We need to talk about so much in tonight's The Following, I'm going to break it down scene by scene, in most cases. If you haven't seen the episode, "The Fall," yet, you might want to read along with watching. There is just so much to consider!
So let's start with where we left off last week: Paul (Adan Canto) had a cut to the back of Ryan Hardy's (Kevin Bacon) head, and little Joey (Kyle Catlett) was still upstairs, too far from the door to make a run for it. Paul immediately got a little hotter in my eyes (I may have a problem) with his authoritativeness with Hardy, but that took all of two seconds to fall apart, when he realized he had no plan for this moment. Things had gone terribly, terribly wrong to lead him to this moment, and Joe (James Purefoy) doesn't want Hardy dead. Not yet, not like this, anyway. Of course, the other two farmhouse psychos ran in to see Paul with his gun on Hardy, and Emma (Valorie Curry) quickly took control of the situation, as she has always done with her band of merry followers, only for Hardy to spit back at her that it's over because there are teams of people on their way, from the FBI to HRT, which I admit, I thought he made up to just keep spitting acronyms at her. It worked. Even she looked a little panicked for a moment. But not Hardy. No, Hardy seemed to take real joy in letting these guys know just how cornered they were, even though he was the one literally backed against the wall, unarmed, hands up in a defensive pose. To me, the flicker in Hardy's eye and the odd calm in his voice didn't scream "qualified cop" but instead "suicidal dude." To me, it was almost as if he wanted Paul to shoot him, as if he was trying to goad Paul into shooting him. The kid was upstairs, safe, and Mike (Shawn Ashmore), even if no one else, actually would be there soon. He did what he needed to do, and he's just self-deprecating enough to think he's not worth anything else. The cat-and-mouse with Carroll has been what gave him energy, new life, and now it was looking like it was over.
But Hardy's no martyr, and this was an episode only half-way through the season, so of course he made it out unscathed. And pretty quickly he exhibited signs of taking pleasure in toying with Jacob (Nico Tortorella) and Paul in very similar ways to how he has been toyed with by Carroll and his followers. They say there's a thin line between cop and criminal, and I have no doubt there's a darkness within Hardy that actually would have had him snap Jacob's neck if Jacob came close enough to him. But I also think Hardy was smarter than that and knew he'd never have to exhibit such a darkness-- to show anyone outside of his own mind just how similar he is to Carroll. He knew Jacob was the softest one, the most sensitive and tentative. He knew he could crack Jacob, if only given the chance and time alone.
Call me extra special twisted, but I love that this new follower Charlie (Tom Lipinski), who I mistakenly assumed was Roderick last week, was a veteran. There's a thin line between soldier and criminal, too. I can't help but wonder if those four people he just wanted dead were people he killed before or after serving. I feel like they probably happened after. He was trained to be a killer overseas, actually allowed (paid!) to do it, and that broke the dam within him that didn't stop him from taking out the others that annoyed or angered or whatevered him.
The fact that Carroll was teaching him to "feel," at least in his words, fascinated me. Joining Carroll in this mission certainly gave a number of the followers we have met so far purpose and direction and a way to channel their rage, but in this case, it almost seemed the opposite. He was taking a guy who had snapped and trying to show him how to be human again. He fit his followers into the right task for what they needed, not what he wanted. He is more selfless than I first considered. But in Charlie's particular case, it made him weak. A few more minutes alone with Claire, and she probably would have cracked him.
And, was it weird to anyone else that no one mentioned how Claire (Natalie Zea) was missing, and when Mike finally cracked the email, no one even seemed surprised to learn she had been "taken?" I know they have their hands full at the farmhouse, but you'd think the departments would communicate with each other, especially during these extra trying times...
I also loved the rare moment of vulnerability from Emma (though I loved her expected moment of ruthlessness, leaving the guys behind, so much more!), and I half expected Paul being the one to comfort her would be what sent Jacob over the edge and made him attempt to make his first kill. I didn't think it would be Hardy snarking about it, that's for sure, but I have to admit, I actually did want to see him kill that girl. She has been so expendable this whole time, and yet she still lives? That's one thing I can't forgive this show for doing.
