This week’s episode of The Following finds a bleeding madman, marinating in a cocktail of drugs, alcohol and his own deteriorating mental state, still getting the jump on the FBI. In the Bureau’s defense, it’s distracted by townsfolk who’ve chosen to deal with the threat of rampant killers in the same way they would an impending hurricane or catastrophic heat wave. But Joe’s banter, and two really big developments in the final moments of the episode, make all of the aforementioned silliness worth it. For now. Let’s review what happened in “The End Is Near.”
ALTERED STATES | Q: What does a crazy serial killer do when everything’s flying off the rails? A: Watch a grainy homemade sex tape like it’s his own personal Skinimax, yet derive no libidinous pleasure from it. Joe drinks, bleeds through his dressing and watches Ryan give Molly the business – good Lord, do you think Kyra Sedgwick files her nails on Kevin Bacon’s tight-n-sharp abs? – and zeroes in on Ryan reaching for the vodka bottle and saying, “Can’t kill me. I’m already dead.” Carroll keeps sipping and popping painkillers as he gathers his followers for a final meeting at the old homestead: The FBI is closing in, and the cult is preparing to depart. “We’re trained, sir,” one male acolyte assures him. “We’re ready.” Jacob’s not so sure… and he’s also not convinced that Joe isn’t just going to use them as cover so he can make a clean escape. Emma’s advice for her ex-boyfriend’s trust issues: “Suck it up.”
At the sheriff’s office, Ryan, Mike and Debra use Joey’s description of the house to narrow the possible locations. Agent Diedre Mitchell Who Never Gets Enough Credit realizes that some property records have been tampered with; pretty soon, an FBI Hummer is barreling through the estate’s wrought iron gates. But all Hardy & Co. find is a follower who hung himself in the foyer and a handwritten note to Ryan, left between the pages of Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death.
GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER? | Joe, Claire, Emma and Jacob turn up at a random couple’s house, where they plan to spend the day before leaving after dark. Though Joe et. al. pretty much always kill people in their way, they for some reason leave this couple – Vicky and Phil – alive. I’m not complaining; if they weren’t around, it’s not likely we’d see Joe’s incredibly twisted take on a dinner party, complete with wine, mood music and pasta for his tied-up guests. (“Parmesan, Phil?” was one of my favorite lines of the night; God bless you, James Purefoy.) Claire exhorts Joe not to terrorize his captives, but his plans to murder her in the near future make him disinclined to accept her constructive criticism.
But he slips up when he unties her so she can open another bottle of wine. Some cops ring the doorbell and Emma answers; when she realizes they know what’s up, she shoots both dead. Claire uses the confusion to break the wine bottle over Joe’s head, and once he’s on the ground, she grabs a fork from the table and jams it into the wound in his side. (I’ve berated Claire’s decisions before, but you gotta admit, the lady can improvise.) While he’s calling for Emma, Claire frees the couple and they run out into the night. Joe wastes no time telling Jacob and Emma to take the car and find the escapees.
Claire flags down the first pair of headlights she sees – of course it’s Emma and Jacob. (Would it have been better or worse, do you think, if it had been a stranger who turned out to be a follower? Weigh in in the comments.) Kevin and Vicky get away, but Claire is carried off to rendezvous with Joe at a marina. The slightly delirious cult leader waxes nostalgic about a boat trip they took in Maui, then matter-of-factly concludes, “Well, this trip won’t be like that one at all.” (Confession: That line made me snort.)
RUN, JACOB! | Jacob and Emma watch Joe and Claire leave on a boat called La Dolce Vita, then she’s ready to meet up with Alex and the other followers. Jacob floats an idea: What if they don’t go? Earlier, the former lovebirds kinda made up and definitely kissed – and now Jacob wants to break ranks and flee… with her. “I don’t wanna die for him, Emma. I don’t want you to die, either,” he says, and they start kissing again. You know it’s coming but it’s still so, so terrible when it happens: She slits his throat mid-smooch, and now I know why production skimped on Nico Tortorella’s hair products last week; they had to save up for the gouts of blood that weep from his wound as Jacob dies. Emma cries as she tells him that she loves him and Joe, but “I don’t know how to love you both.”
WEAKNESS IN NUMBERS | Hardy realizes that the cult members are likely all over Havenport, even in the crowd outside the sheriff’s department building. Really, Ryan? What gave you that impression? Might it be the super insane-looking young lady quoting Poe into a TV camera and then getting stabby with the local reporter interviewing her? Meredith Hagner (Men at Work, As the World Turns) plays the acolyte in question, and man is she frightening. There’s something about her teeny little voice and death’s head grin that makes me want to triple check the locks on my door. (Nice job – and it raises another question: Have you been more freaked out by Joe’s female followers or his male ones? For me, it’s wholeheartedly the former, but I’m intrigued to hear what you guys have to say.)
Ryan bats the female follower around a bit – and it’s interesting that Debra stops Mike from interfering – until the young woman chokes out that Claire has to die “so you can be reborn.” Unsettled, Ryan, Debra and Mike brainstorm until they realize that the Red Death sought out those who feared it most, so the followers must be somewhere full of scared people: the improvised shelter at the community center.
Here’s where we have to hold-up-wait-a-minute. If you know that there are nameless, faceless, cold-blooded killers skipping about your town, why would you voluntarily congregate in a public space where you can’t possibly know and/or recognize everyone? Aren’t your chances of surviving the siege much greater in your own home rather than a school gym where, as Debra notes, no IDs have been screened, no backgrounds checked? And so it’s not a huge surprise when the followers begin their giant “distraction” – a complex, masterminded plan that seems to consist of nothing more than turning off the lights and killing randoms in a very theater-geeky way. In the end, five civilians and nine cult members are dead, with the rest escaped. That’s pretty nutty, right Debra? Debra? Oh, my bad – she’s currently nailed into a wooden box and buried in an undisclosed location, thanks to two of Joe’s best guys.
Now it’s your turn. Were you shocked by Jacob’s death? What, exactly, do you think Joe has planned for Ryan and Claire? Sound off in the comments!