I need to admit something: were it not for these recaps, I wouldn't be watching The Following. There are other shows I could say the same of (COUGH Revolution) but there it's a different sort of disconnect, one in which the show just isn't any good. You watch hoping it will be, sure, give it a few episodes to find its footing…only to be continually and consistently burned. The Following isn't that. Maybe it's not the finest show on television, but quality — of writing, of acting, of direction — isn't the issue, at least for me. And, like you, I'd wager, I'm intrigued enough by the show's central premise to want to see how this all pans out. I'm engaged.
I'm also sort of deeply disturbed.
Maybe that's the point? A show about a serial killer and his gang of serial killer acolytes should be off-putting; shocking. It would be weird to tune in to find Hardy and the whole FBI gang ragging on each other for their dating foibles, or trying to get a cupcake business off the ground. Innocents being punched, stabbed, and lit on fire definitely makes sense. But it's just very, very unpleasant to watch.
The final scene of last night's episode really sealed the deal for me. Hardy, having just witnessed an FBI partner stabbed through the jugular and the assailant get away, heads to Claire's place to check in. Turns out she's finally heard from her son, Joey…in the form of a sadistic QuickTime movie where his captors teach him how to kill an insect, and then a mouse. Joey questions the need to suffocate a living thing in a mason jar, but that doesn't matter -- he's being indoctrinated into The Following, his innocence a silly trifle. "Hi, Ryan!" Emma has him say to the camera, very much intending for this video to reach Hardy.
Our discomfort is clearly the point. We're supposed to want these grinning psychopaths dead, maybe in as grisly a fashion as they've so far dispatched victims on the show. Minutes earlier Jordy, the captured prison guard who'd nearly killed Claire last week, intentionally chokes to death eating the gauze from his arm sling. First question is: WHY IS NO ONE SURVEILLING THE SERIAL KILLER PROTEGES THEY HAVE IN CAPTIVITY. Second question is: really?!? Sh*t, dude. And his horrific end came moments after Paul (revealed to be for real gay fake gay dude) slammed a pretty convenience store clerk's head into a car and tied her up. Ten minutes after Ryan shot another Follower to death. And of course twelve minutes after the aforementioned FBI agent jugular stabbing. I guess what I'm saying is you CAN have too much of a good thing?
…All of which is beside the point, as you came here for a RECAP, not a sermon, and my landlord keeps asking for RENT. We all have our cross to bear (something I hope will not become a plot point this season). So let's suck it up and talk excessive, desensitizing violence!
Last night's episode began with a little preamble to the previous week's ending, with our Poe mask-wearing murderer performing "The Raven" for a nearby, rapt audience. The Following, of course, asks that we suspend a lot of disbelief. But the notion that crowds gather for poetry recited by mentally ill people wearing the creepiest masks ever manufactured is…wait, that actually makes sense. Anyway, says Weston later, "it's very common." Okay!
Hardy, Weston, Parker, et al go to investigate our Follower of the Week's* house and discover his terrified wife holed up in a closet, brandishing a knife. At HQ, she reveals that he'd joined up with Carroll's band of misfits a few years earlier, after he'd been laid off from a job. He stabbed her, viciously, when she'd asked for a divorce. Or so she says. Via flashback, we learn a little more about the Follower meeting space the FBI had uncovered last week. Ever had a clubhouse or been a member of a secret society? It's basically that — super-chill, murder-happy, etc. Everyone just having a rad time. Before Hardy can trace another lead and/or secretly take down another vodka shot, fire guy has killed again — this time the Dean of Winslow University, who had declined to give Carroll tenure some years back.
*let's make this a thing. Everyone on board? DISH Hopper guy? Cool!
Meanwhile Emma and the not-gay gay neighbors continue their squabbling, made worse by flashbacks that reveal that maybe the not-gay gay neighbors are gay, or at least discovered some unexpected sexual chemistry during their time together. Anyway, Paul is tired of being neglected. So he does what anyone in his position would do, which is come on to a nearby convenience store clerk before taking her hostage in the house where you're also housing your cult leader's son. DUH. In a show where college Romance professors are basically Professor Charles Xavier, this makes all the sense in the world.
But before you can say "vodka breath," we're back to Hardy and Co. watching over the fire starter's wife. Who, we'll soon learn, is NOT the innocent she'd proclaimed herself to be but as big a Carroll-head as the next freakazoid guy or gal. She kills the FBI agent assigned to watch over her. Hardy, who'd been stationed outside with Weston, clues to what's going on and corners her in the backyard. Her husband materializes almost out of thin air, coming at Hardy with a knife. Hardy shoots him. In the confusion, though, the wife escapes. And if these promos for next week are to be believed, that was not for the best.
So there, in just about 1000 words, is everything you could need to speak intelligently about the plot of last night's episode as well as the spiritual costs of indulging in such excessive violence. I think Dr. Do No Harm said it best in the promos for his hit NBC show, Do No Harm: "LET'S HAVE SOME FUN."
(Please be safe and good to one another.)
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