Joe’s in so much pain after Claire’s stabbing that he needs to just zone out, finish off a bottle of bourbon or twelve, and watch a movie. He’s already seen most of the pseudo-intellectual literary thrillers that Netflix recommended he’d like (“Because you watched The Raven 5,000 times … ”), and so he’s having to settle for a rom-com starring Ryan Hardy and secret follower Molly. But he’s grossed out with all of the sex scenes and has to keep fast-forwarding.
He makes a note to tell Molly to conspicuously leave Hardy’s laptop camera on in another room next time. He would happily watch Hardy guzzle down vodka water at his kitchen table all day long. He just doesn’t like seeing him doing it while in bed. For one thing, there’s the issue of spillage. Unlike Joe, a serial killer whose been in prison for the last several years and who before that was living on an adjunct professor’s salary, Hardy doesn’t have the kind of money that enables him to stock up on high thread-count sheet sets. Is Hardy even officially employed by the FBI at this point? At most he’s a freelancer, and I just can’t see him getting his act together enough to fill out the 1099 forms required to actually be paid.
But shhhhh, this is an important part in the movie. Molly tells Hardy that the vodka water is going to kill him, and Hardy comes back with, “It can’t kill me. I’m already dead.” Well, hello, Mr. My Teenage Self’s Perfect Type. Throw Christian Slater’s character from Heathers into the equation and I’m suddenly Emma at the farmhouse. Joe likes this side of Hardy, too. He hits the rewind key over and over and over again while making the same creepy, in-heat face that he made when he killed the Army guy follower. I’m pretty sure he thinks this counts as writing his book.
Emma comes in acting all pissy. She’s still mad at Joe for displaying qualities that are exactly in keeping with what an emotionally detached sociopath would be expected to have. I wouldn’t have blamed Joe if he delivered some sort of “Love is about accepting a person for who they are” line, but instead he tells her he’s sorry for how he’s been acting, that he’s been under a lot of stress, and that she’s the only one he can trust. Emma likes this. Now that Claire’s about to be out of the picture, her stiffest competition for Joe’s affection is that jolly maternal-seeming lady, but Emma’s pretty sure she’s sleeping with Aaron, who the other followers have taken to affectionately calling “Remote Control Holder.”
Joe calls his followers into his study. They stand in a circle holding hands, eyes closed, and we finally get to see him bust out some of that charismatic cult-leader magic that has caused them all to leave their lives just to do what he says. “Today,” he begins, “is going to be the most special of days. For all of us.” He opens his eyes, “Okay. Off with you now. Go kill some people and then yourselves while I get away safely with my former student who I’m sleeping with. Where’s Remote Control Holder? Oh, there you are. Are you ready to hang yourself in the name of conveying a message to the FBI — that death is beautiful as long as it’s not happening to me — that I think it’s safe to say we’ve already conveyed in spades? Lovely. Thanks so much.”
Joe goes to see Claire in her bedroom. She looks nervous. His stabbing wound is widening into a stain on his shirt, and she’s worried that he’s going to get blood on the linen fainting couch. He tells her that’s it’s time for her to die, but he means it in the Ryan Hardy sense of time. As in, twelve to fourteen hours from now she will die. After, he finishes rewind-key typing his book and sends it off to an e-publisher who specializes in Poe fan fiction. New Jacob is back to being Old Jacob now that he’s let Joey go and seen how crazy Joe is acting. “He’s implementing the plan that has been in the works since the beginning,” he tells Emma. “This is not what I signed up for.” He wants to leave and take Emma with him because he loves her and thinks she’s great. Which means clearly Jacob is thinking even less straight than Joe right now.
Back at FBI headquarters, everyone’s discussing strategy. Call Me Nick apparently survived his eye gouging and is resting up at the hospital next to Hardy’s best friend, who's probably still in a coma. Either that, or he’s completely healed up and ready to have his life destroyed again by another one of Hardy’s screwball misadventures. The show did just get renewed, after all. Joey made a model of Ravenclaw House using graham crackers for the rooms, squares of chocolates for the pool tables, and marshmallows for the soft, down comforters (he really misses those s’mores). Needless to say, there’s an explosion of computer clicking business. The tech lady decodes the Ravenclaw House property manifest before Weston does, but there’s no time for their long-awaited reckoning right now. Again, we need to have something to look forward to next season.
Hardy and Parker head to Ravenclaw, but they’re too late — Joe and Claire and the followers are already gone. After last week, I was feeling jittery that Hardy would suddenly be punctual when it came to rescuing people, but no, some things never change. There’s a certain comfort in that. Or at least as much comfort as can be found in a show about serial killing. Hardy finds a note Joe left him about how the final book chapter is upon them, inside the pages of a book. The book is Poe’s Masque of the Red Death, and while he and Parker brainstorm about how that title could possible connect to what Joe’s cult is up to, I take a quick nap.
Joe, Emma, and Jacob take a man and wife hostage in their house. It’s nerve-racking to watch. The couple seems really scared. Claire is a hostage, too, and she keeps trying to make Joe stop being a dick to the couple, but that just eggs him on. For the first time, I can see these two as a married couple.
