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The Following Recap: Power Shift

The Following returned to its literary roots this week. Not through any mention of Edgar Allan Poe. He’s dead to Joe as a motivation for why other people deserve to be dead. Instead we got Emma and her new crew browsing and slashing their way through Ye Old Housing Works Bookstore. If only they’d been told that sales there benefit a good cause, maybe they would’ve been more likely to let at least the customers who bought a copy of Carrie’s book live.

Sometimes, for fun, The Following likes to drag a character out of pit full of cannibals (and their ilk), give him a haircut and a New York wardrobe, present him as someone who’s uniquely disturbed, and then kill him off like just any old extra who happened to be given a line. The only plausible theory I can come up with for why Lance was introduced and disposed of so quickly was that, halfway through the bookstore scene, the actor got a call about landing a part on another show, one that started filming that same day, and so the show just had to improvise around that. My suggestion for that workaround would’ve been that they just stuck his mask on one of the other actor’s faces (maybe the kid who played Joey?) and then never had him take it off ever again. The explanation would’ve been easy, “Oh, that’s Lance for you. He’s craaaaazy.”

I don’t know what’s happening with Connie Nielson’s contract but Lily Gray and the twins haven’t been seen for two episodes now. One of the more curious aspects of this show is how it can pack so much plot in without ever really advancing it. This is partly because the motivations of its characters are so at odds. All Hardy wants to do is find Joe. All Mike wants to do is find Lily. All Joe and Lily want to do is to murder people indiscriminately. All their followers want to do is finish the Ping-Pong tournament they started. What this means is that every time Hardy and Mike get close to a person who has the information they need and the plot gets closer to being resolved before the season is over, that person either murders someone or is murdered. And don’t even get me started about how hard it is to build a good Ping-Pong team in that kind of work environment.

Detective Mendez isn’t a follower, but I feel like we knew that, right? It was her ex-wife who is the first disciple of Joe’s who actually put on a convincing display about why she followed him. She’s completely nuts. Also, bored. Hardy and Mike get there in time to save Mendez. Hardy’s been much more punctual ever since he swapped out his pacemaker for a Swatch. Her ex shoots herself instead of revealing Joe’s whereabouts, but thankfully, for those of us who live for the scenes involving technical explanations on this show, they have her computer and Mike managed to lift her smartphone before the cops got there.

There’s some definite sexual tension happening between Mike and Max. Mike’s apparently decided to bury his emotions deep, deep down, which I’m glad about. One Hardy is enough. Reliably affable cult member Robert also seems to have a crush on Emma, somehow and looks hurt when he sees her making out with Joe. He’s confused about the path to her heart, though. What’s Joe got that he doesn’t? He just knifed, like, a dozen people. And he’s a member of an improv troupe! A decent one! What he doesn’t understand is that it’s Joe’s thin, pursed, judgmental lips that Emma literally can’t keep herself from kissing. They just drive her mad.

Micah kills his wife, mainly because she was so obviously out of his league that it made him feel like garbage. Where did those two even meet? He was in Soho scouting the perfect mass murder venue when he decided to take a break to try to find, at long last, the perfect leather jacket? He went into a store where she worked, saw her leather jacket, realized he could never pull it off himself, and then convinced her to come start a cult with him, where the members would only wear the kind of clothes that he looked good in. Once he let Lance out of his hole, Micah clearly took one look at his effortless fashion sense and realized that his wife had to go before she saw it too.

So now Joe’s the leader of Micah’s pliable cult. He’s off to a good start. His new followers have already been schooled in his belief system: Praise Joe. One of them was caught secretly reading the The Raven in between chants and Joe grabbed it out of their hands and started stabbing it. Mandy, I guess, was somewhere among the extras in those pews, pretending to dab at her tears with a tissue that was actually a note that a new boy slipped her, asking if she wants to go to the movies that weekend. She’s afraid to tell Joe in case he poisons the guy, and so for now she’s just going to have to play up the whole teen-angst thing.

And then at the last minute, there was a reveal. Just as Hardy’s finally giving Carrie a shot, we discover that Claire’s alive! And with a completely different, possibly less flattering hairstyle! Maybe that’s why she’s been in hiding this whole time. She’s afraid Hardy will hate it. Or that Joe will love it. So many pitfalls for the modern single woman to navigate. She’s not ever sure if it’s worth it. Better to just keep hanging out in this hotel room, where the room service is covered by the FBI and she can watch True Detective over and over again until she gets every last reference.

Photo: NBC