[This is a review of The Strain season 1, episode 10. There will be SPOILERS.]
The Strain’s always excelled when it comes to delivering a good thrill and some brutal gore, but it hasn’t managed to conjure much emotion. And when it tries, we wind up with hokey heart-to-hearts or scenes that feel like worthless character fluff. However, that’s definitely not the case in episode 10, ‘Loved Ones.’
The instant we got that “32 Hours Earlier” title card, I thought that was it. There was no way this was going to work. It isn’t easy kicking off an episode in the present and then justifying the need to turn back the clock, but The Strain pulls it off.
I truly did not see this coming. The moment that worm slipped into Kelly’s eye during her fight with Matt, my mind went directly to, could she be immune? Is she going to turn into one of those creatures from episode 7? There’s just no way she can become yet another face in the growing crowd of vampires or have Eph just shoot her dead.
And then, just when it seemed like a done deal and Kelly would ultimately totally lose herself to the worms, we get the big reveal – she’s one of The Master’s chosen ones.
The episode’s content and structure do a stellar job of keeping the viewer guessing, ensuring that he or she is paying attention and weighing the effects of what’s happening in the present rather than just focusing on the end result of Kelly’s situation. And it’s a genius move to do this with a character that we’ve spent so much time with in human form.
Bolivar had a solid run, but it’s tough to care about what he’s losing by becoming a vampire because we barely knew what or who he had before. Kelly’s a different story, and the intercutting between the past and present doesn’t let you forget that.
We’ve only spent a matter of minutes with Kelly’s friend Diane (Inga Cadranel), but apparently the show’s established their relationship well enough because when Kelly sucks the life out of her and her young son, it’s a devastating watch. However, Kelly’s first kill probably would have been a shock no matter what. It’s just a bittersweet thrill to see one of those stingers come out of a character we were led to believe would be one of the heroes, and in this case, the most kind, caring and normal one of the bunch.
And then we’ve got the ultimate punch to the gut at the end of the episode. After experiencing Kelly’s nightmarish transformation step-by-step and wondering what’s to become of poor Zach throughout every second of it, we’re reminded what a great mother she is through an iPhone video from Zach’s birthday.
The episode doesn’t do anything to bolster the effect of the footage. There’s no foreboding music or eerie spin on the imagery. It’s just a bright, colorful scene filled with the biggest smiles and it’s enough to break your heart because of what you just experienced. Zach will never have this again and it truly hurts.
Kelly stole this episode, but Vasiliy and Dutch were pretty busy, too. Before we even jump into the specifics of what they were up to, the main characters of The Strain are the worst at concocting plans. As if that failed attempt to tail Eichorst wasn’t bad enough, this time around, Vasiliy and Dutch think it’s a bright idea to just walk into Palmer’s building to gain access to the Internet.
Sure enough, they’re apprehended within minutes. It’s fun watching Vasiliy no matter what he’s up to, but Kelly’s portion of the show is so powerful that this operation is definitely the throwaway storyline of the episode.
The Strain continues next Sunday with ‘The Third Rail’ at @ 10pm on FX.
Follow Perri on Twitter @PNemiroff.