I came into last night’s episode of The Following optimistic, for some reason, that Joe’s execution would be enjoyable. And it was, in parts, but it was often confusing and erratic, as is to be expected of a show that’s had serious shake-ups in direction this season.
The day of Joe Carroll’s execution has finally arrived. Police, media, and protestors gather around the prison. “Welcome to the last day of your life,” the prison guard sneers as he delivers Joe’s last meal. Guards and his attorney soon come to escort him to the execution. Joe predictably flirts with his defense attorney, and trash talks other prisoners, as he’s transported from his cell. It becomes clear very early on that this day isn’t going to go down the conventional way.
Ryan watches the coverage from his apartment, still refusing to go. It’s cute, but not convincing; did anyone ever really think Ryan wouldn’t be there?
Theo essentially acts as a poke in the ribs: every once and a while, we get reminded that he’s going to threaten Ryan’s livelihood—more than he already has—once Joe has died. The introduction of Theo’s sister (played by Megalyn Echikunwoke, House of Lies), also—seemingly—an expert killer, will make for intriguing future episodes, but the stacking on the drama for future episodes to exploit is a pretty obvious tactic. Michael Ealy is just as good as always, and Megalyn Echikunwoke is a welcomed addition, they’re just underutilized this week.
Let’s get to the main issue with “Evermore”: When the guards prep Joe for his lethal injection, they remove his restraints…and then back away. One guard even turns his back. Joe has been responsible for the murders of dozens of people. Even in the La-La Land of The Following’s police work, that any guard ever turns his/her back on Joe is insanity, let alone in the execution room. As Dylan Thomas would say, Joe Carroll “[did] not go gentle into that good night,” and who thought he would? Predictably, Joe kills, takes hostages, and the situation is his to control.
Joe demands that Ryan must come to the prison or the hostages will all die. But if Ryan simply refuses to come and Joe kills his hostages, then Joe has no leverage. A conundrum, indeed, would have occurred had Ryan been able to resist. As was expected, he couldn’t.
Ryan, Mike and Max arrive at Joe’s prison and get up to speed on the plan. Gwen has a teary conversation with Ryan before he goes inside to see Joe; Ryan hangs up before Gwen can tell him she’s pregnant. I have a feeling the pregnancy will surface in spectacular fashion during the finale.
Joe and Ryan have the reunion Joe’s wanted forever. Ryan enters the execution room in exchange for a hostage, and Joe and Ryan catch up after Joe restrains and wraps a wire noose around Ryan’s neck.
Joe straps his defense attorney to the lethal injection table and threatens to cut her eye out before calling Ryan his “most devoted follower.” Ryan admits to Joe that he dreams about them killing together; Joe looks like a proud father when he hears this, while Ryan looks genuinely changed. They both realize how true it is that they know each other better than anyone else in the world. As the exchange reaches a crescendo, Ryan sucker punches Joe and tries to escort him, and the other two hostages to the SWAT team.
Theo’s sister—the proverbial poke here—hacks into the prison’s security system and lets prisoners out. They separate Joe, Ryan and the other two. Ryan comes kills three of the four attacking prisoners and saves the defense attorney. The other—who Joe mocked earlier in the episode—has taken Joe to a cell. Ryan comes to save Joe, gets entangled with the prisoner, and Joe saves Ryan, briefly, before Ryan finishes the job. Ryan is much closer to criminal than cop, this episode. The ferocity in his eyes when he kills tells the whole story.
Admittedly, Theo does have a big thing happen to him this episode: he finally cracks Strauss’ code using a line from the H.P. Lovecraft short story “The Nameless City.” (Yeah, I’m a nerd and love literary references…so what?) The code he’d been looking for leads to a hiding place.
After Joe’s been captured again, he acknowledges Ryan as his “real legacy” and calls him a brother. Joe says that he had to see Ryan before he died to know that his name will live on through Ryan. Joe’s parting words to Ryan are that Theo was born in Philadelphia “of violence.”
Ryan watches as Joe is killed, Joe getting his final wish. Joe’s dying words are, “’Quoth the raven, nevermore.’” A poetic end to a fantastic character, despite the long overdue—no pun intended—execution. James Purefoy is at his absolute best in Joe Carroll’s swan song.
Ryan heads to a bar and orders two shots of whiskey, one for Joe. We can’t really tell if Ryan is relieved because Joe is finally dead, or if he’s sad because he’s gone, but either way, he’s shaken up. And also, either way (at first), it seemed like a true goodbye from Joe Carroll, thankfully and finally. It was a fitting end, truly, but the carrying out was overwrought and sensationalistic—as only The Following can do. The final scene, and next week’s scenes, however, lead us to believe that—while Joe Carroll is no longer around, corporeally—Joe will live on as a figment of Ryan’s imagination.
Executive producer Alexi Hawley said in an interview with Inquisitr that this episode would be, “completely unexpected and very shocking.”If Joe escaping his restraints and killing was supposed to be shocking, that was shown in last week’s preview scenes of last night’s episode. And frankly, even then, there was nothing surprising about Joe breaking free. I get that EPs have to get people excited, but why falsely lead viewers in? Anyone who’s watched The Following from the get-go knew that Joe’s death wouldn’t be cookie cutter.
Bafflingly, the writers of The Following cast a pall over Joe’s send-off by overdoing Ryan’s descent into madness. The dichotomy between Ryan and Joe was strong this week, and we saw Ryan’s transformation. He’s changed, that much is apparent. So why overdo it? The writers don’t get that sometimes a whisper resonates louder than a scream. Judging by the direction the show seems to be headed in, it seems the writers are gearing up for quite a bit of screaming. The stars here are all for Bacon and Purefoy, being so wonderful at saying goodbye.