The Strain recap: Bad White
Quinlan teams with Eph to steal the Lumen while Palmer searches for a healing elixir
At the end of last week’s season 3 premiere of The Strain, a distraught Eph was facing a terrible dilemma — should he deliver the Occido Lumen to the care of the Master (who surely would use the text against his human enemies), and in return, be reunited with his still-living son? Or should he prevent the chief vampire from gaining hold of the book and risk never seeing Zack again? At the conclusion of tonight’s episode, “Bad White,” it’s Quinlan who steps in to offer another path — ally instead with the Born, steal the ancient book, and use it to save the world. Leaving aside Eph’s qualms about Quinlan’s vampiric side, there’s no question which is the more appealing choice.
There is, however, a question of just how human Zack will be when and if he’s reunited with his dad. Is one taste of the Master’s blood enough to sway a young boy’s loyalties? It’s one of the chief questions raised during the latest installment, which saw nearly everyone hunting for something: Eph searching for the fastest way to be reunited with his boy, Setrakian scouring the pages of the much-coveted Lumen for clues to defeat the Master, and an ailing Eldritch Palmer (Jonathan Hyde) continuing to seek eternal life by securing unfettered access to the restorative properties of the White… Even if it means turning to Setrakian for help.
Setrakian counters that he’s only just begun work on the translation, counseling that the book is written in puzzles and metaphors. The closest thing Setrakian can offer is a passage reading, “When the face of God shineth up him, his essence is destroyed.” He goes on to say any successful effort must take place during an occultation. According to Fet, the next eclipse in New York City isn’t scheduled until April 8, 2024. Plenty of time for the Master to subjugate the human population.
Meanwhile, Eichhorst meets with Palmer and chides him that an insufficient number of patients have registered their blood types at his freedom centers. He suggests Palmer should exert his influence over Justine Feraldo to encourage more visitors to submit to medical examinations. Palmer swallows his rage and coolly pleads with Eichhorst for the White, but the Nazi angrily barks “Rewards must be earned!” Should Palmer find Setrakian and retrieve the Lumen, then perhaps the Master will deign to consider Palmer’s needs.
NEXT: Eph strikes up an unlikely partnership
Eager to end his dependency on the Master and break free from Eichhorst, Palmer has scientists at the Freedom Center devoted to synthesizing the White, which, unfortunately, requires some fairly ghoulish experimental treatments. Too ghoulish, in fact, for at least one member of the research team, who visits Palmer to deliver the news that despite what he might believe, strigoi blood in any form is toxic to humans. But Palmer has at least one other avenue to pursue: Posing as the former custodian of the Lumen, Palmer tricks Fet and Setrakian into a twilight rendezvous under the High Line and presents the older man with a proposal.
Palmer says he’s willing to leave New York and withdraw all his support for the Master, leaving the vampire unable to execute the final critical moves of his plan to subjugate humans. In return, he wants the formula for the White, which he believes is the secret to Setrakian’s “extraordinary vigor.” Referring to Palmer’s decades-earlier betrayal, Setrakian refuses. “I have the Lumen and I have the White — what do you have?” he asks. Talking to Fet afterward, Setrakian confesses to taking periodic doses of the substance for 41 years after the old strigoi hunter in Vienna taught him how to produce the White, a secret handed down by alchemists since the third century. Palmer’s belief that the substance offers immortality is mistaken, he says, though it does provide leverage over an enemy…which they are quite likely to need.
While Palmer thirsts for the stuff, Zack comes by his first dose unwillingly. After several tense encounters with his mother monster — Natalie Brown gives Kelly a wonderfully appreciable alien creepiness, especially as the character becomes increasingly distracted by her son’s throbbing pulse — he wanders out of the dark, dank chamber where he’s essentially being held prisoner, only to find her in a neighboring cell feeding on another boy. He flees, pursued by Kelly, and is soon in the midst of a severe asthma attack. She hovers over him, stinger partially extended as the boy struggles to draw breath. The Master appears from the shadows and places one drop of the White on Zack’s tongue as Kelly, stinger now retracted, holds him. He swallows, and the attack subsides.
Left alone in the Olympian Club with the Lumen, Eph decides to take the book, only to be discovered by Quinlan who asks him what the Master has offered him for it. Eph replies truthfully, and the Born states what Eph must already know: The vampire will never honor the bargain. That’s when he makes his pitch for a different plan. “The Lumen will bring the Master out of hiding. When he comes for it, I’ll kill him,” Quinlan says. It will be interesting to see how this unlikely partnership plays out.
There might be some other partnerships on the horizon soon, too. Fet made the acquaintance of a new lady friend — though the friendship seemed more of the one-night variety — while Dutch (Ruta Gedmintas in her season 3 debut) decided to ditch her band of Brooklyn raiders after a mission to forage for food in a high-rise left her facing a strigoi solo (let’s be honest, Braden really had that decapitation coming). Here’s betting we’ll see her back in the fold next week.