The Following "For Joe" Review: Said the Spider to the Ryan

By Nick Campbell

Jan 28, 2014

The Following S02E02: "For Joe"

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Is there a thing for fool me a dozen times?

As Ryan Hardy, chief plaything of Joe Carroll and anyone who wants to be Joe Carroll, you would think that there would be one certainty in his life, no matter how many theatrical murders occur or how many anonymous strangers get toyed with post-mortem. And that's the victim booby trap.

Ryan Hardy always knows that there's going to be some manipulative game where some beautiful killer wants Hardy to play into his or her hand. Bait the guy with some vague threats and watch him come running, probably without any backup, so that the killer can continue the game with no complications. Whether it's dragging Hardy off somewhere so that Joey or Claire can be kidnapped, or staging a meet-up in a crowd, Hardy always falls for that old walking-alone-into-a-trap chestnut. Every single time. Even a dog would eventually learn to not drool when the bell rings and there's no food.

But Hardy comes running anyway, most of the time literally. While I could've rationalized some of his solo scrambling last season when he had to move quickly and everything law enforcement touched turned to crap, it's wearing thin of late. The most obvious and painful of these situations was in the season finale last year, when Hardy could've taken Weston with him to Carroll's in order to smite Carroll once and for all. If you were like me, you tossed your hands into the air helplessly as Hardy denied Weston from coming, even though he'd just said that Carroll didn't know he was alive. "Really, man? Really? That's exactly what he wants." It was like watching a live-action version of the moment when Homer's brain walked out.

It's not new that Hardy can't get out of his own way. And it's one thing for it to be a quirk that he's self-destructive; I can deal with that. But this is exhausting.

He went to that brownstone alone after tracking the phone number (the world's quickest phone tap) so he wouldn't spook whoever was waiting. His reasoning was that the police would all show up with sirens and SWAT and heralds with trumpets announcing their arrival. It didn't occur to Hardy that the police can be subtle when they want to be. They do catch criminals every once in a while (or so I assume). Whatever, though, that's Hardy being Hardy, a guy just trying to do it for himself. But it was really, really stupid for Hardy to run all the way to whatever gala and not just give someone a bit of heads up that, "Oh yeah, the people who've been contacting me just threatened to kill Lily Gray, too, soooo..." None of that. Keep that little tidbit to yourself, Hardy. Attaboy. Really give the killers every opportunity to get away with literal murder. There's just no reason for it.

Meanwhile, the FBI has been reduced to our meta recap engine, sweeping through crime scenes to let us know how they're basically useless at everything except letting everyone know what just happened. Weston spent this entire episode restating the obvious. Mendez was nothing but sass. Phillips was nothing but gruffness when sass wasn't enough to punctuate how much they didn't like Hardy. They're a special task force dedicated to Joe Carroll and all the cult members, and no one seems to be able to track down anyone.

That might be the most troublesome thing about the The Following's FBI this season. Now that they don't have a chance to bungle anything because it happens before they even have a chance to ruin it, we're left with the fact that they have two Carroll experts on the case (Mendez and Weston both did their theses on Carroll), but no one seems to have a clue about what's happening. Except one-man-army Ryan Hardy. The government knows every time I say the word "bomb" on the telephone, but no one seems to be able to track down Emma because she's got pink hair now.

Kevin Williamson's explanation for this, at least with regard to last season, has been that the FBI can't catch Carroll or else the show is over. While Season 2 is proving that incorrect (Carroll's not even the one the FBI is after right now), I get what he means. The FBI has to have flaws, or else this wouldn't be a cat-and-mouse game. And it seems like the writers have been reading these reviews by making the FBI not look like a gaggle of simpletons, gingerly pressing buttons in their command center and hoping their magic programs will scan the images of bodies and come up with 3-D markers. Now they look authoritative when they press those buttons and hope their magic programs will come up with those 3-D markers.

But they've just become a nuisance to Hardy. At best, they move too slowly and run too loudly, and at worst, they're completely insolent and Hardy thinks he can do a better job. In the wake of shows demonstrating somewhat competent police forces that can still make mistakes (The Killing) or flawed federal agencies that don't necessarily win every time but, when they lose, they're actually outsmarted (Homeland), it feels silly to watch this version of the FBI twiddle their thumbs and then react in slow motion when things actually happen. And it's all mostly because Hardy wants to keep everything a secret-secret. "Let me check it out first. Because these other trained professionals are idiots."

