I think Joe says what we’re all thinking here. I’d love to believe that our view of his writing process was a metatextual one. That Kevin Williamson and his writers were commenting on their own inability to complete the dumb story of Ryan and Joe. But I’m pretty sure looking for meta commentary in The Following is like looking for a swordfish in a breadbox. It just doesn’t make any sense. Still, I don’t think I’ve been more satisfied by a scene this year.
Joe sits at his laptop, wearing a stupid turtleneck and a stupid wool jacket because being a beloved serial killer doesn’t mean you suddenly learn how to dress yourself. He’s trying to write his novel about Ryan, and he’s busting out lots of good lines. “Death plagued Ryan.” “It paralyzed his life.” “What motivated Ryan? What fueled him?” Frustrated, he resorts to asking Microsoft word for help. “????????????????” he types, perhaps hoping that Clippy the animated Word helper will appear and help him with his creative writing.
I’ve already complained that it’s tough to get invested in a show where the majority of the characters are a serial killer and psychos in his thrall. I’d like to add to that sentiment. It’s also tough to watch a show where one of the leads is a terrible writer, but the plot increasingly appears to be about his plans to write a grand novel. We’ve already learned that his acolytes are helping him write “chapters” for his book by kidnapping the few available FBI characters and having showdowns with Ryan about it. But this novel is more than an accounting of The Following’s increasingly implausible first season. It’s also a deep character study, a story of a man obsessed with death, who has been haunted by it for years.
Joe has striven for years to get out of prison and work on this great masterpiece, but now that it’s just him and his laptop, he’s perhaps understandably feeling a bit blocked. Fortunately, he can call Ryan up and ask him useful questions, although the process is a little tedious for the audience. There’s one ponderous phone call that leads nowhere, and in the final showdown of the episode, Joe and Ryan discuss the nature of death through a bulletproof window, both admitting that it haunts and fuels them. It’s a “we’re not so different, you and I” moment, and it makes about as much sense as anything else on this ridiculous program.
Just for the record: Ryan and Joe are VERY DIFFERENT. They really have nothing in common. Joe is a nice dresser, he enjoys the finer things, lives in comfort and sanity, and just occasionally has to indulge a desire to brutally murder a woman. Ryan is in a cloud of disease and despair, everyone around him dies for some reason or another, he swills cheap vodka and lives in a dingy shithole, and while he does kill lots of people, it’s usually because they’re pointing guns at his face.
All they have in common is Ryan has worked on Joe’s case for a long time, so they sort of understand each other. They (and the show’s writers) are mistaking this for some mirror image bullshit that couldn’t support a deck of cards. It’s an angle I’d prefer they stop pushing, although of course there’s no chance of that.
This is an incredibly plot-free episode, by the way. All that happens is that Joe surprises Ryan and the gang at the armory, almost killing Mike (although he’s never in real danger according to Ryan) and giving Debra a bump on the noggin. We lose Vince to the end of Ryan’s gun (his flogging days are over) and meet militiaman Daniel Monroe, who is dispatched just as quickly, although not before dropping a hint that Joe lives in a house. Let’s put the house profiler unit on that one, FBI.
There’s a winking twist at the end where Ryan is interacting with Sherriff Roderick, but you’d think Ryan would have some questions about the black eye he’s sporting. If there’s no comment on that next week, I am throwing my TV through a window.
Aside from that and Joe’s failed novel-writing attempts, there’s some goings-on at the psycho camp that bear noting for their total inanity. Emma, who has taken to wandering around striking cute poses and smiling like a person even crazier than her, decides to patch things up with Claire, pointing out all the good times they had before she kidnapped her only son and delivered him into the arms of a serial killer. On a normal show, Claire would flatly reject Emma, and that’d be that; here, a catfight breaks out in the lamest way possible.
Claire’s perhaps a little easier to provoke because Joe is still swanning around acting like it’s just days before she falls madly in love with him again. That’s not to say I have sympathy for stupid Claire though, who begins the episode enacting a dangerous, ingenious escape plan. She goes out the front door with Joey and attempts to… walk off the property. In some direction. That’s all she’s got so far, and hey, it’s a big mansion no cop ever comes near. I’m sure she’ll get out of there great on her own.
Poor Claire. She gets a real moment of triumph, though—she reads Joe’s unfinished book, learning about his grand master plan (still being kept a secret from us) and reminding herself that she married and divorced a truly horrifically bad writer. At least the show isn’t shy about this fact—Joe is a sucky writer and he doesn’t take well to criticism. I’ll admit I’m still intrigued by Joe’s crazy plan, whatever it turns out to be. But I also exulted in Claire ripping his art, as much as I exult in say, Tyrion slapping Joffrey on Game Of Thrones. It’s just fun to see anyone that egotistical taken down a notch.
Barf. Not as bad as the last two. Not sure what the Ryan flashbacks really had to do with anything. But Joe's novel brought me through the night.
- Did I recommend Apollo 13 yet? I’ve seen that one a thousand times, and it never gets old.
- “Sometimes I have trouble breathing. And a little tightening here.” Ryan’s medical troubles are PERFECTLY NORMAL
- This week, Debra names Joe’s cult “Carrollism.” Spare me.
- The first line of Joe’s novel: “This is a story about death.” Not quite “Call me Ishmael.”