In “The Disappeared,” I criticized The Strain when it came to emotional moments. The show has excelled in badassery, but its character interactions can feel forced, particularly during supposedly tender moments. After “Loved Ones,” though, I retract that statement in part. The Strain went back to its early episode formula; that is, it showed a full transformation and the effects because of it, and for the most part, it worked really well. What didn’t work was everything else. But The Strain knows just how to insert enough of its entertainment worms into us that even when it’s not at its best, it still keeps us hooked. Part of “Loved Ones” was excellent, and part of it was ridiculous, but would it be The Strain if it were anything less? Hit the jump to find out who put me in charge.
The Strain has been about, in part, Ephraim’s acceptance of the infection, and his willingness to fight it on every level. At first he dismissed Abraham, but once he began believing him, he still felt conflicted when having to kill the little vampire girl, and then Jim. By the time it came for him to kill Diane’s son, his son’s friend, he didn’t hesitate, but the act clearly affected him (as it should). Jim was a colleague and friend, but now the virus is getting closer to family. And Kelly, of course, has quite truly brought it all home.
Ephraim’s meandering to find Kelly played out in a suitably creepy “I think she’s infected” way, and its culmination in having to kill Diane and her son was a difficult emotional journey for him. Further, Zach taking Kelly’s phone and connecting with it as the only part of his mother he has left was incredibly heartbreaking.
But Kelly’s own journey was the best part of the hour. The strain that we saw infect the initial airplane “survivors” was a slow-moving one, and it took several episodes to fully transform them. But with Kelly, we were able to see just how fast the vampiric virus moves, and how a newborn vampire stumbles to find their loved ones (as Abraham said they would), eating any and everyone along the way. As Kelly, Natalie Brown hasn’t had much to do except be exasperated at Eph, but “Loved Ones” was her moment to shine. Her jerking movements and curious yet menacing facial expressions were the height of creep, as she learned how to feed. And after her initial kills and explorations (and running into some really nasty looking vamps), Kelly was called to the Master himself, who seems to have a purpose for her to help get to Ephraim and Abraham.
Vasiliy and Dutch’s trip to Stoneheart HQ was less exciting. Though they have a great quippy rapport (similar to when Eph and Abe were driving around together several episodes ago), and some light flirtation budding, did Dutch really think she could just waltz into Stoneheart unrecognized? She has a very distinct look, and people there obviously know her. It was unbelievable that should wouldn’t even consider a disguise. How easy would it have been to remove the eye makeup and loot a wig shop? Think!
Eldritch, once he caught her (after two seconds), agreed, commenting drolly that, “the mind boggles at the audacity of the plan.” As all villains do, Eldritch then tells Dutch all of his plans of immortality, before sending her to her death — which of course never happens. His lackey Fitzwilliam lets the pair go, saying he thinks Eldritch is crazy, but since there’s nothing he can do about it, he’ll just let them go do whatever they need to do. Um, ok.
Meanwhile, though the internet and cellphones are down, presumably TVs and radio still work. Though the newscasters are casting away, they aren’t giving any valuable information. A few dead bodies are found … are they sending their news crews out at all? Everyone is looting, and chaos is reigning. The banks are failing, and the world financial situation is about to collapse. And yet no one has yet noticed fucking vampire zombies roaming freely in the streets at night? My local news crew will go and report a downed tree two counties over, and no one has put a zombie vamp on TV yet? The military isn’t involved? Forsooth!
All of that aside, in “Loved Ones,” The Strain kept things fairly insular and personal, which is when the show is at its best. The very best is when Abraham is slicing off heads with his cane sword, but there has to be some story in between (I guess). Bringing the struggle home for Ephraim was important, and “Loved Ones” made good on bringing back the humanity and emotion, all wrapped up in one nice iCloud commercial.
Kelly’s Vampire Origins: A
Everything Else: C
Musings and Miscellanea:
— Kelly turning the kid, and Ephraim having to kill him, was dark even for The Strain.
— Eph is from Philly, I knew it.
— Ephraim’s non-apology to Nora was such a waste of time. Basically, “I don’t regret having sex at all, that was awesome. I just regret making you think it meant anything beyond that.”
— Someone needs to put Dutch on mood stabilizers.
— Those worms will never stop being completely disgusting.
— When are we going to find out who those random cloaked demi-vamps were??