On this episode, we learn more about where our characters came from and how they came to be. We see a young Joe at Hogwarts, being called into the office by Dr. Strauss. This is me raising my hand to ask a question about this Strauss guy. I just want to see if I’ve got it all straight. He’s a psychologist who also performs surgeries on people a few times a week? I mean, I know by “surgeries” he means “murderings,” but his ultrabelievable cover story is that he’s a therapist slash surgeon, right?
Dr. Strauss was who planted the idea in Joe’s head that dead bodies and Poe were a natural combination. He actually sent that same idea to the ad agency who used to make those Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup commercials, too. You know the ones that were all “You got peanut butter in my chocolate! You got chocolate in my peanut butter!” He thought maybe they could work up a campaign that would make serial killing just fly off the shelves. He had a theory that most people were just latent serial killers waiting to be given permission to start stabbing and, man, has this show ever proven him right.
We get to see a little bit about how Ryan became who he was, too — meaning inefficient and terrible at his job. Because, as we learned at the very top of last week’s episode, Claire is alive. It was the FBI’s idea to send her secretly into hiding, which wasn’t a bad plan except for one detail. They refused to let her tell Hardy that she survived, which I find crazy. I mean, the whole show is bonkers, but this is maybe the most insane development yet. All they would’ve had to do is tell him that she didn’t die because of him and that now she and Joey have to move away now, bye-bye. Instead they decided, just for kicks, after all the bad guys were caught and all the innocent people were safely cleared out of the way, to activate the bomb that is a grief-stricken, guilt-ridden, death-cursed Hardy.
Claire, meanwhile, isn’t helping matters. She wants to go back to her old life—you know, the one that involved her living next door to a fake gay couple for seven years who pretended to be her best buddies while all along what they actually wanted was to kidnap her son and teach him how to read only the words that are used in Poe stories and no others. Or maybe she’s nostalgic for her old old life, back when she was married to Joe, all those evenings spent listening to him call all the other adjunct professors hacks while she tried to get into Big Love.
Joe’s new cult is growing. Or shrinking. It really depends on which scene you’re talking about. In the scene where he breaks the cat’s neck (which the show is careful to not actually show us because that would be going too far, even though it’s followed by three graphic stabbing scenes), there are like twenty people in the room and by the end half of them leave (only to be thrown in the stylish people hole). In the “anointing” scene (this show is ridiculous), there’s suddenly, like, a hundred people. That Joe Carroll, he does have a gift. Not only can he turn American Eagle models into murderers, but he can make them multiply.
Mandy’s finally starting to get creeped out by it all. Even so, it’s hard to root for her. I know she never left that brothel’s couch before she met Joe, but she really enabled him quite a lot before getting to this point. I still am more disturbed by the affectionate scenes on this show than I am by the violent ones (although I don’t love those either). Joe gives The Bachelor’s Juan Pablo a run for his money when it comes to unappealing mates. Emma is as moony as ever over him. She’s just so impressed that he managed to transform these people from peace-loving, blank-minded cult members into murder-loving, blank-minded cult members. She doesn’t seem to understand that it’s not as hard as it seems, considering these people are literally made of Play-Doh. All Joe had to do was mold little clay knifes for all of them and voilà!
A group of the killingest killers are dragged out of the hole and, of course, are the most fashionably dressed of the group. The hole is the Opening Ceremony of that place. There’s a heavy-set girl whom I’m only describing that way because she keeps pointing it out and the show clearly wants us to understand that that’s her motivation for wanting to stab strangers. At least they’re giving her a reason, albeit an offensive one that sets girls with body issues back like ten years. Normally the show’s explanation for these people wanting to kill other people is because it was the only way they were allowed to play the arcade-size Ms. Pac Man game that is wheeled from one of Joe’s cult locations to another or put in storage whenever he’s in prison or hiding out in a brothel.
Mike and Max keep giving little looks and smiles to each other, which can only mean one thing: One of them is totally going to get murdered in front of the other. Or pretend-murdered while actually being sent into witness protection. If you think the show wouldn’t repeat the exact same story line except with Mike instead of Hardy, you have not been paying attention. Hardy, meanwhile, is warming up to Carrie. They have a second date while the agents assigned to protect her wait in the hall, cranking up their iPhones as loud as they will go since Hardy’s walls aren’t nearly as soundproof as they would like. It’s not even so much the sex they’re tuning out as intermittent wailing from Hardy about his death curse. I wonder what those agents are going to do once Claire shows up, since it will definitely be during one of Hardy and Carrie’s dates. The agents will see her first and they’ll have to make a quick decision whether to let her knock and find out about Carrie or to create a diversion, like setting the hallway on fire.