"The Fall" did something really interesting tonight in taking the chatter around the show ("you love Paul, but he loves Emma, and Emma just wants to control you all" and "Joe was my choice") and brought it into the dialogue in a very meta way. Hardy and Parker both seemed to know the answers to the questions they were asking, but they were riling up their respective criminals and answering some subtle psychological show issues for the cheap seats in the back at the same time. But even while Parker was playing a little dumb with Emma on the phone, I feel like it may have been partially for show for Mike and the other agents around her.
When Agent Parker (Annie Parisse) was first introduced weeks ago, I talked a lot about my suspicions of her and her seeming admiration of Carroll. Tonight, I felt she led us further down that path with an equal admiration of Emma. By telling Emma that some people could only "dream" about killing a parent, Parker was relating to her in a way that didn't seem to be just for Emma's benefit. There was no need to coax a suspect like Emma at that point; there was nothing to be gained from getting her on your side or making her feel identified with. Parker seemed to be doing that for her own benefit. Maybe that carried over into her discussion of Emma's art, too. Much the way I project a lot of what I want a show to be onto it, I feel like Parker was projecting onto Emma, too.
I know Parker's flashbacks were supposed to humanize her, to show why her interest in cults was a different kind of obsession, but it didn't work that way for me. For one thing, the double layer flashback took me out of the regular origin story/sequel format of the show. For another, it actually worked to further solidify my own theory simply because of from where she came. When you grow up entirely in a cult, your actions may have you rebelling, running away, realizing its wrong, but you've been taught from so early to believe in it anyway that when you actually do walk away, the void grows. It's a different void from Emma's or Jacob's or Paul's, but it's there. And hearing Emma imply what she did about the guys her mother brought home was close enough to Parker's personal story to see the deeper similarities that could bond them in brokenness. Like Carroll and Hardy, these two have the same scars, but they went in different directions.
I also have to vehemently disagree with Parker. It is not a "primal need" to want to belong; it is an emotional necessity only born out of great separation early on in one's life. You look at kids on a playground or in a high school hallway, and you can pick out the ones who want to belong so badly they will alter their personalities, their looks, their behaviors to do so. They may be a good majority (especially at that age), but they are not everyone. The others, the ones who dare to be themselves, even if that means standing aside, are the leaders-- the Hardys and the Carrolls. Parker thinking "unity" is everyone's common goal just proves what a follower she is. Even if she's not one of Carroll's devotees, she has that mentality ingrained in her nonetheless. Why else wouldn't she have burned that necklace years ago?
Jacob has that mentality, too. It's why he didn't leave Paul, even though Paul was bleeding out, and he certainly could have gotten farther on his own. It's why he probably truly believed it when he told Paul he'd get him help. The fact that they're wanted men, with their faces plastered everywhere never even coming into his mind. He was just so desperate to get back what he lost at the farmhouse. And that included Emma, even though she ultimately ditched him for the mission, for Carroll. She'll choose Carroll every time because even if she was a leader of those three, she's still a follower in the end. The fact that she felt badly about ditching was unexpected and awesome, though.
Carroll said it way too on-the-nose when he explained the escape from the farmhouse, the FBI realizing he has planted people in law enforcement, and his request for prison transfer (which is what his lawyer was getting to in her press conference, but they edited her speech so you only heard the start of that sentence before cutting away-- leaving something for next week, I suppose), was the next part of the story. That all was obvious. The locations will be shifting, but what really matters is how dramatically the relationships have changed between all our regular players. Emma, Jacob, and Paul are one thing, but Hardy and Claire are quite something else. He has treated himself like a failure the majority of the time, but now she is looking at him that way, too. And honestly, I can't blame her. He didn't even try to shoot out the tires as Emma drove away. I mean, really, how hard is it to shoot out tires!?