This review contains spoilers.
One of the things The Following has always done very well is violence as spectacle. When the show decides that it’s time for a crazy, bloody set piece, the end result is usually pretty hard to look away from, even if they make it hard to watch. The Following won’t win any awards, except perhaps a Scream Award for Stabbiest Show, but it’s consistently, insanely entertaining, and it never hesitates to go completely mental and mow down dozens of people with the aim of providing queasy entertainment.
True to form, The Following‘s villains are always looking for a big, flashy, bloody way to get attention for themselves, and this week’s episode is no different. Given that Joe’s kill squads have been roaming New York stabbing people, it’s not too much of a surprise when the cult of Carroll—the original cult, not the Korban cult—starts to gain some steam from a pop culture standpoint, with news reports mentioning sales of Carroll shirts, masks, and other memorabilia to a growing collection of teenagers and fascinated members of the public. It seems a stretch, but remember: Charles Manson has been featured on lots of tee-shirts over the year. It’s a clever bit of real-world influence on a show that’s pretty far from the real world sometimes, with its incompetent FBI agents and constant discovery of moles within the system.
Of course, because this is The Following and because they’ve been teasing the battle between serial killer versus serial killer, Lily is going to use the attention surrounding Joe to make a move to rescue her son Luke (remember him?) from police custody and a hospital recovery ward. It’s really a clever move by Lily. She uses her significant resources to hire a bunch of mercenaries and cause a little chaos to get the FBI off her tail and onto the wrong lead. It’s a pretty clever ruse, sending guys in masks with knives to a coffee shop to go on a stabbing spree and get the FBI and local law enforcement to pay attention to that crime scene while smuggling in those same stabby mercenaries into the hospital under the guise of wounded coffee shop workers.
It’s a pretty classic false flag operation, but it works effectively well, both for Lily and for the television show. Having two big set pieces really helps director Liz Friedlander craft an entertaining episode, what with the chaotic violence of stabbing on one hand and the more coordinated, tense scene with Luke and the mercenaries trying to escape the hospital while Ryan, Mike, and the FI try to prevent said escape. We get some fun scenes of Ryan creeping around in the basement and Mike skulking around in a stairwell, as well as a good half-dozen machine gun deaths courtesy of either the mercenary threesome or the police, depending on the situation. As usual, the show does a great job of filming people screaming and fleeing from armed criminals.
As for the non-violent parts of the episode, Joe continues to have difficulty controlling his cult since he’s turned it from a cult of cutters and bleeders into a cult of actual murderers. From the opening moments of the show, the B plot of Dewayne Jones’s script was firmly centered on Joe’s attempts to retain control of his people. Joe’s speeches to his followers are becoming increasingly vague and difficult for his new cultists to swallow, though he has apparently garnered the attention of a television preacher who will no doubt be killed later on in the season. I’m glad that Joe and Emma are still kind of outsiders to the cult and that they’re having difficulty getting all the cultists on the same page despite Joe’s charisma and Robert’s necessary assistance.
It’s a pretty natural development that Joe would have trouble hanging onto Micah’s cult now that Micah is dead, and it makes further sense that other opportunists (Lily, the televangelist, tee-shirt salesmen, etc.) would latch onto Carroll while the people he wants to latch onto him (murderers) are a little more hesitant to get on board. After all, this was a mostly peace and love cult, without a lot of murdery overtones. Joe is completely changing the direction of the group and when you lock up all the non-believers, you’re going to have problems with people trying to sneak away (see also Mandy, hitchhiking her way out of the cult, and Robert, needing some sexual persuasion from Emma to stay on the right page).
Lily seems like Bizarro World Joe. She’s got a small group of devoted followers AKA family, and she’s got the money, skills, and resources that Joe’s group always didn’t really have at their disposal. The Carrollers had the numbers, but Lily’s group seems to have the skills necessary to be a true force to be reckoned with. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens when Lily turns her attention away from the FBI to Joe’s group of cast-offs.
Read Ron’s review of the previous episode, Teacher’s Pet, here.
US Correspondent Ron Hogan doesn’t have anything really clever to say here. Maybe something about wanting coffee after watching all those people get stabbed at the coffee shop? Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.
Follow our Twitter feed for faster news and bad jokes right here. And be our Facebook chum here.