All right, I'm through trying to give The Strain the benefit of the doubt. "Loved Ones" isn't the worst episode of The Strain's inaugural season, but I think it's the one that infuriated me the most.
That's because it so perfectly demonstrates The Strain's two main flaws — basically, being dumb and boring. This might not have been the least eventful episode — after all, a thing or two does actually happen — but for the most part it was yet another episode of the characters wasting time. But what enrages me is that this episode is especially dependent on these poorly defined characters making inexplicable, often outright stupid decisions, in order to accomplish nothing. Boring I could handle if the characters were rational, interesting or in some way compelling. Dumb writing I could handle if the show was providing entertainment like the Spec Ops Vampire Squad on anything approaching a consistent basis. The Strain is doing neither of these things.
I was about to add that the main problem of "Loved Ones" is that it focuses on two of the show's crappier characters, Eph's ex-wife Kelly and Dutch, the British Internet Breaking Girl. But then I realized these guys aren't even close to the show's worst characters. We could have focused on Nora and Nora's mom. We could have spent an episode with Gus' family. Sure, Dutch is ridiculous and obnoxious and Kelly is practically a non-entity, but by default that leaves them in the middle of the pack.
Anyways, as prophesied last week, Eph goes hunting for Kelly when Zack finds a little corner of the internet Dutch didn't break and tracks down the location of his mom's phone (do not get me started on the show ignoring its dumb phone/internet problem whenever they're too lazy to think of an alternate way to make characters learn or ommunicate things, which is a goddamned lot). Eph goes to search for the phone and Kelly and because this is The Strain, we see what happened to Kelly in flashback and then Eph slowly following her trail, so we get to experience the story twice, knowing that Eph is wasting his time and therefore ours as well.
Short version: Kelly got infected. In fact, she got the worm in the eye which has led The Strain's marketing campaign. She tries to find Zack as she turns into a vampire, kills that neighbor from last episode and her kid, and gets summoned by The Master which will presumably mean something in about three episodes from now. It ends with Eph killing the infected neighbor lady and her kid and finding Kelly's necklace or watch or something and realizing she's almost certainly been infected. Corey Stoll does some fine acting here as Eph, breaking down just the right amount at losing a loved one even though their relationship had deteriorated, but it loses its power given that 1) we the audience learned Kelly got infected 45 minutes ago, so the loss isn't exactly fresh, and 2) the only thing Kelly has done in this show is ignore Eph's advice to leave the city so it's hard to get worked up.
But this storyline is the goddamn Sopranos compared to the B story, where Dutch says she can fix the internet if she can get into Eldritch Palmer's office — and you should continue trying to not get me started about how dumb this is — and she and Fet just walk inside and instantly get caught. Dutch gets sent to Palmer and she slaps him and then Palmer's majordomo Fitzwilliam acts like he's going to execute them both but lets them go because he's apparently come to the sudden conclusion that helping his boss create the vampire apocalypse might not be the best idea.
So let me try to break this down for you. Dutch and Fet accomplished nothing. And, in order to for this dumb, entirely useless scene to conclude, a minor character still had to take an action counter to every single appearance he'd made so far, and more importantly one that makes no fucking sense on about eight different levels.
Oh, so Fitzwilliam wants to "help" Fet and Dutch? Then why doesn't he go with Fet like he asked? Or, a better idea, why not help them get to Palmer's internet room so Dutch can un-break the Internet and they'd originally planned? Why not provide any information that perhaps could help Fet and Team Vampire Hunter in their goal? Why "help" them to a point where they can leave without consequence, having achieved nothing, but inexplicably stop short of every single other way he could assist them? Arrrgh.
Next week looks like shit actually hits the fan with actual action and excitement and vampires getting beheaded if plotlines not actually advancing. Right now, I'm grumpy enough with the show to not believe it, and not sure that even if it's true it'll make up for all the time The Strain has wasted. This may be a rescue mission even the Spec Op Ninja Vampires Squad can't save.
• I knew this episode was going to sting when it opened with five minutes of Zack trying to connect to the internet. Thank you, vampire apocalypse show. You really know what I want to see.
• Kelly is such a non-character that I literally typed her name as Nora for 2/3rds of the recap before I remembered Nora was the name of a different character who is also defined entirely by her relationship to Eph.
• Why did vampire Matt decide to lock himself in the bathroom rather than eat Kelly that first time? How was Kelly still cogent enough to get to Zack's school and talk to the principal, but couldn't be bothered to pick up her goddamn phone? Why does the principal think she's been in a car wreck when there's a goddamn plague going on? Follow-up: Why does no one in fucking New York City, even without the aid of the internet, not realize there are literally hundreds of vampires murdering their way through the streets at night? Did Dutch also break people's abilities to talk and convey information to each other?
• And why would Dutch willingly choose to go outside where the fucking killer vampires just because Eph was a little mean to her? What rational human being would make that choice? Why is The Strain asking up to care about a character so stupid as to make this decision?
• Eph needs to take lessons in killing monstrous children from Rick Grimes. Now that's a dude who knows how to shoot undead kids.