten for multiple episodes. Like most storylines on the show, it took far too long for the bioweapon to come back around, but now that Eph and Nora have made a deal with Justine to mass produce the toxin, the two scientists can actually get back to work in roles in which they can make an impact, instead of being on mommy duty or playing the world's worst hitman.
But perhaps we should be thanking Eph for his lack of marksmanship skills. At the time, we were rooting for Eph to at least wound Palmer (Jonathan Hyde) from that rooftop, but his miss has now allowed for further development around Palmer and Eichorst's alliance, as the two struggle for leverage against one another. This week's reveal -- that the healing power of "the white" is not everlasting -- certainly gives The Master and his minions the upper hand against Palmer and Coco (Lizzie Brochere). Then again, was it a true reveal or a bluff? Hopefully we'll find out sooner rather than later.
While nearly all the episode's developments contributed to the overall anticipation of next week's season finale, one storyline that may have elicited a few eye-rolls was the love triangle between Fet (Kevin Durand), Dutch (Ruta Gedmintas), and Nikki (Nicola Correia-Damude). When Dutch inexplicably chooses to be with Nikki, it's clear that The Strain is really forcing the issue, attempting to squeeze more conflict out of a subplot that has never really contributed to the series. Let's just hope this nonsense doesn't take up a lot of screen time in the finale.
Instead, we hope the finale spends time wrapping up the narrative arcs it has dragged along all season, namely the one involving the Occido Lumen. This week's episode did a great job of making us care about the Lumen and its contents again, but after a whole season of book chasing, it's time we learn more about what's actually inside and how it can help defeat the strigoi. It's also high time The Strain makes some bold moves, perhaps by killing off a character? At the very least, we can say we're eagerly awaiting to see how season 2 ends, which is something we didn't think we'd be saying a couple of weeks ago.
The Strain season 2 concludes next Sunday with 'Night Train' @10pm on FX.
Photos: Michael Gibson/FX