It becomes clear in “Love Hurts” what’s really going on with Joe and his followers. This isn’t just a serial killer and his cronies. No, this is the most elaborate, murderous creative writing group ever devised. I guess this is a collective work—some sort of follow-up to Joe’s first novel, but with a different chapter written by a different killer, which probably means the whole thing will be both incoherent and repetitive. I can’t wait to not read it.
This week, we meet a skinny new acolyte called Amanda (played by Marin Ireland) who has the same old story—murdered her cheating husband in a fit of rage, then was introduced to Joe somehow and visited him in prison. Now, she’s looking to impress her mentor by killing a bunch of ladies bearing the same name as his wife, Claire Matthews. Apparently, this will give her chapter a happy ending. I assume she means that Joe will get back with Claire (he doesn’t, although he gets one step closer to finding her this week), but it’s still a pretty tenuous connection to make, and the episode fails to pull it off. Of course, any logical hole in this show’s plot can be explained away by all of the characters being crazy, but still, I didn’t really get what Amanda was going for.
In her and Joe’s attempt to unsettle Claire, she goes on a killing spree that really took the cake, violence-wise, even for this godawful show. The harpoon murder made me flinch, and the lady getting thrown out the window didn’t spare us the sight of her mangled corpse. Luckily, we don’t see the third Claire get shot with a nailgun, but the show tossed in a stabbing and shooting of two friendly citizens at that amusement park rave just to keep things grim.
I’m pretty desensitized to violence, and I watch shows like Game Of Thrones largely with glee and excitement for the blood and gore. But The Following really, really bums me out with this stuff. As I’ve mentioned before, it doesn’t help that there’s no real relationship between Amanda’s activities and the overarching plot. Sure, Joe gets closer to figuring out where Claire is, but that’s because his tech guys intercept some FBI calls off-screen. No, we were really just being treated to a gross 45 minutes of rampaging, so Ryan would have something to deal with this week as he gets no closer to figuring out how to stop Joe. At least he took down Louise this week. She was really freaking me out.
It also goes without saying at this point that Ryan remains a hilarious, sarcastic fool with no interest in investigation or any kind of police work. He’s just a drunk, sarcastic sharpshooter who complains about being in the office and can’t wait to get into the field and get tortured by Joe’s folks again. To Kevin Bacon’s credit, he did a good job with his big emotional moment this week where he admits he’s in love with Claire. It didn’t really follow from what was going on, and I didn’t buy that it would convince Amanda to let him get close enough to disarm her. But Bacon’s a good actor. He emotes well, even when his lines are silly garbage.
By far the most effective part of the episode was the resolution of Paul and Jacob’s adventure, which included some more flashbacks and did its best to invest the audience in Jacob. I don’t know that it succeeded for me. Yes, Jacob is less bad than the rest of these freaks. He hasn’t killed anyone. In 2008, we see how Paul discovered his secret—Jacob couldn’t stab a lady in a trunk in front of him, which meant Paul had to gleefully finish the job himself. He also doesn’t seem to have the extreme family trauma of so many Joe followers, since he shows up with Paul at his mother’s house and she doesn’t just call the cops right away.
We’re told that Jacob’s father is coming, and there’s something very ominous about that, even though all we know he’s going to do is call the police, which is the right thing to do. But his mom seems to at least have some understanding that her son has been brainwashed by a cult. And there’s some genuine emotion to Jacob’s final act of mercy for Paul, smothering him to death on the couch. But I just can’t be invested in these characters. If they’re not psychopaths, they’re just Joe’s stupid sheep, and that’s hard to get on board with.
Oh, the chapters, they go on and on. The gothic romanticism never ends. Ryan continues to be mean to everyone. Women continue to be the overall majority of targets for murder on this creepy show (as my fellow A.V. Clubber Sonia Saraiya pointed out). And I’ll keep watching. But boy, I don’t like it.
- Ryan explains to Debra why the feds are mad at them. “Too many people have died. It’s a PR nightmare.” What a genius this guy is.
- Ryan chats with Joe on the phone. “Sorry about your friends, though. They’re kinda…dead.” “That’s okay, I have more.”
- “Let her go, that’s not Joe’s wife!” “It’s a freakin’ metaphor, Ryan!” Honestly. This show.
- Bacon flick of the week? Clint Eastwood’s Mystic River, for which he was unjustly snubbed of an Oscar nomination despite being leagues better than winner Tim Robbins.