The Strain set a high bar for itself two weeks ago with “Creatures of the Night,” which played like one of The Walking Dead‘s better installments. Tense, action-packed and terrifically scary, it was the most fun this show has been to date. That made it more than a little disappointing when last week’s “The Disappeared” gave us very little to chew on, arriving almost half-baked and reminding us that pacing an entire season of TV as serialized as this is really, really hard.
Unfortunately, “Loved Ones” doesn’t do much to redeem the series – in fact, it may be The Strain‘s dullest outing to date. That said, this is a show in which an ancient vampire is busily spreading an epidemic across New York City, so even an off installment does pack in some thrills. This week, the focus is mostly on Kelly, who went missing in “The Disappeared” under none-too-promising circumstances. And while her fate remained a mystery last week, “Loved Ones” offers answers, although, as we discover, Eph and Zach may be better off if they never find out where she went.
Turns out, Kelly did manage to escape infected boyfriend Matt – though in her frantic fight with him, some of those nasty translucent worms managed to crawl into her eye. (Ew.) Sadly, thinking of Jim’s fate in “Creatures of the Night” immediately reminds us that Kelly is screwed. Once those worms get inside you, they reproduce so quickly that no amount of intervention will matter. And so a lot of the tension goes out of the episode at that point. Knowing as we do that Kelly is going to wind up sprouting a stinger and going after her friends and family, everything up until that happens feels regrettably tedious.
It also doesn’t help that, though Natalie Brown is a terrific actress, Kelly hasn’t been properly fleshed out as a character. Consequently, watching her transform doesn’t pack the emotional gut-punch that the showrunners and writers surely intended it to. There are still a few moving moments despite that. Kelly bent over her steering wheel in pain, silently begging for her life, is tough to watch, and the character’s grating pleas to see her son are perfectly vocalized by Brown.