Probably the most interesting thing about "For Joe" was the transformation taking place in Arkansas. Carroll lives, indeed, but what the show decided to do with him during the year away is weird and unfounded, yet might've been slightly interesting had they decided to explore it a little more. Poor Joe. He's come to terms with the fact that he's a failure at just about everything he does. He can't even lead a cult of sociopaths or raise a child. So he's taken to early retirement by growing out a beard and kicking it in the Ozarks with the town bicycle who used to send him letters in hopes of reforming him. Women, amirite?

But the fact that they made Carroll essentially renounce his entire philosophy by tossing him into depression is intriguing. It's actually slightly disappointing that he found his taste for blood again so soon. I think I might've really liked watching Carroll go back and forth a little more, seeing these kids try to get his attention while he really tried out a normal life. Maybe Ryan Hardy finds Carroll in Arkansas and recruits him, Hannibal Lecter-style, to catch the Dead Ringers. At the very least, let him mull over his situation for another episode or two before caving to his murderous instinct. It's disappointing. I mean, it took him so long to come up with a pseudonym ("What's like Carroll but starts with another letter?" "Aarroll?" "No, that's weird." "Barrel?" "No, that's a thing." "Darryl?" "Bingo!"). But at least we won't have to listen to the Southern accent anymore.


– Rousseau's name is Giselle and they're really letting her hang out and get comfortable before giving her something to do. Outside of teaching us that "morte" means "dead" in French and having a scene in a towel, her main task seems to be to antagonize Carlos and sitting in that hotel room. Obviously, she wants to be a killer, but I suppose her abilities are best utilized on a label maker.

– I know I brought this up last week, but I love that they're keeping the Matted Hair of Sadness in this show. First it was Jacob, then it was Emma this season. Now the perpetually sad twin (Mark) can be identified as the one with the matted-down locks while Luke is the one who's watched American Psycho one too many times.

– It's been a while since I laughed as hard as I did when Mark held out his hand for the soon-to-be-murdered mother to sign for the flowers. And then open-hand slapped her. It's like the violent version of "Gimme-five-down-low-too-slow."

– Lily Gray seems really calm and collected for a woman who survived a massacre and a follow-up attack that saw her friend get stabbed (but in the gut, so he's fine). There are no indications that she's part of the cult other than the fact that she was spared and that she has a surprising lack of PTSD, but it's something to keep an eye on.

 "You do a man, right." Gross, Reverend. While he was certainly not a shining example of a holy man, I'm surprised that The Following didn't take the opportunity to make him worse. When he complimented Mandy on how good-looking she is, I thought for sure his later visit to see Judy was going to involve the good Reverend forcing himself on teenage girl. The writers had a chance to demonize the Reverend, but instead they kept him in a moral gray area. Do you think that was to maintain Carroll's evil cred (if he killed a bad man, Carroll might be seen as a Dexter kind of figure), or just because the show didn't want to capitulate to the cliche of making bad guys out of people who are about to die so the audience is relieved to have that character gone? I honestly don't know the answer to that.

– The daddy issues thing. I think my eyes are still rolling. I did, however, enjoy Hardy's phone call with Luke where they both tried to poke at each other's feelings until Claire put Hardy on silent.

– So I know that Hardy continually told Max not to call the police. But why didn't she just call the police?

– Mandy hitting the Reverend with the shovel gave me fond memories of LUX Shovel.

– "What happened to you?" Nothing, Weston. Nothing has happened to Hardy. He's exactly the same. None of this should be surprising.

– "Mom's gonna be home soon. She's gonna be mad." That shows a presence of mind that most people don't possess after watching a man of the cloth get murdered in cold blood right in front of them. Mandy's going to make an excellent addition to the Carroll cult. Welcome to the family!

  • Comments (66)
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  • geoffmaze Feb 11, 2014

    Something stupider? That this craptastical show is still on the air! Dear God I hope you people still watching this trainwreck are doing so to see how many stupid things there are per show or feel obligated to watch it until the end because you've invested/wasted this much time so far!
    Beware the second route, I did it watching Dexter and got diminishing returns after Season 4 with an embarrassing bad and snooze inducing, laughably stupid final Season 8.
    I gave the Following 7 or 8 eps. last season and I just couldn't take it anymore. I see that nothing has improved nor will it. Fox is banking on Kevin Bacon getting viewers and ridiculous happenings to keep viewers coming back for laugh value. There literally are no other merits to this terrible show!

