This review contains spoilers.
When you watch a lot of television like I’ve done, you get to know a lot of “that guy” actors and actresses who keep popping up on stuff to your surprise. They’re people you kind of recognise from other stuff, but not enough to know who they are at first glance. This week’s episode of The Following ends up being a who’s who of the who’s that set, with guest turns from a surprising amount of identifiable character actors playing a variety of horrible people who are popping up to make Ryan Hardy’s life miserable.
Did you think that two separate cults were hard to follow? Lily on one hand, Joe on the other, Ryan Hardy on some mythical third hand, and lots of conflict between the three groups? Well, as it turns out, The Following has another cult in its midst, and I’m not talking about a devoted cadre of FBI agents who worship Ryan Hardy’s stern countenance and way with violence (though the season’s not over, and there’s always a third run waiting in the wings).
On the run from both the FBI and from a vengeful, spurned Lily, Joe and his two wards make for a safe place. Robert, one of Roderick’s recruited culties, has joined a different cult, the community of Korban. There, cult members don’t find murder so much as they find the occasional sex romp, forced showering, and stylish red robes for all (the new initiates get white robes). There, the power-mad Micah (played by our first “that guy” of the night, Jake Weber) rules with an iron fist and he’s got to make sure Joe knows the score. That’s why Micah’s wife Julia (Jacinda Barrett, the second “that guy” of the evening) has made Joe her personal pet project.
There’s an impressive amount of heat between Julia and Joe, and that’s due in no small part to Jacinda Barrett and James Purefoy. In a one-on-one setting, Joe’s ability to charm and sleaze comes across much better than it does when he’s trying to lead a large group or a big classroom. It makes sense when it’s just Joe strapped in a chair across from someone else, especially now that he’s not pumped up to be a great writer and leader, just some garden-variety sociopath. As for Micah, Jake Weber is really great at looking and acting crazy, but not so crazy that he’s not willing to reach out to Joe for help. The interactions between the two cult leaders, who approach one another with great respect for what the other has been able to do with their followers, works really well. It’s fun to see the guise drop, if ever so slightly, on Micah’s part, while Joe has to debase himself for acceptance.
It’s really well-done stuff from director Adam Davidson, who does a very good job making the cult initiation as creepy and Temple of Doom-y as possible while still not going so far as to kill off Emma (yet). Davidson also does a good job with Max’s kidnapping and subsequent escape; The Following is a show that loves rummaging through the woods, and this gives them a great reason to do so, what with the Huntsman’s gimmick of hunting his victims with a compound bow, skinning them, and taking tattoo trophies like Ilse Koch.
Speaking of Lily, she’s the person who gets the episode’s second “that guy” involved. Namely, a father-and-son serial killer team known as The Huntsman (Lee Tergesen, “that guy” number three). Well, the father is The Huntsman, the son is merely a weak link for Ryan and Mike to threaten, tie-up, and make scream pitifully while they get information from him by what I can only imagine is force. As it turns out, The Huntsman is the guy who kidnaps Max after she so wisely tries to talk Ryan out of his insane vendetta against Joe Carroll (serving as a pretty solid audience surrogate in the process).
So Joe hates Lily and Ryan. Lily hates Ryan and Joe. Ryan really hates Joe and isn’t as interested in Lily, though Ryan probably hates her now that Lily has tried to have his niece kidnapped and has personally killed Mike’s father (in a pretty gutting scene well-acted by Shawn Ashmore). Joe’s found another cult which he seems like he wants to infiltrate and take over (knowing Joe’s history) while Micah wants to use Joe to turn his devoted cultists into killers. Every serial killer knows every other serial killer, and every other cult leader seems to be aware of the other.
It’s a staggeringly weird universe crafted in this week’s episode by Dexter writer Scott Reynolds, but it makes sense. As Luke says to lampshade, Lily’s been auditioning a lot of folks to be a stand-in father for her International House of Psychos, and the Huntsman is one of the obsessed rejects, so he’s willing to do anything for Lily. And if he gets to collect a few new tattoos, so much the better! It’s so over the top I think it’s really a whole lot of fun, and I recognise that I’m in the minority, but I love the idea of serial killers fighting serial killers, sociopaths fighting sociopaths, and Joe methodically killing his way up the food chain of his newest cult of be-robed schmucks.
If this thing ends up being a full-fledged war with gutted bodies piling up like cord wood and ludicrous connections between tertiary serial-killer-of-the-week sorts, I’m all for it. The dumber and crazier the better. Joe leading a cult? Sure! Lily recruiting from the ranks of active serial killers to form her own cult? Why not? Ryan, Mike, and Max joining a vigilante group of people killed by Joe and Lily and Micah? Even better! Just go as crazy as possible, The Following. It’s your destiny.
Read Ron’s review of the previous episode, Fly Away, here.
US Correspondent Ron Hogan is glad to see that there’s plenty of room for folks to out-crazy Joe Carroll. Here’s hoping the show keeps that up. Maybe Joe can become the sane serial killer? Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.
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