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The Strain, Ep. 1.10, “Loved Ones” blends quiet horror with unearned emotion

The Strain, Ep. 1.10, “Loved Ones” blends quiet horror with unearned emotion


The Strain, Season 1, Episode 10, “Loved Ones”
Written by Gennifer Hutchison
Directed by John Dahl
Airs Sundays at 10pm EST on FX

The decision to devote a significant portion of an episode to Eph’s wife, whose name is Kelly (in case you understandably couldn’t remember), is pretty ballsy for The Strain at this stage of the game. This is a tangential character that we have literally no emotional connection with, but the crux of this storyline is the writers’ belief that we should care about her slow descent into vampirism. This is compounded by the fact that we can’t even connect to how this supposedly heartbreaking development will affect Eph, since we don’t really care. If the intention of these scenes is to have them weigh heavy on us emotionally, then they are an utter failure.

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On the other hand, there is some legitimate ingenuity with this storyline. Granted, we don’t care one way or the other what happens to Kelly, but this episode gives us easily the most insight to date on how this virus actually works and develops. This added context is compelling in that we’re able to learn some new information about this mysterious virus, while we are being guided by a familiar character we can at least connect to the main narrative. It’s not particularly groundbreaking television, but it is clever in its ability to tell this story at this point in the show.

What is perhaps most striking about these sequences is how the process of turning into a vampire resembles what most of us would relate to the process of becoming a zombie. Though we and the characters refer to these monsters as vampires, much of their behaviour resembles that of a zombie. We watch as Kelly returns to familiar places, trying to piece together what she should be doing, and more importantly trying to keep a hold on who she is. This is a common trope in zombie stories, with newly turned individuals returning to where they hung out as humans and slowly having their memories fade. It all leads to her encounter with Diane, and it’s clear that she’s fully gone by the time Diane’s son appears and Kelly whips around to give him an absolutely terrifying look.

Ultimately, the Kelly scenes work as a small case study in watching the virus, in a way that the plane survivors (remember them?) never did. They also contribute quite well to the episode’s manner of quiet horror, as most things are hinted at without being explicit. In addition, we come to the Master whispering directly to Kelly, sounding a lot like Voldemort when he whispers to Harry, and it seems like he is handpicking her to be one of his chosen ones. This seems a little too convenient, the idea that our hero’s wife is a chosen one, and it also suggests that the Master may have it out for Eph specifically, which would be a little ridiculous and not a welcome turn for the show. We’ll keep an eye on this. (Speaking of eyes, we also finally watch the much-advertised worm dig its way into Kelly’s eye, which is predictably bone-chilling.)

The Strain S01E10

The episode isn’t all about Kelly, though. That said, the other storylines take a backseat so that not much moves forward. Fet and Dutch prove to be a fruitful pairing as they attempt and fail to infiltrate the Stoneheart Group building. They have an easy chemistry, so it will be interesting to see where this relationship goes in the future — romantic, or platonic ideals? Palmer talks about his plan for immortality, which he describes to hacker girl Dutch as “the ultimate hack”, and you’ll be forgiven if your eyes rolled to the back of your head permanently.

The confrontation between Eph, Fet and Dutch leaves one a little cold. Once they all return to Setrakian’s lair from their own isolated storylines (Nora and Setrakian basically sit this episode out, seemingly cooking up some scheme for taking on the Master), Eph is in a foul mood and decides to take it out on Dutch, making her feel unwelcome. She reacts like anyone likely would and gets out of there, much to the chagrin of Fet, who calls Eph out on his bullshit but backs down to avoid a full-on fight. Dutch will almost certainly return to the group, but this brings up yet again the issue of Eph as our hero. As much as I admire Corey Stoll as an actor, Eph is written almost invariably as an insufferable prick who thinks he’s the leader because of some misplaced entitlement. When Fet asks what makes him the leader, Eph’s reply is the director of the CDC, which is both a lie and absurd under the circumstances. This could easily turn into a spiel about the entitled white male hero trope in television, but suffice it to say that a guy who spends the entire episode as the only one not doing something productive to fight this menace is not a hero worth rooting for.