Plot: A new branch of Joe Carroll’s (James Purefoy) followers have popped up in New York City. Taking hints from their grand entrance on a subway train and the posed corpse in a park, Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) has awarded them his undivided attention. Can he found out once and for all the truth behind Joe’s death? Meanwhile, a very much alive Joe has made a new life for himself in Arkansas.
Last week’s episode of The Following ended with the not-so-surprising reveal that Joe Carroll was alive. This was something everyone saw coming but was nonetheless welcomed as opposed to stretching this mystery out for several episodes. Now all we had to learn was where Joe is and who those people are that he’s with. Thankfully, “For Joe” answered those questions before the opening title card drew. Then the episode swung back to the typical structure from last season with two distinct plots separately focusing on Ryan and Joe. With the second season officially underway, was The Following able to continue off the highs started last week?
Joe’s plot book-ended this episode, but since Ryan’s story was much more interesting I’m going to focus on his first. Ryan continued his new lone wolf plan last night as he hunted down the individuals responsible for the subway attack. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have much to go on outside of knowing that a man named Carlos (J.D. Williams) was involved. He turns to the only survivor (and Windows 8 and Bing apparently), Lily Grey (Connie Nielsen), in hopes of finding out some answers. Obviously, her trauma makes this a complete dead end but it at least gives them a chance to talk without being in immediate danger. Speaking of which, it’s telling that Lily isn’t locked up in a safe house like Claire (Natalie Zea) was last season. Whatever the FBI’s reasons are for doing that, I already find her to be the better character. Out and about actually doing interesting stuff with threat all around? Count me in.
A lot of attention last night was given to Mark/Luke (Sam Underwood) as well. They’re clearly the leaders of their respective group and they spent most of last night terrorizing Ryan. Apparently Emma’s (Valerie Curry) group is entirely disconnected from Mark/Luke’s (she doesn’t even know Joe is alive) which is an angle I’m happy the writers are exploring. The threat Mark/Luke pose to Ryan and the people around them already make this duo my favorite addition to the show. The twin angle brings some extra weight to the threat they clearly pose individually. If people thought their corpse dancing was creepy last week, the writers went a step further with corpse dinner parties. Mark/Luke kills a husband and wife, and then cook a delicious meal all the while calling them mother and father. The couple’s real son is actually upstairs locked in a closet. Mark/Luke’s sadistic actions make the things Joe has done look tame by comparison.
All of this pomp with the corpses was simply to distract Ryan from the real problem: Mark/Luke want to kill Lily. This leads to an exciting chase scene through an art gallery where Ryan is the only one who can save her. Despite the fact that Ryan actually succeeded in saving Lily, Mike Weston (Shawn Ashmore) and the FBI can’t help but chastise him. Can you really blame Ryan though? After the bumbling mess that was the FBI last year, Ryan can benefit from going on his own. Lily would’ve totally died last night too if Ryan wasn’t around (giving Lily one guard to walk her through a dark hallway is some quality FBI protection). But going all lone wolf also almost caused the plan to blow up in Ryan’s face last night. Perhaps Ryan and the FBI can find some quality middle ground? Also, if Max (Jessica Stroup) wants the FBI involved so badly why doesn’t she just go to them herself?
When the episode wasn’t focusing on Ryan and his investigations, it was all about Joe living in the country. I’d prefer if he was called Country Joe but apparently his name is Daryl now. Screw it, Country Joe is living with a nice mother and daughter named Judy (Carrie Preston) and Mandy (Tiffany Boone) who already know about his past. They’ve been harboring Country Joe for over a year now in Boone Country, Arkansas. Apparently Country Joe has become known around the area, specifically with a Reverend who frequents the house for some quality “confession time” (sex) with Judy, a prostitute. It honestly looks like Country Joe is a changed man outside of a terrible country accent but fortunately that’s all completely erased at the end when the Reverend learns the truth. Country Joe, now not so country anymore, kills the Reverend in front of Mandy while he himself moans in agony/joy. And so ends the story of Country Joe.
Joe’s plot was more of a miss than a hit for me. What really did work last night was Joe himself. It has been over a year since Joe last killed and he has made a new life for himself in Arkansas. It looks like he loves Judy and Mandy looks to Uncle Daryl (Uncle Country Joe) for guidance. I knew none of this was going to last, but I did particularly enjoy the very end where Joe was begging the Reverend for help. Joe is clearly a damaged individual who is just rapt with regret. His failures as a husband, writer, and father clearly weigh heavily on him. Yet we all know that, despite the regrets, the begging for help is a farce. The Reverend’s death was guaranteed and you know Joe just loved doing it. Thankfully the entire concept of a “changed Joe” is washed away within the hour.
Unfortunately it’s the rest of Joe’s plot that completely blows. First off, these new characters already have the aura of expendability. Joe is clearly only using them to protect himself. But now that he’s being found out, will they just become dead weight? According to Mandy, Judy is going to be very upset once she finds out Joe has killed again. She brought a freaking serial killer into the house! What did she expect was going to happen? Also, if it was so easy for the Reverend to found out who Daryl/Country Joe really is, with a single picture mind you, how has no one else come to this conclusion over the year? People know Country Joe. Joe and his cult became national news. Clearly the people of Boone Country know what Joe did. Yet apparently no one saw Joe’s picture for over a year and thought, “Hey. That guy looks just like him.” It all reeks of coincidence.
Last night’s episode of The Following was filled with ups and downs. Ryan Hardy’s plot naturally took center stage and most of that worked really well. The focus on Mark/Luke was great as we witnessed how messed up and dangerous they really are. Joe also made his grand reintroduction last night but it didn’t exactly work as well as it should have. Joe was reliably terrifying and tormented, but everything else around him was trash. The only real strength I can see is his potential father/daughter relationship with Mandy. All in all, this makes “For Joe” a good episode but definitely not a great one.