While The Following is high on suspense and visual entertainment, the plot is often inconsistent. “The Reaping” includes some well-done and deftly managed moments, but there was nearly as much head-scratching as enjoyment.
Tonight’s The Following begins with Ryan having infiltrated Korban alone. As to be expected of Season 2 Ryan, in an instant, he kills a guard. Again, all I could think was: Where is Ryan’s pacemaker when he’s parkour-killing? Season 1 Ryan was constantly worn out at the least opportune moments because of his pacemaker, but this season—Ryan now having an Olympian’s athletic prowess—it doesn’t make a peep? In television, the disappearance of character details from season to season is unavoidable, but one so constantly referenced as Ryan’s pacemaker is too big to ignore.
Claire thinks that she can lure Joe out if Carrie lets her on the news—as if, in The Following’s loose-grip-on-reality universe, Carrie runs the news station herself. Claire says it’s the only card she can play to protect her son. Again, Joe hasn’t so much as mentioned Joey all season, let alone tried to get him back. Claire motivation for revealing herself—the safety of her son, now that Joe is still alive—was misguided. This is understandable, though; given Joe’s earlier relentless pursuit of Joey, what else would she believe? However, Claire’s delusion must be acknowledged for this to work, otherwise, the joke is on the viewers.
Carrie is against Claire’s idea at first, but relents when Claire threatens to talk to other reporters. No offense to Sprague Grayden, but I can’t decide if it’s the plot device nature of Carrie and Ryan’s chemistry-free relationship (Claire faking her own death was enough of a wedge between her and Ryan) or Carrie’s lack of integrity (journalistic or otherwise) that I like least about the character.
Kingston Tanner (Tom Cavanagh) learns that his son Preston (Carter Jenkins) was abducted. It doesn’t feel that Tanner has done enough to warrant Joe’s relentless retaliation. Tanner seems thrown in, included only because of Joe’s retaliation against organized religion. I love Cavanagh, but unless Tanner ends up more deeply connected with everything, he’ll continue to stick out like a sore thumb.
Joe tells the cult how famed they’ve become, talking about their “holy war.” The followers seem to have no contact with the outside world, for one reason or another. As a pseudo-religious zealot, Joe gets to kill openly, but he seems less focused on the actual killing than ever before. With his intriguing psychological attachment to killing gone, Joe’s aimless jihad feels strange.
When Lily & Co. go after Joe, Mark asks why they don’t just leave the country instead. Lily says that Joe must pay for his actions, but the reason Lily originally became fixated on Joe was because of his reputation. She became obsessed, killed dozens of people to draw him out and sleep with him, but she hires her own army to exact revenge after being left behind? Blaming everything on Joe seems misplaced when Mike was the one who did the extensive damage to Luke.
A side note: I know advertising revenue is key, but the Windows 8 plugs written into the show feel exploitative. Max worries that Mike isn’t grieving his father’s death properly, which sets up what’s to come. Lily, Mark, and Luke are spotted and Mike and Max take off after them. They find Lily’s vacant house, Mandy’s body, and a plethora of bearing-finding DNA evidence, albeit unbelievably.
After being chased through the woods, Ryan fires a gun into the air, wanting to be brought to Joe. Joe and Ryan’s reunion scene makes the episode, as Purefoy and Bacon have immaculate back-and-forth. In this fantastic scene, we see that Ryan understands Joe best because they’re more similar than Ryan will admit aloud.
Joe and his followers force Ryan, Courtney, and Preston to decide which one of them will die. Preston takes Joe’s knife, asks God for forgiveness, and kills Courtney. As Lily and her militia arrive at Korban, Preston is overcome with grief as his father recites Psalm 23:4 off-screen.
Joe doesn’t know what to do with Ryan when he, Emma, and Robert leave Korban. Emma suggests killing Ryan, but Joe chooses to leave a restrained Ryan behind, which seems to be simply because it’s convenient to the plot. It would have made more sense for Joe to take Ryan along or kill him, but it makes none to leave Ryan behind.
Ryan breaks out, slaying Lily’s oncoming mercenaries as the FBI arrives. Max and Ryan reunite as Mike tries to find Lily. Due to a ridiculous set-up (Luke goes to watch the battle, Lily sends Mark to retrieve him), Lily ends up alone and Mike sneaks up on her. Ryan and Max arrive in time to stop Mike’s revenge kill. Ryan tells Mike that killing Lily would be something he would do. Mike shoots Lily in the chest anyway. I was really surprised with the pace with which Lily’s death was handled. Mike killing Lily was unexpected and exciting for the plot (though it undoes the season’s worth of Lily’s character arc tug-of-war), and it will be interesting to see what happens to Mike after this, not to mention, how Ryan and Max will react to his decision.
“The Reaping” is an up and down episode, plot holes and confusing character decisions abound, but—in true Following fashion—the cliffhanger will keep viewers satisfied and coming back for more.