Plot: Lily Gray (Connie Nielsen) has gone into hiding with her two sons Mark and Luke (Sam Underwood). Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) is doing everything he can to find them, but the watchful eyes of the FBI hold him and his niece Max (Jessica Stroup) back. Meanwhile, Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) thinks it might be time to resurface for his followers.
Last week’s episode of The Following was an incredibly exciting episode. Mandy (Tiffany Boone) killed her mother, Lily was revealed to be Mark/Luke’s mother, and Emma’s (Valerie Curry) house was raided. These events all moved the overall plot forward at a relatively breakneck pace. With such a great lead in you’d expect “Family Affair” to continue the high tension and shocking twists. Instead it was a relatively quiet episode (for The Following’s standards) that mainly serves the purpose of bridging the gap between one major event to another.
Most of the excitement from the night came from Ryan’s investigation into where Lily could have gone. Since he can’t actually do anything without breaking federal law, he refuses to get anyone else involved, but Max involves herself anyway because she both loves her Uncle and has handy NYPD connections. Lily and her crew has done a great job leaving no trace of where they could be, but a loose end in the form of her former security detail David (James McCaffrey) can completely blow their cover. So it’s up to Giselle (Camille De Pazzis), who hasn’t really been a character of note until last night, to tie things up. Ryan catches her leaving the scene and this leads to an episode ending chase between Ryan, Max, and Giselle.
A lot happened during Ryan’s story last night but his hunt for Giselle was basically the only thing that really mattered. In what will probably be a recurring theme for this season, Gina Mendez (Valerie Cruz) berates Ryan for taking matters into his own hands and places him under arrest. Of course she lets him go though because this episode proved that the FBI still desperately needs Ryan on the field. While the FBI was busy talking to David’s lawyer, Ryan and Max easily figure out that David isn’t even staying in his apartment. He’s staying in a separate place that was rented out by his lawyer for protection. Had Ryan not decided to do things on his own, the FBI wouldn’t have even noticed Giselle and they wouldn’t have their only lead as to where the rest of her group is. It’s even starting to look like Ryan is simply toying with the FBI and not taking any of their accusations seriously. To be honest, I’m the same way right now. Ryan is too valuable not to have on the field and any “repercussions” brought on by the FBI is simply a waste of time. Also, this is The Following, where an entire government agency can be upended by random individuals.
Max and Ryan chasing down Giselle was an exciting bit of action only for the moments Ryan saw her in the apartment and at Grand Central Station. Everything else was simply devoid of any interest. When Max tracks Giselle to Grand Central, she finds her sitting in a sidewalk café. Giselle ends up staying there for longer than expected. In fact, it’s never even explained why she’s sitting there in plain sight. Didn’t she see Ryan taking several photos of her car license plate in her rear view mirror? Did she suddenly get hunger pangs when people are clearly trying to hunt her down? Despite being a member of the NYPD, Max doesn’t alert security at Grand Central that a murderer is coming their way nor does she adequately prepare by bringing a weapon with her. What a shitty cop. Max and Ryan subsequently lose Giselle on a Metro North train (obviously) but not before Max grabbed a seat of own. In true The Following fashion, Max keeping the hunt alive is the big cliffhanger of the night. $20 on her dying this season!
Lily went from being the most interesting character last week to being a complete time killer this week. Lily, Mark, and Luke getting to the house was really the high point for that story until near the end. When they arrive, we truly see that Lily’s group is a family affair (hence the episode title) as she has multiple adopted children who will do everything for her. The addition of this possibly murderous family has a lot of potential for this show, but that’s barely touched upon once this introduction is done. The rest of the episode sees Lily attempt to connect with Emma, who is the equivalent of a mopey zoo lion by this point. Emma has been such dead weight so far and her continued existence just felt really unnecessary until the eleventh hour last night when Lily uses her as a point of contact for Joe himself. Turns out Lily and her family haven’t even met Joe before! Now Lily’s motives are more a mystery than ever, which was a nice subtle twist.
The true “big moment” of the night revolved around Joe though as he finally returned to Emma’s loving embrace. After taking a brief detour to meet with a woman named Janna (Leslie Bibb), who apparently is the former wife of Mendez, Joe gets a fake ID and makes contact with Emma. Emma breaks down in tears once Joe shows up again, which was probably a combination of her emotional reunion and her realization that she actually has a purpose to still be alive. But outside of this major reunion Joe’s story was relatively “meh.” Joe questions where his son Joey (Kyle Catlett) is, which no viewer really cares about, and Janna essentially fulfills her purpose by giving Joe a new ID and a list of contacts. Mandy even contemplates killing her but Joe says no. Of course the writers give a reason for Janna to stick around which was her aforementioned connection to Mendez. Does this mean that Mendez is a follower herself? It sure would explain why she’s so adamant to impede Ryan’s investigations…
“Family Affair” was a pretty average episode overall. It ended with some nice cliffhangers but its main purpose was to really bridge the gap between Lily’s reveal and Joe’s return. Joe’s return will definitely be the moment people remember the most from last night and it was suitably emotional for everyone involved. I look forward to seeing what type of dynamic Joe will have with this new group, but I’m disappointed that the whole “family killer” concept was barely addressed. Ryan and Max failing to catch Giselle in Grand Central was disappointingly predictable too. Yet I’m glad Max is serving her purpose as Ryan’s sidekick (despite being the worst cop in the city) and I will probably call Mendez by her name and not “FBI head lady” now that she actually has some interesting depth.