This week’s episode sends the rapidly evolving plot flying forward, while also giving us the long-awaited origin story of Joe Carroll. As can be expected with plot-twisting thrillers, the last few episodes will be immensely enjoyable, as were the ones comprising the back end of Season 1. I may have found the front end of The Following’s Season 2 to be lackluster, but the aspects of the plot that raised red flags were building towards last week’s “Unmasked.” The writers have constructed the house of cards to tumble down, week by week, leading up to the April 28 finale.
By now, most viewers will have learned that Claire (Natalie Zea) is still alive. She survived the knife attack last year and, in collusion with Mike and the rest of the FBI, she went into witness protection with Joey as Mike told Ryan—and presumably others—that Claire had died. It was a really cool choice from the writers and was also clever in that it allows a scene where Mike fills Claire in on everything that’s been happening. This catch-up from Mike is not only necessary for Claire, but it also allows viewers who are jumping in mid-season to catch up without missing a beat. Kudos to the writers on that one.
Claire’s survival does pose a question from me, though: Joe ordered the hit on Claire last year, so he’s clearly given up on her. However, why didn’t he try to use Jana (R.I.P. Leslie Bibb) while she was still alive to track down Joey? Joe had a near singular obsession with getting his son back in Season 1, but he hasn’t even mentioned him this season. I digress, but one can assume that Claire being alive will give Ryan and the FBI the upper hand in finally defeating Joe. Of course, even if Joe and Emma are vanquished, there’s still Lily and her bloodthirsty family who will return for Luke. The writers are certainly not short on options, that’s for sure.
“Teacher’s Pet” is fantastic in many ways, but the overt mirroring of Ryan and Joe this episode speaks to the underlying motif that Ryan is more similar to Joe than he will ever admit. Though Dr. Strauss is a maniac (Gregg Henry, returning and wonderfully twisted) he echoes this, challenging Ryan to face this fact. Ryan may not enjoy killing the way Joe does, but he’s certainly closer to killer than cop this season; Ryan has likely killed as many or more people than Joe this season. The question that has drawn me to this show the most since the first episode is one that would make a compelling character study: How different, in actuality, are the ruthless serial killers and the obsessed people who will do whatever is humanly possible—including breaking the law—to put an end to their wrath?
“Teacher’s Pet” chronicles Joe’s further embracing, or more like exploitation, of the cult members’ religious faith. He takes their trust, their longing for salvation, and promises absolution in return for killing. His “disciples” adopt the credo “No Redemption Without Blood” and take to revenge killings to carry out Joe’s “message.” (On a side note, anyone care to weigh in on why The Walking Dead’s lovely Emily Kinney took an ill-fated, thimble of a role as one of Joe’s Korban cult followers?) Not only do we see Joe’s shameless preying on these vulnerable youths, but we finally see how Joe became the serial killer Joe Carroll when Ryan takes Dr. Strauss’ story to the press, attempting to draw a response from Joe. The flashback to 1982 scenes, with a young Joe and Dr. Strauss, give long-awaited credence to the audience’s curiosity of Joe’s provenance.
It hasn’t been a perfect route, but the crescendo of Season 2 is shaping up to be a pretty chilling one, with no obvious outcome easily predictable. The same things are certain this season as were certain the last: there will be blood, there will be death, and you’ll either love or hate what ends up happening. Either way, my good money is on the finish being pretty darn entertaining either way.