There’s press swarming outside headquarters. The FBI have pulled up photos of all the people who visited Joe in prison (I guess the prison photo scanner has been down this whole time and also their server so they weren’t able to read all of the comments you guys have been writing since week one about how this is the first thing they should’ve done). Hardy glances at them and then goes outside to try and see if he has that condition that Marilu Henner has where he can remember everything he’s ever seen. No, actually she can remember every moment. What he needs is a photographic memory. Damnit, this line of thinking isn’t helping him at all, and time is ticking away. He only has 36 hours before it gets dark.
He scans the crowd looking for suspicious activity. He sees an unsmiling guy nod to a girl, as though delivering a signal, but that doesn’t trigger any red flags. The girl goes over to an anchor woman and starts quoting the Masque of the Red Death, while Hardy stands in the background watching. Still nothing. Everything seems a-okay to him. Hey, she looks a little like Molly; I wonder what she’s doing right now. The anchor woman is a little more suspicious, “Ma’am, is this a nonsense quote? Is that what this is?” The girl slow turns to her, says, “Death is coming,” and stabs the anchor woman to death. That gets Hardy’s attention.
He interrogates the girl. And by interrogating, I mean he chokes her until she doesn’t give him any valuable information that he can use. “What is Joe’s plan? What is he up to?” “Death is beautiful, etc.” Then he makes the mistake of asking her a motivation question. “Why does Claire have to die?” “It’s so you can be reborn.” Then he lets her go and looks all shaken, as though she just told him something really surprising. They don’t call him the best in the business for nothing. Or maybe they call him the cheapest in the business, since he keeps doing all this stuff for free. One of the two.
Joe makes a spaghetti dinner for the hostage couple and Claire. Claire convinces him to untie her hands and then knocks him out with a wine bottle. She sticks a fork in him (literally!), but she can’t then turn to the couple, smiling, and make a crack about how “He’s done” because she decides to use the large knife on the table not to kill him but to untie the couple’s hands. The three of them escape through the back door. Emma and Jacob come in and find Joe (Emma shoots two cops at one point earlier on), and he tells them to go after them.
I’ve been making a lot of fun of Hardy’s time-telling abilities this season, but after seeing how fast it got dark in this episode, maybe I’ve been a bit too hard on him. Maybe this show operates on a whole other schedule, like in Game of Thrones when a single winter lasts five years. In any case, it’s pitch black by the time Claire and the couple emerge from the woods onto an unlit road. They signal for a car to stop because there’s nothing Claire likes more than getting into vehicles with strangers, but they realize too late that it’s Emma and Jacob. The couple gets away, but Claire is caught. Honestly, it’s hard to have sympathy for her after watching her botch her escape so much. Plus, she’s sort of stepping on her boyfriend Hardy’s toes a little bit there. Failing to save her is his wheelhouse.
Hardy and Parker are still trying to figure out Joe’s plan. All day long there have been newscasts about the whole town being corralled into a single location, but it isn’t until nightfall that they figure out that a gathering of random human beings might be a tempting target for a group of people who believe a killing only means something if it’s senseless. The only thing that might have thrown Hardy and Parker off when it came to figuring this out earlier was that the auditorium or whatever where the townspeople are being harbored is brightly lit and free of cavernous tunnels. Oh, wait — it’s connected to a school with lots of corridors with the lights turned off? Fantastic! What are you waiting for, tech lady? Quick, into our squad car where you can sit in the backseat and read us the directions to the school in the voice of the GPS woman!
They get to the school, and chaos quickly breaks out. It seems like everywhere you look followers are stabbing people right in front of a representative of the law. Because every cop in the state and also all the helicopters are at the school, Joe, Jacob, Emma, and Claire are able to drive freely to a boat docked on the water.
Joe again tells Claire he’s going to kill her, but not yet. Jacob and Emma sit in their stolen car watching Joe sail off with his one true love. Jacob, bitten by the romance bug, too, asks Emma to go off with him somewhere instead of waiting for Joe to come back for them. “Those cops are going to be hanging around that school for weeks. This is our chance for a fresh start.” Emma tells him she loves him and Joe both but doesn’t know how to make the three of them work together because Joe’s a bath person, while Jacob’s clearly a shower guy. Emma can go either way, bath or shower. Then she slits his throat.
At the school, Agent Parker goes to check out those corridors. She gets captured and taken to an open grave that has been prepared, I guess, for just this purpose. Seems very elaborate. “Ever since I was found dead in a trunk on Law & Order, I’ve had a fear of dark, confined spaces,” she tries to explain to her assailants. They don’t care, though. They nail the coffin shut, and we hear her screams over the credits. I still think she’s a follower. Just kidding! I do think she’s going to get rescued somehow. For a show about serial killing, The Following seems pretty reluctant about doing away with its main characters. It much prefers sending them to the coma hospital instead. Where Molly is probably a nurse. We’re still due for one big secret follower reveal, though. I can’t decide if I want it to be the tech lady or Joey more.