The Following returned this week with one of the strongest offerings of the season. This is, in large part, because the writers have freed Carroll from prison and allowed him to become a more active part in his sinister orchestrations. Rather than waiting for Hardy to find him, he picks up the cell phone for an old-fashioned “you slept with my wife” chat. Roderick, too, is becoming a shining star of the series with a curious blend of sociopathy and care for the fallen. The midway point for the season, “Love Hurts” does an excellent job of sending the series into the pre-finale stride.
Leaving Weston unconscious in his hospital bed, the show follows up on last week’s thread of the cult having far more power than law enforcement. The episode opens with Hardy and crew reporting to Washington that Carroll has escaped and joined what could be more than a hundred of his acolytes, but that the FBI has only a three state radius on where it could be. Carroll seems to know how much of an upper hand he has, so he calls Hardy to prod him on the tortures to come. Meanwhile, Carroll is taking “chapter” ideas from each of the followers, one of whom, cute-and-starstruck Amanda, has a plan to draw out Claire Matthews and break Hardy’s conscience all in one: Murder as many women named Claire Matthews as they can find.
The FBI plays the role of the clue-sniffing dog following each kill. While this does leave some questions, such as why they’re not mapping out the killings to find the compound, it leaves just enough room for some much needed character growth. Nick Donovan received more screen time and, if the characteer is a bit clichéd, he adds a welcome new element to the force. Debra, feeling like a failure after losing control to Donovan and Washington, appears less but still managed to convey a growing bond with Hardy. Hardy, always the most fun when in his extremes, was also genuinely entertaining even when he wasn’t half-crazy. The scene at the end of the show where he professes his love for Claire and begs Amanda to kill him was a level of depth we’ve not seen from the character outside of sarcasm and snark.
Paul and Jacob make their return this week, having taken refuge at Jacob’s parent’s cabin. There was a heartfelt scene between Jake and his mother that was difficult not to be touched by, but ultimately she begged them to leave before her husband arrived to call the police. Paul’s wound had other plans and had become septic. Jacob finally achieved his first kill in the man he loved, acquiescing to Paul’s request for release. It was reminiscent of the Charlie scene from last week. Both characters wanted their lives to mean something and, apparently, finishing their mortal coil as part of Carroll’s tale was their culmination.
Meanwhile, in an absolutely sparkling scene, Roderick mimics Jacob’s voicemail to Emma, the girl he loved and who still claims to love him, in front of the other followers. It was torturous and mean and wonderful, because we have to remember, each of these characters is cruel and uncaring to the weakest among us; it is the double standard, the sociopathic mentality played out that they are so very blind to. You could seen the pain and outrage in Emma’s eyes, but after her obvious affection for Joe, we have to wonder how sincere it is. Next week should reveal her true feelings as this episode’s closing note was Jacob arriving at the compound.
This episode moved the plot forward in a number of important ways. The capture of Amanda at the end presents a risk to Carroll. She’s obviously unstable and filled with fear, but also so devoted the him that her loyalty could go unbroken. Will that be enough for the followers? The attention the case is getting on the national scale continues to rise, especially after this latest series of murders, so the role of Washington and the CIA will likely continue to rise.
Emma continues to be a powerful character. While Joe and Roderick are naturally more interesting for their revelry in insanity, it seems that anything Emma touches results in great plot-lines. After this week, there’s no question that Emma won’t stand for Joe to be re-united with his wife – unless something changes, and perhaps Jacob’s return is part of that… thanks to Roderick.
Roderick is as delightfully twisted as they come. On the one hand, he seems to care about their shared effort, but on the other, he doesn’t seem to care about any of the people – other than Joe – actually trying to achieve it. Or maybe he does or, maybe, he doesn’t even know, as he shares in the episode. This lack of understanding underscores why he is so dangerous. On the inside, his character is grey; he’s unpredictable and dangerous, he doesn’t care about if what he does effects anyone so long as it’s fun for him. That detachment makes him unpredictable. In a camp full of crazies, an outlier such as Roderick can only be fun.
Overall, “Love Hurts” ranks among the top entries in the series thus far. It had all of the hallmarks of a good The Following. The followers ran wild, Hardy broke the mold, Carroll played the charming and ever-so-dangerous leader, and the members of Kidnapper Ranch made a triumphant return in full, emotionally impactful form. Heading into the rest of the season, the show is positioned to deliver a great second half.