This review contains spoilers.
1.12 The Curse
After a pretty lacklustre series of episodes, The Following has more or less reached a level of appealing weirdness for me. For example, this week’s episode (written by Seamus Kevin Fahey and Amanda Kate Schuman) takes great delight in taking all of the characters we know and completely flipping their established roles. By and large, if someone has been behaving a certain way throughout the entire season, this episode they decided to completely change their motivation for various reasons.
For some, like Weston in the wake of his near-death experience, it makes sense. He’s been through some bad stuff lately, and that might explain why his relationship with Ryan goes from Suckup and Hero to Surly Teenager and Concerned Father Figure in a span of a week. The relationship also morphs from Good Cop and Bad Cop to Psychotic Cop and Stunned But Morally Ambiguous Cop. It’s clever in a sense that it makes Ryan distinctly uncomfortable with how he’s influencing his fellow agent, and it’s also an effective driver of the plot by making Weston aggressive and mistake-prone. It’s a nice counterpoint to Ryan; yes, he’s aggressive and takes risks, but he’s a thinker (as we see in the episode’s final reveal) and his risk comes with plenty of thought put into it. He’s a clever character, albeit an unlucky one.
Being clever and unlucky makes him the opposite of Joe Carroll, whose frustration with… well, everything seems to be boiling over into his writing. Yes, Joe finally works on this mythical book sequel of his, and the results are not very good. The little snippets we get to read aren’t terribly impressive, Joe isn’t happy with it judging by the workout his backspace button gets, and even Claire is unimpressed with his tome (and lets him know with a pretty brutal, effective cut-down during one of her arguments with her ex-husband/current kidnapper).
Rather than being foolish, Claire has decided – at least for this week – to be aggressive. She makes an escape attempt, she verbally undercuts an already-frustrated Joe, and she engages in a pretty violent brawl with Emma, even getting the better of the experienced serial killer thanks to her enraged mum strength and Emma’s sudden desire to make nice (I believe it’s Joe’s idea, which is why it’s a bad one). Speaking of Emma, now thanks to his experience with her, Jacob has become a more aggressive wannabe killer, volunteering for the mission of the week and everything. It seems out of character, and it is.
Truthfully, most of the behaviour this week seems out of character, either driven by frustration, circumstances, or some attempt at manufacturing a personality. (Except for Ryan being awesome as always, because Kevin Bacon can make pretty much any scene work in his favour simply by being so much better than the material.) It seems that the only person who gets something truthful revealed about himself is Ryan Hardy, telling the story of his father’s captor, and possibly Roderick, who reveals that he loves Joe’s cult because he can be himself rather than hide behind a mask of sanity. Even Roderick seems to have his limits.
As Roderick tells Claire, the cult is made up of a collection of people with different wants, needs, and sinister urges. For every casual killer there’s one or two hardcore psychopaths balanced out by a dozen Emma-style groupies, wannabes, and hangers-on. Will Carrollism’s military wing win out, or are they even a part of Joe’s master plan? What is Joe’s endgame? Despite myself, despite knowing better, I find myself getting drawn into the show again, for all the wrong reasons. It’s compelling in a disaster sense.
US Correspondent Ron Hogan liked this new aggressive Weston, if only because of the puzzled looks he kept getting from Hardy and Parker. He was out-mavericking the original FBI maverick. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.
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