The Following season 2 episode 9 review: Unmasked
Camp and brain-rotting it may be, but The Following's second season is always entertaining. Here's Ron's review of Unmasked...
This review contains spoilers.
I have to say that the one thing missing from Joe's cult last season has been supplied this season thanks to Micah and Julia's little community of berobed killers in the making. It seems like all the classic cults, barring the Manson family, have had a serious religious bent. Joe's first cult was kind of Manson in its genesis, but its execution—a big house full of people and lots of bribery and whatnot of local officials—was more like something out of the Jonestown playbook. This season's cult, AKA Korban, provides some much-needed religious lunacy to go along with the compound setting that's apparently within a few minutes' drive of New York City.
The takeover's been pretty obvious from the beginning. Joe's been kind of obvious about it with the way he got Micah's ear, Emma's in on the game, and while Mandy has been off screen for a few episodes, she probably knew it was coming too despite being kept in the shadows pretty consistently by her father figure. However, when Joe finally made his move on Micah, it was really satisfying. Joe worked a classic confidence angle, gaining Micah's trust, finding out what made him tick, then using that against him to take off the head of the organization and install himself as the new chief of Red Robes Inc.
It's been quite a pleasure to watch, and not just because Jake Weber is killing it whenever he gets to deliver some crazy religious babbling. James Purefoy seems to be having a lot of fun as the ironic observer, rather than the observed. Joe is actually telling jokes (joe-ks) and being the charismatic, witty fellow he was supposed to be in the first season, but wasn't. Joe's ironic-ish delivery of the religious rhetoric he wrote for Micah peppered with his own Joecentrism ended up being some really good, surprisingly amusing stuff, particularly when Joe compares himself openly to the other JC.
That was one of the better moments in Vincent Angell's script. Aside from Joe and Micah, who the show will miss now that he's gone, the other fun moment involved Jana, the baby-mama of FBI agent and task force leader Mendes. She's hosting a suburban mom pizza and wine party when Mendes shows up to toss a little salt in her game. Turns out, Max and Mike have been doing some detective work and they've figured out that Mendes is the weak link in the FBI task force (at least for this week) and now that they've confronted Mendes (and Max has planted a bug on her), Mendes is going to confront Jana, which allows Leslie Bibb to fly off the handle, make crazy faces, and eventually both stab and kick Mendes in the garage (she doesn't kick her in the garage, Mendes is in the garage and Jana kicks her in the head). It doesn't sound funny when you say it like that, but the end result is pretty funny.
What isn't funny is the way The Following stages its violence. Without fail, it is one of the most violent shows on television, and rather than trying to reduce the impact of that violence, The Following tries to heighten it. When Carrie Cooke goes to her book signing only for Emma, Robert, and Lance the insane cult ear-cutter show up, we know what's going to happen. The knives flash and throats are cut with expedience. People are stabbed multiple times, thrown down stairs, and generally carved up like Sunday roast. It's cheap, it's easy, it's very entertaining, and it's ultimately meaningless since it was only arranged to make Carrie get the word out about Joe.
Still, it's really well-staged by director Nicole Kassell and the show's technical crew. It feels appropriately big and impressive, while still being kind of chaotic. Ditto Joe's sudden but inevitable betrayal of Micah and takeover of the cult, executed in grand style. Joe has some great facial expressions throughout. All in all, it's just the sort of huge gesture that Joe would do to get public attention again, so it's very fitting.
The big startling reveal at the end of the episode was a huge surprise, at least to me, after watching Claire Matthews get killed by one of Joe's followers at the end of the first season, but apparently she, like Mendes, is stabbing-proof enough to appear in protective custody, so that's going to be a fun love triangle for Kevin Bacon. Assuming Claire's not a Follower at this point, too. On The Following, you can never tell just who is going to be an evil killer and who is going to just be dumb, and as the show has made clear over its run thus far, any option is open.
That's the best thing about The Following, it can be both legitimately entertainment, campy entertainment, and brain-rotting entertainment within the same episode.
US Correspondent Ron Hogan is sad to see Jake Weber leave the show, but maybe there's still time for that Jake Weber/Steven Weber Simon and Simon remake. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.
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