  • tamaracassill Feb 05, 2014

    Lets be honest: Im happy when Hardy kills those stupid people... in every other show I would hateit, but those cult guys are so mad - you might just kill them - off you go ;)

    Those twins are ... just...I mean ... sometimes and I dont know if I should laugh or cry.. creepy And sorry but this stupid french psych girl? oooh kill her already.. I like the other guy who is in the news

    Emma... aaaawww poor Em doesnt know whats going on or that Joe is alive...poor girl
    Hardy running in a dark house alone, well... See I like this tv show, just dont think too much about it

    BUT Joe Carroll: I really dont give a damn about him. I think he is a shit killer. I mean he got so many mental problems, he istn scary ( ok he could kill me and would love it...) he is more like a freaky 14 year old who cries about not being loved. And this girl who is with him? oh .. she probably starts killing now aswell.. I hate that part. I dont want Joe to come to New York. I really wished he was dead!! Such a winy guy why would people follow him? It would be way better if a few psychos would just get together cause they just love to kill - fine but following Joe? come on, those creepy twin (with the short hair) could kill him in 1min

  • malanisimz Feb 04, 2014

    it keeps on gettin batter each episode.....Awesome!!!!!!!!!

  • EdReynolds1 Jan 29, 2014

    I didn't think it were possible, but this show gets dumber and dumber. Next week I expect the FBI to start licking metal poles in freezing weather...

    I can think of plenty of examples in this episode alone but one of the last scenes gets me where Ryan tells the FBI agents to guard Lily Gray, then runs around the corner and then gets into a pretty noisy throw down with half of My Chemical Romance.

    FBI Agent 1: "Hey it sounds like that agitated dude needs our help"
    FBI Agent 2: "But we were told to wait here by that dude with a gun"
    FBI Agent 1: "Yeah you're right, we should do EXACTLY what that dude said"
    FBI Agent 2: "Especially since he isn't FBI, just a crazed CIVILIAN with a gun."
    FBI Agent 1: "Wow, gunshots...."
    FBI Agent 2: "Nope ain't moving, can't afford to be seen bungling things."
    FBI Agent 1: "Good thing Carroll is dead. No body, no DNA, definitely dead."

  • apostrofa Jan 29, 2014

    I think the stupidest thing was how lousy Lily Gray's protection detail was. And the fact that this show seemed to make much more sense last season.
    And Hardy didn't get to kill anyone. *sadface*

  • traylaparc Jan 28, 2014

    "There are no indications that she's part of the cult other than the fact that she was spared"....which in this show means she is part of the cult

  • traylaparc Feb 07, 2014

    well, look what happened....... :(

  • edshrinker Jan 28, 2014

    You sound like as big of a fan as I am. Especially when your Poll is on the "stupidest" part of the ep.

    My condolences having to cover this show. I made the mistake trying again this season. Ugh. Helix might be the only show where "professionals" act dumber.

  • Whedonrules Jan 28, 2014

    Is it just me or is this show just 100% misogynistic like most FOX dramas with a sole exception (Halleluiah!) 'Sleepy Hollow'? Woman are either stupid, often times in a government official capacity or evil if they have a brain. The good ones are the ones that just shut up and take orders from the male characters. Is FOX News getting editorial control over scripts now? I kid : ) Or they are the best use this network has for female characters - helpless victims. This one goes a step beyond and has women being killed and used for props. Its pathetic murder porn. I want the female characters from 'Banshee' to come to this show and kick its ass. This show has no redeeming qualities.

  • chris17blue Jan 28, 2014

    "Is it just me or is this show just 100% misogynistic..."

    You've obviously never seen "The Vampire Diaries" ...

  • wheezell Jan 28, 2014

    The Pavlov reference provided a pithy summation of the point being made.

  • Trident Jan 28, 2014

    The worst thing about this show is that EVERY bad guy/girl seems to be hyper-annoying in one way or another. I've never seen so many totally uninteresting sociopaths, and from the first moment i have failed to understand the supposed "charisma" of Joe Carroll that apparently draws people to him.
    Forget about them being psychos; i couldn't stand being 5 minutes with ANY of them without wanting to pull my hair out.

  • MichaelMcLaug2 Jan 30, 2014

    Yes, exactly. The twins' sarcastic talking to their dead victims is not only gratuitous but honestly made me want to turn it off. I think I will next time.

  • geoffmaze Feb 11, 2014

    Do yourself a favor and don't tune in in the first place. Quite possibly the worst show to ever make it through a full season and start a 2nd...Terrible writing.

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