The Strain 1.10: “Loved Ones”

Flashbacks aren’t new to this show, but this week’s episode handles them a little bit differently. Rather than giving us insight into a character’s origins, as in the Abraham and Eichorst narratives, we swing back and forth between the recent past and the present to see exactly what happened to Eph’s estranged wife Kelly.

I quite like it: it disrupts the normally linear story in an interesting way that puts the full spotlight on a side character. And by making us connect with Kelly, it lets us feel just how horrific such an experience would be on a visceral level.

Everything opens in the present with Zach using his noggin and a laptop liberated from the pawn shop (clever boy) to track down his missing mother’s iPhone. I always appreciate when child characters are given more to do than stand around and look cute, and this just further cements my opinion that Zach and Carl from The Walking Dead would make quite the pre-teen team.

While Eph sets off to follow Kelly’s phone, Vasiliy pulls upon his exterminating experience and outlines potential tunnels the vamps must be utilizing. The problem is that the current maps aren’t detailed enough—he needs to access an archive that’s only available online. Dutch doesn’t know if she can do much to fix the mess she’s made of the Internet, but to try she’ll need to get back into the Stoneheart Group. With Vasiliy’s city credentials they just might be able to pull it off…

Eph finds Kelly’s phone but Kelly’s nowhere in sight. Turns out a homeless woman found it lying on the street; after Eph patches up her leg, she takes him to the spot. Kelly’s empty car is there. And a bloody Kleenex.

That totally doesn’t bode well.

We flash back thirty-two hours earlier as the infected Matt returns home from the worst inventory shift in history. Unaware that her boyfriend is becoming a monster in the locked bathroom, Kelly heads off to work only to find the school practically empty. A fellow teacher tells her half of the students have called in sick and Kelly realizes she should have listened to Eph’s warning.

Could’ve, would’ve, should’ve…

And when she gets home it’s to an awful welcome: the transformed Matt attacks her, and while she fights back admirably—who would’ve thought a juicer could be so effective against the undead—it’s ultimately for naught. In the scuffle, a worm burrows into her eye in a way that will probably scar some of us for life.

Yuck!

If you didn’t have an eye horror trigger before, you can thank del Toro for the one you have now.

Kelly passes out in her car only to wake once night has fallen. Disoriented and terrified, she staggers into Zach’s school looking for her son. The principal tells her that Diane has already picked up Zach, is naturally concerned by Kelly’s confused state, and steps aside to call for an ambulance. But Kelly doesn’t have time for such things anymore—she stumbles outside driven by her need to find her son and already well into her transformation.

As is made evident when another vamp passes her by in favor of a more tempting and fresh meal. (Personal side note: I’ve always felt that the scariest things are rooted in a perversion of the normal and every day. When even a walk down a public street can end in a savage mauling—that is properly scary in my opinion.)

Back in the present, Dutch and Vasiliy try to slip into the Stoneheart Group, where business seems to be continuing as usual. I guess the vamps are under strict orders to avoid the place until the rest of the city’s been converted.

Of course things don’t go smoothly. Their elevator ride is interrupted by several hardasses in sharp suits and the pair are taken to Roger Fitzwilliam, Eldritch Palmer’s right-hand manservant. Dutch is escorted inside to have an ominously private word with the ailing billionaire.

Kelly finds her way to Diane’s, where her friend is horrified by her condition. But not nearly as horrified as she is when Kelly suddenly attacks her son. In trying to save the boy, Diane only ends up sucked dry herself.

Guess that puts an end to their carpooling.

Eldritch Palmer may be on death’s door but he’s still enough of an asshole to gloat to Dutch about how successful his plans have been—and how insignificant she is in his greater scheme.

What a tool. If I were her, I’d have decked the son of a bitch myself.

Having dispatched with her first victims, Kelly is summoned to the subway tunnels. Where she comes face-to-face with the head of her new ‘family’. Given that the vamps are all telepathically linked in a hive mind, with the Master knowing and seeing everything through them, we’ve got to assume that poor Kelly’s his newest weapon against those who would oppose him. We’ve already seen that the undead won’t hesitate to play dirty; and as Abraham made clear in the pilot, love will be humanity’s downfall…

Vasiliy and Dutch are marched into the underbelly of the Stoneheart building by Fitzwilliam and his suited thugs. Just when the two ready themselves for a five gun salute, Fitzwilliam makes a surprising choice: he lets them go. His employer is sick, he says, and is making bad choices. He can’t very well execute the people who are trying to fix those mistakes.

So the dude’s got a conscience. Surprising, given how long he’s worked for a completely selfish, entitled sociopath.

Still following Kelly’s trail, Eph ends up at Diane’s place. And what he finds in the basement—a vamped Diane and her similarly turned son—confirms his worst suspicions. Especially when he discovers Kelly’s necklace in Diane’s hand after he puts the two down.

Angry and grief-stricken, Eph lashes out at Dutch when he returns to Setrakian’s, driving the hacker out into the night. Methinks her decision to take her chances out there rather than deal with “you assholes” is one she’s gonna seriously regret.

And when Zach pops in eager for news on his mom, Eph tells him the truth, but not the full truth: “I didn’t find her.” I know it would be difficult to tell your kid that their mom had become a creature of the night, but I also think letting him keep holding on to a futile hope is similarly cruel. Just tell him quickly and bluntly, Eph—treat it like a Band-aid that has to be ripped off in one go.

Because the next time he sees his mom, he needs to be prepared to shoot her in the head.


Angie Barry wrote her thesis on the socio-political commentary in zombie films. Meeting George Romero is high on her bucket list, and she has spent hours putting together her zombie apocalypse survival plan. She also writes horror and fantasy in her spare time, and watches far too much Doctor Who. You can find her at Livejournal.com under the handle “zombres.”

Read all posts by Angie Barry at Criminal Element.

Comments

  1. Lauren Scheier

    “We flash back thirty-two hours earlier as the infected Matt returns home from the worst inventory shift in history.” LOL! That is definitely the bes way to describe it.

    I really enjoyed this episode. Except when Dutch and Vasiliy tried to sneak into Stoneheart. Did they not think to disguise her? They have security cameras everywhere, of course they’re going to notice her! At first I thought getting captured was part of the plan, but nope. That was really poor planning on their part.

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