The Following: Unmasked review

The latest episode of The Following may restore your faith in the series. Beware of SPOILERS in our review of "Unmasked!"

“Unmasked” returns The Following to its original plot in delicious fashion. I’m still amazed at the sheer mass of what they were able to tackle this week, and I truly believe that this week was Season 2’s best episode to date.

“Unmasked” begins with Carrie Cooke talking about Lily Gray (still on the lam, off-screen) and Joe Carroll on the news, which turns out to be Ryan’s plan to lure Joe out. Simultaneously, states away, Micah tells Carroll how much money Carrie is making off of Joe as they watch the broadcast. Micah unwittingly spawns Carroll’s evil plan/return to prominence, at his own expense.

Jana (the perennially undervalued Leslie Bibb) is brought back into the picture, as Mike, Ryan, and Max narrow Joe’s FBI mole to six women. Agent Mendez (the also undervalued, Valerie Cruz), Jana’s ex, is one of the six. Mike, Ryan, and Max team up and the suspense at Jana’s house—complete with wonderful performances this week by Bibb and Cruz—is finger-licking good.

It also wouldn’t be a Following episode if there wasn’t sexual tension between Stroup’s Max and Ashmore’s Mike, Max walking in on a nearly naked Mike this week. I like how they’re drawing out the Mike-Max angle. It doesn’t feel forced like most of Ryan’s relationships. This week—yes, another woman—Ryan rekindles an old romance.

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As Micah and Joe record a video—the dimwitted Micah fumbling his Manson-esque, Carroll-penned speech—Emma, Robert (an intriguing Shane McRae, The Help), and the demented Lance (David Call, Gossip Girl) travel to NYC to enact Joe’s plan. Joe admits he’s tired of Micah, so we know he has something up his sleeve. Joe effectively wedged himself between Jacinda Barrett’s Julia and Jake Weber’s Micah last episode and it’s not hard to see where this is going. As Joe dispatches of Julia, letting her know as she struggles to breathe that his prophecy to control Micah has been fulfilled, Micah thanks Joe for killing her as off-handedly as if Joe had held open the door for him. It’s a pretty cool scene in a week full of them. Micah’s character is too trusting, and also too delusional, to see that he’s next.

Emma, Robert, and Lance arrive at the NYC bookstore where Carrie Cooke is doing a book signing. Admittedly, the MFA in Creative Writing student in me jumped out of my seat at the sight of a beautiful bookstore (yes, they still exist, people), but I was jumping for a different reason minutes later. The massacre that ensues is both blood-curdling and vintage Following. The three of them accost Carrie and give her Micah’s video, and it was never much of a secret that Micah had no hand in its making. Who’s in the video? Hint-hint: he used to be a college professor, he gets turned on when he kills people, and he loves Poe.

“Unmasked” ends with, among other things, Joe and Emma becoming the leaders of the cult. As I said before, I found Micah and Julia’s cult to have much more real-world believability than Carroll’s, so seeing Joe and Emma lead this cult feels justified. The Manson Family, Heaven’s Gate, The People’s Temple—Micah and Julia’s cult echoed these real cults, while Carroll’s cult always felt fake. Truthfully, I find Joe and Emma much more frightening leading this cult than Season 1’s.

Even with the spoiler warning, I can’t bring myself to write the big reveal of “Unmasked.” What happens at the end of the episode has an earth-shattering effect on the plot of the series, while also acting as the catalyst for where the plot is headed in the upcoming weeks. I don’t know how they’re going to explain it yet, but I’m excited about it, and my faith in the show has returned.

If you’ve been disappointed with Season 2, “Unmasked” is a reminder that the show is still capable of quality episodes. Not that this season hasn’t been enjoyable, but a TV show or film is only as reliable as the rules it sets out for itself, and The Following is guilty of breaking its own from time to time. There are few rules broken, if any, in “Unmasked,” and it shows just how good The Following is at its best. I may have been a little hard on Season 2 thus far, but it looks like there are great things to come. Fingers crossed.

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4 out of 5