Whether reaching back to Mary Shelley’s Victor Frankenstein and Elizabeth Lavenza or to the most recent of romances between Rick Grimes and Michonne, one would be hard-pressed to find a love that ran deeper than Eben for Stella Oleson in 30 Days of Night.
Though Eben (Josh Hartnett) was the type of lawman more likely to appear in the pages of a Louis L’Amour novel than warding off a horde of ravenous vampires, there was an old school air of perfection to Sheriff Oleson. Not by way of arrogance, but rather from the standpoint that he was a noble protector who spoke to the inhabitants of Barrow, Alaska as friends rather than constituents. Eben was trusted, and not simply because he carried a badge.
More than that, however, he was fiercely loyal to family. Oleson was not above throwing down, but nothing throttled his temper into overdrive quite like someone messing with his brother Jake (Mark Randell) or his wife Stella (Melissa George).
While the film never delved into the reasoning behind the couple’s separation, it clearly held no sway on the devotion Eben felt for his wife.
Why? Actions speak louder than words.
Despite the rather sudden discovery that Stella had been in town but not reached out to talk as well as the revelation that her only reason for calling was for a ride, Eben did not let his emotions get the best of him. Though undeniably disappointed and frustrated, Eben did not pick a fight or hang up on Stella, instead he arranged for her transportation to the airport and asked her to let him know when she did want to talk.
As though the discovery of destroyed cell phones, slaughtered sled dogs and a gutted helicopter weren’t enough for a day’s work, Eben had to fire a bullet through The Stranger’s (Ben Foster) shoulder to save his little brother only to go out and discover a cell tower operator’s head on a pike. Upon his return and a frantic attempt to determine what was going on, the uber-creepy Stranger asked Eben to finish him off. Oleson’s eyes went to a different place, he was lost in consideration of an act that a man in his position simply could not take, but what pulled him back was Stella’s voice. “Eben. Look at me. No.” The unthinkable came to an immediate halt in a single moment. Oleson respected his wife’s judgment, her sense of right and wrong to the extent that further thought let alone action was unnecessary.
Holed up in Charlie Kelso’s attic, the group was desperate to come up with a way to fight what by that point they clearly understood to be vampires. Stella suggested that they could use the ultraviolet lamps Eben’s grandmother had been utilizing to grow medicinal marijuana to treat her cancer, because vampires don’t do well with sunlight. Beau (Mark Boone Junior) quipped that “Just because something stopped Bela Lugosi” didn’t mean it was a plan they should hitch their survival to.
Eben, however volunteered to give it a go, which drew a response from Stella. “You don’t even think this plan’ll work.” The Sheriff’s reply could not have been more honest or communicated more love.
“Yeah, but you do.”
Oleson’s trust and belief in his wife ran so deep that he was willing to risk his life for a mission that, at best, had a 50 / 50 shot of success and was more likely a suicide mission.
Finally, when Stella was freezing and hiding under a wreck as the undead swarmed the street, draining oil from the pipeline to set the town ablaze and destroy any evidence of their month-long massacre, Eben came to a simple realization.
“They’ll kill her if she runs. She’ll burn if she stays.”
Earlier in the film, Oleson told Stella that “It’s hard to stop someone when their family’s at stake.” A sentiment the sheriff clearly meant.
“We can’t fight them the way that we are.”
Without hesitation, Eben found a syringe from the Utilidor’s medicine cabinet and drew some blood from the body of his deputy Billy, whom had been the third infected person Eben had to put down with an ax. As the remaining members of the group watched in horror, he injected the contents into his arm and waited for the metamorphosis to take hold.
“The things we’ll do to save our own.”
Eben pulled his hood up and ventured out for a confrontation with Marlow (Danny Huston). The head vampire identified Oleson as “The one who fights,” not knowing just how serious an adversary he was about to face. The sheriff perfectly embodied the premise that one should never make a battle personal.
Oleson never had any allusions of defeating Marlow, he simply wanted to serve as a distraction for Stella to escape and hold them off long enough for the sun to make its long-awaited appearance.
While whispering to his trapped wife moments earlier, Eben promised her that “The sun comes up tomorrow. We’re going to watch it together.”
He kept his word.
The film opened with the final sunset before Barrow was swallowed by darkness, and concluded with the final sunrise Eben and Stella would ever share.
A fitting conclusion, because for the heroic sheriff of Barrow, the sun rose and set with Stella Oleson.