Plot: Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) has unveiled himself to the world. He now has everyone’s undivided attention, including the still living Claire Matthews (Natalie Zea). As the new Prophet of Korban, Joe has an entire group of followers at his disposal again, ready to set them lose on the world. Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) continues his investigation unabated though with the help of Mike Weston (Shawn Ashmore), Max (Jessica Stroup), and the government.
Last week’s “Unmasked” was a terrible hour of television. It was the singular worst episode of The Following that I have ever seen. I had such a low opinion of it that “Teacher’s Pet” could have literally been about a teacher’s pet cat sleeping on a couch and it would have been better. Really anything would have been an improvement. Thankfully “Teacher’s Pet” actually was a noticeable step up from one episode prior. It wasn’t nearly as frustrating or messy. Yet it wasn’t great by any means. Re-using many elements we’ve seen prior, specifically those used in Season 1, “Teacher’s Pet” was about as average an episode as it could possibly be.
Instead of focusing on a “killer of the week,” we got “killers of the week” with small group of Korban followers senselessly murdering random people. A grand total of six people died last night, four of which were killed by this small group. And you want to know what’s messed up? Nothing about their killing spree registered with me. This show runs through human bodies faster than I run through tissues during allergy season. Killing another human being should be given the weight it obviously deserves but murder happens so freely on this show it’s disturbing. I remember back in Season 1 when this actually scared me. Now it’s just racking up a body count for literally no reason.
Naturally the four murders don’t go unnoticed by our heroes who spent most of the episode re-trying past mistakes with new twists. How many times now has Ryan tried to trace a phone call from Joe? I have easily lost count. Ryan tried it again last night and, as it always has in the past, it failed. Will our heroes ever learn their lesson? Don’t count on it. Yet the method used by Ryan to coax Joe into calling was cool though. Intentionally reporting on the imprisonment of Dr. Arthur Strauss (Gregg Henry) to rile Joe into calling the deceased Jana (Leslie Bibb)? Not a bad bit of trickery. These moments of law enforcement cleverness are few and far between so this was a nice change of pace.
Of course Ryan ultimately fails in the end to actually make any reasonable progress. Right when the murder group decides to converge on a restaurant for some shots with a side of stabbing, Mallory (Emily Kinney) is indentified by law enforcement. This leads to a standoff where Mallory, after failing to kill her desired target, evidently gives the whole thing up. Now normally you’d think that any sensible person wouldn’t want to pass up this golden opportunity. Someone who has intimate knowledge of where Joe is and actually WANTS to work with Ryan? Talk about a mythical creature! But now that’s not the case because Mallory is killed before Ryan is willing to take the shot at this other killer who was with Mallory. It just baffles me at this point that we still see Ryan asking for the killers to drop their weapons and surrender. Mallory was that rare case where this actually worked, so obviously her companion would want her dead. Why couldn’t Ryan see that coming? An unimaginable breakthrough was right there and Ryan lost it through inaction. We could have had one less dead body and a fifth kill could have actually accomplished something. Why can’t any of these characters ever adapt?
As for Joe, apparently now he wants to fully embrace Biblical metaphors. Korban is basically everything Joe could have ever wanted: A mindless group of followers who will do whatever Joe commands because he is a “Prophet.” Honestly though, very little about this group is different from last season. Last season it was a group of people following Joe and worshiping Edgar Allen Poe. Now it’s a group of people following and worshiping Joe in equal measure. We’re back to the crazy that made The Following as engaging as it was back in Season 1, but now it’s too over-the-top to be taken very seriously. Anointing people with your own blood on their foreheads? Killing a random cat (turning the kill count to seven if you’re including house pets) to convey some message? Intentionally spelling your name as JC to reference Jesus Christ? Clearly subtlety isn’t this show’s forte.
Mandy (Tiffany Boone) came back again last night after basically being nonexistent too. I can see what the writers are trying to do with her character, being the rift between Joe and Emma (Valerie Curry) is admirable, but I find it so hard to care about a character that is such a non-factor on this show. When Mandy isn’t around, no one questions it. At least people openly wonder where Lily Gray (Connie Nielsen) is in fleeting moments. Mandy however just vanishes from time to time, only to reappear as a reminder that she exists. I could not care any less about whatever conflict is going on between her and Emma.
The one moment that I absolutely loved from last night though was Ryan interviewing Strauss and Strauss straight up calling Ryan Joe’s biggest fan. Finally! This is something many viewers have brought up before. Ryan is obsessed with Joe with as much fervor as some of his closest followers. Ryan is on a slippery path to becoming just like Joe too and having his own followers, specifically Max, Mike, and an entire division of law enforcement. I just find it awesome that this show openly acknowledges the obvious connection.
Despite the reveal of her survival last week, Claire really did nothing of note. Now apparently she wants to leave witness protection to return to Ryan but that’s going to backfire so hardcore. Peppered in throughout this episode too were some flashbacks to Joe meeting Strauss for the first time, which would have been more interesting if they received the necessary weight. Learning more insight about Joe should be a huge event! Not flashbacks that are generally forgettable. Overall though, “Teacher’s Pet” wasn’t an awful episode. Not nearly as bad as last week but far from being the best. Looks like Lily comes back next week too. Let’s see how that changes things!