No new followers this week, but we did get a sister. And a backstory that involves 9/11. Carroll keeps telling Hardy that he’s just getting started, but the show’s premise seems already to be running out of steam. We spend the hour oscillating between Jacob, Paul, and Emma doing a remake of Threesome and Hardy teaching his protégé, Mike, how to be almost too late like him.
Paul has that girl tied up in the basement of the country house. Emma wants him to take care of her, but he tells her that the girl is actually for Jacob’s benefit because Paul is sick of Jacob’s lies. “Jacob isn’t gay!” Emma tells him. “He just preferred to sleep and live with a man instead of his girlfriend for two years. He had to because he couldn’t face going back to his old empty existence where he checked his e-mail too often.” Paul isn’t talking about that, though. He tells her that Jacob lied about having killed someone before. This is supposed to register as though Emma had just been told that her boyfriend was, I guess, a virgin, and all through the episode the show attempts to find pockets of comic relief in the name of the girl in the basement who’s about to be murdered. It’s gross, and I’m going to try and speed through this story line as quickly as possible. The Following tackles its darkest moments with zero grace. It’s starting to feel like Kevin Williamson thinks of himself as a Carroll-like figure (sans the murderous tendencies), showing people a whole new way of watching network television under the guise of high concept.
Emma and Paul throw Jacob in the basement with the girl, telling him he can’t come out until she’s dead. The girl, sensing that Jacob’s not like the others, offers him a deal. He can cut her so that there’s blood and then let her go. The Breaking Bad “missing plate piece basement scene” it is not, but Jacob does relent and unties the girl. She runs out, but Emma and Paul go after her. Cut to a scene of her shivering outside, terrified for her life, followed by one where Emma and Paul are cracking up at the memory of the girl slipping in the mud. The most generous thought I had while watching this was that the two actors filmed that scene first, when they still thought they were auditioning for Real World: The Movie and were only told later what their characters found so funny. Then Emma, who up until now has hated Paul and sliced his wrist with a knife when he merely tried to shake her hand last episode, suggests they take a shower together. Jacob walks in, apparently having killed the girl, and joins them. Their plan is really coming together now. This is so much better than their old lives, where all they were able to do was date who they wanted and walk freely through the world and not raise somebody else’s little kid.
I wish I could offer you a suitable palate cleanser to eradicate the icky silliness of that plot, but all I got is the equally unsavory one involving Maggie. She was the wife of the dude in the Poe mask, who Hardy shot at the end of last week’s episode. They were both followers. Carroll is enchanted with her because she already had a history of mass murdering even before she met him. If that were the case, I have my doubts as to why she would even be bothering with Carroll at all. She’s in it for the Raven quotes? She does, in fact, go rogue this episode, taking Hardy’s sister hostage. The show tries to make us care about the sister through a couple flashbacks of her in Hardy’s apartment, tending to him while he’s drunk. It’s done in a creepy way, though, where she seems like his girlfriend at first. She’s worried about his heart, which we’re reminded has a pacemaker because of Carroll’s attack. “Nothing changes if nothing changes,” she tells him. Good line! Totally doesn’t sound like a writer put that line there as a placeholder and forgot to go back and fiddle with it. Definitely specific enough to make an alcoholic bent on self-destruction toss away that bottle for good.
Hardy’s at the FBI office with the tech guys, click-clacking away at the keyboard (“We isolated a cell-phone signal!) when he gets a call from Maggie. She tells him not to bring a gun or any backup. He’s like “Of course not” and then he really doesn’t bring either of those things. How could the FBI possibly overtake one lone woman who is also a link to the missing little boy that they are concentrating all of their manpower into finding? It’ll be much more effective if he just heads out to Williamsburg himself? Agent Parker sees Hardy take a call and leave and sends Mike, that young FBI guy who’s almost certainly a follower (right? maybe?), after him. Mike immediately puts together that Maggie has kidnapped Hardy’s sister: “I read your book really thoroughly.”
They drive to the sister’s restaurant. Hardy still refuses to take a gun but tells Mike there’s an unlocked door in back. “Don’t worry about me. Save my sister. But just hang out for a while first. Hone your doorframe lean. The cue to bust in is when I’m almost dead and she’s emotionally scarred beyond recognition. I like to wait until the person is actually dead, but it could take you years before you’re at that level. And by years, I mean my version of years, which for everyone else means hours. ”
The sister is tied up. Maggie tells Hardy that he’s going to have to die in order for her to live. Here’s where it gets complicated (lame), though, because Maggie doesn’t want to disobey Carroll by killing Hardy herself. So she has to hook some magnets up to him so that his pacemaker stops working and thus Carroll would have killed him since he’s responsible for Hardy’s bad heart in the first place. Now I understand why she’s drawn to Carroll. They both speak the same hogwash language. She straps on some magnets which sends us into another flashback, this one involving Hardy and Claire.
There’s no way anyone can believe this is a good show, but in case anyone was still on the fence — maybe a couple of aliens who landed on someone’s couch who was watching Fox who now, when they see Footloose for the first time, are going to be like, “Oh, whoa, that’s the guy from The Following!” — this flashback should’ve taken care of it. In this scene, we get the backstory on why Hardy is so fatalistic about his chances of happiness. He’s in bed with Claire and she’s trying to get him to open up about his past. “Its kind of a downer,” he begins. “Mom got sick when I was a kid, leukemia. Died when I was 14. My dad was a street cop. Retired. One night he walked into the wrong corner store at the wrong time.” It’s so melodramatic and pat already, so, “Quick! We need some generic motivations for why our broken main character is so sad." Claire tells him how sorry she is, but it turns out he’s not done, “We had an older brother, a New York fireman.” A pause. “If you say 9/11 … ” “Okay, I won't say it.”
Hardy doesn’t die. Those dastardly magnets don’t get him. Mike bursts in, saves the day yet still gets reprimanded by Parker because this show does that. I think there are some blankets put over shoulders. The sister flies off to Florida. Claire offers Hardy a glass of wine, but he’s all, “Sorry, can’t, the Twin Towers, you know … ” and then trails off. Because death and him go way back. Because his life has been cursed. Because the world is full of darkness when viewed through the lens of a writer’s room that is trying to come up with the most obvious kind of shock value.