“You must be prepared for what you might find” — Abraham Setrakian (David Bradley)
A wiser quote could not be more applicable to The Strain because, at this point, the season has been so uneven that I try to prepare myself for something great (“Occultation“, “For Services Rendered“) to way below average (“Runaways“).
So where does “Loved Ones” fall along the spectrum?
I really want to say that I liked this episode. I also really want to say that I hated this episode. Since my feelings balance out nicely, I’ll throw it squarely in the middle and use the words of Seinfeld‘s George Costanza to illustrate my point: “Right in that meaty part of the curve…not showing off, not falling behind.”
How many times is The Strain going to remind us that, when turned, the vampires will go after their loved ones first? Well, with “Loved Ones”, you can add one more to that running total. I’m not sure if the creative forces behind the TV version (which includes authors Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan) realize that they’re constantly bombarding us with this singular piece of information, but it’s becoming tiresome.
What’s more interesting to me in regards to this theme is the scene where Eph (Corey Stoll) confronts the homeless person about where she obtained Kelly’s (Natalie Brown) cell phone. I wondered how she managed to survive all those nights on the streets with the Strigoi starting to run rampant and it hit me…maybe there’s no one that loves her. That one particular idea might have been more interesting to explore rather than the flashbacks we got about Kelly’s whereabouts during the previous 32 hours. Again, it’s no reflection upon the acting which has pretty much been top notch throughout.
It’s the poor writing and thin characterization that stifles my sympathy because Kelly, her friend Diane, and Diane’s son weren’t fleshed out enough for me to care about their untimely demises.
I can’t express enough how much the flashbacks in general have harmed the momentum of this series. Save for the ones that played well in “For Services Rendered”, they’ve added almost nothing to the enjoyment of the show. In “Loved Ones”, it would have been more suspenseful to leave Kelly’s fate a mystery until the very end of the episode thereby ending Eph’s speculation and enhancing his reaction to what happened to her (though Corey Stoll does a great job overall in expressing Eph’s grief).
For everything that doesn’t work about “Loved Ones”, there are scenes that are really well done and, again, they are scenes that involve Fet (Kevin Durand), Dutch (Ruta Gedmintas), Abraham, and Zach (Ben Hyland).
There’s a great rapport between Fet and Dutch as they flirt en route to worm (pun intended) their way in to the Stoneheart building, making a great team whose plan is immediately thwarted (which was a shock to no one) in what was basically a wasted sequence. However, it was nice to see Palmer (Jonathan Hyde) and Fitzwilliams (Roger Cross) again even though it was all too brief an appearance.
Once again, with “Loved Ones”, The Strain is putting an emphasis on slowing things down instead of speeding up events as it lurches toward the final three episodes of the season. This installment felt little more than filler until we (hopefully) get to the good stuff (which, judging from the preview of next week’s “The Third Rail”, looks as if we’ll get more of a taut, action oriented episode).
Some other inconsistencies that are troublesome:
- Why do communications work whenever it’s convenient? Zach is able to connect with the internet which is supposed to be completely dark. And phones? They seem to work whenever needed as well.
- Fet said that a full on attack would be a bad idea but why would they think slipping into the Stoneheart stronghold was a better one? He and Dutch were saved only by a weird plot contrivance.
- Matt (Drew Nelson) could have attacked Kelly while she was asleep but then inexplicably locked himself in the bathroom. Did he need that extra time to decide he really did love her?
- Why did the Master call out Kelly specifically? I don’t recall an instance where he did that with anyone else. Is it because he sees Eph as a threat because that development would come out of left field.
Anyway, it’s difficult to dwell too long on the issues that plague this series because it will drive me nuts. So to close, here’s something that really worked:
The quiet, reflective moment where (I think) Zach realizes that his mother is gone, played perfectly by Ben Hyland. Though the entire mini-flashback is a bit too drawn out, it worked better than the majority of “Loved Ones”.
The Strain – “Loved Ones” grade: C