If you’ve been keeping up with The Strain, you’ll know that it’s not only blood lust that spreads the vampire virus, but also humanity’s capacity for love. In a tragic and devastating twist in the tale, the first thing infected people do is pursue their loved ones; the people they’d want to harm the least are the first ones they seek to infect. So, as the search for Kelly continues, and the likelihood of finding her unmarked grows slimmer, it’s her family and friends that we should fear for.
The aptly titled ‘Loved Ones’ plays out from two different perspectives – our dwindling group of survivors’ and Kelly’s. When a momentary bit of signal reveals the whereabouts of Kelly’s phone, Eph pounds the pavement in search of his estranged wife. Kelly is nowhere to be seen but her phone is in the hands of a homeless woman who’s initially less than forthcoming. Eph trades his medical knowledge for information on where the phone was found, leading him to Kelly’s abandoned car, complete with an unsavoury bloody tissue.
It doesn’t take a genius to realise that something bad has indeed happened to Kelly and through intermittent flashbacks – that keep us one step ahead of Eph – we glimpse the last 32 hours through Kelly’s eyes. We first witness her boyfriend, Matt, attacking her and spitting a parasite onto her cheek, which crawls into her eye (we clearly have that to thank for the creepy promo poster). As the parasite takes hold of Kelly’s body, she wanders the streets searching for her son, slowly becoming more agitated and delirious as the infection grows.
At fifteen hours, Kelly hears a voice calling her name. The Master knows that Kelly is a valuable commodity, being so close to Eph, who’s fighting side-by-side with Setrakian – The Master’s only threat. There’s a brilliant moment where we see people through Kelly’s eyes, like an x-ray seeing their hearts pumping blood. In another series this might have come across as a cheap gimmick – a bit like Smallville’s overuse of Clark Kent’s x-ray vision – but used sparingly for a couple of seconds, it really helps to give an idea of how Kelly is experiencing the world as she turns into a monster.
Meanwhile, Vasily and Dutch go to Eldritch Palmer’s HQ in an attempt to restore the Internet and communication. Dutch is the only person who can fix her mistake, and Vasily thinks he can smuggle her into the building with the ruse of them being rodent exterminators. For all their bluff and BS, they don’t make it further than reception before they’re escorted to Palmer’s office.
Still living on borrowed time, Palmer congratulates Dutch on being a vital part in his scheme to bring the world to its knees. His reasoning for wanting to spread the vampire virus has been pretty clear from the start, but here he confirms it. It’s all about cheating death and gaining immortality. Isn’t is always?
Palmer orders his right-hand man, Reggie Fitzwilliam, to dispose of Dutch and Vasily before they can cause any more trouble. Fitzwilliam agrees but, instead of shooting them, lets them go free in the hope that they can put an end to the Strigoi madness. Fitzwilliam has been fiercely loyal to Palmer up until this point, but even he can see that his employer’s ideals are severely flawed. We all have our limits and it looks like Fitzwilliam has reached his.
‘Loved Ones’ allowed certain characters to shine, while others fell into the background. Dutch and Vasily made a sarcastic and tough team, their fiery dynamic proving to be considerably more interesting than Nora and Eph’s. Nora and Setrakian weren’t given much to do in this episode, taking a backseat to the action going on away from the basement hideout.
The most surprising revelation in this episode was Natalie Brown as Kelly, who really stepped up to the mark. Brown put everything she had into Kelly’s transformation, playing the scared and confused human before turning into a virus-spreading machine out for her loved ones’ blood. How will Eph respond to Kelly’s transformation? More importantly, will he be able to kill her when the time comes?
This week’s episode was a really exciting one, packing a huge punch and proving that the writers know exactly what they’re doing with the story, something that wasn’t quite so clear at the start of the series. If nothing else, ‘Loved Ones’ is a lesson on how to leave viewers wanting more, because we do. We REALLY do.