You'll notice that this week's "stupid moments" poll is a little thinner than usual. It's not because the characters are behaving with any sort of clarity or because the plot is finally starting to clear up after 12 episodes. It's mostly because of the sexless exposition that weighed this episode down.
Carroll's been talking about how he and Hardy are "writing" the novel of this adventure together for about as long as the series has been going on. It's the premise, you might say, and the motivating force behind everything Carroll is doing. Now, when I heard Carroll mention this in the pilot, I thought their "writing" of it was in a broader sense. I thought all of the activities that Carroll's group had planned, the media coverage of the spectacle that is the cult, and Hardy's own clippings of his sparse victories, were part of this wide-scale street art. It turns out there is supposed to be an actual novel.
Carroll literally sits down at his Apple-branded laptop and pounds out some prose. And he's struggling. Oh, to watch him struggle! The montage dedicated to how he has trouble working out the motivations of Ryan Hardy was so hyperbolically painful, both for the character and for us to watch. I know it must be hard to act out "my writing isn't going so well," but what a pain to sit through watching the show treat it like he broke a leg or stubbed his toe. Writing is so hard, you guys! So painful! Frustrating! Oh, the humanity! I don't mean to say that writing isn't painful (it most certainly can be), but maybe he should just take that laptop down to Starbucks like every other hack and agonize over a skinny latte.
What's interesting about Carroll's woes is that he's basically suffering over the same question that we as an audience might be asking ourselves. What's Ryan's stake in this? What motivates him to continue? Is it Claire? Is it to not let Carroll win? Is it that basic cliche of justice?
It's all of those things, or at least that's what we as viewers tell ourselves. Ryan's detachment from humanity lasted for about half an episode. He obviously cares about innocent lives (more than his own) and he cares very deeply (I guess?) for Claire. He doesn't want Carroll to complete his campaign of death in his honor. And then there was the death of his father, which seems to have instilled in him a sense of justice. He appears to have a great many motivations for him.
But we're getting conflicting information. Carroll's problem is that he's not able to lock onto any of these myriad motivations for Ryan in the context of his book, despite the fact that he's supposed to be creepily invested in the guy. I mean, if you're going to make this real, live person your protagonist and you've had this idea brewing for nine years, wouldn't you dig a little deeper? Do you need to take a cripple hostage and demand that he tell you thing you're already supposed to know?
All right, so Weston isn't a cripple. He's just bandaged up like Ed Norton from Fight Club (which I think is the better reference than Brad Pitt) and a little punchy. But already this season, he's been captured twice and shot point blank once. He's having a rough couple of months. Glad to see him around again though, possibly moling.
But I digress.
Carroll took Weston hostage while Jacob was upstairs with Bottom-of-the-Class Agent Parker. Parker who, on the suggestion from the cretin she had chained to a radiator, was about to walk outside and leave him alone. You could say that he was chained to a radiator so where was he going to go, but I say there's something wrong with an agent who's willing to wander away from a clearly dangerous and resourceful criminal. At least stay in the room!
Of course, she didn't get the chance because Jacob was waiting to knock her in the face after offing her friendly prisoner. There's only one thing that I like about Parker, and that's how she's so good at staying calm and trying to get under the skin of the cult members. It should be the job of a side character or an interrogator, not the gal in charge of the entire operation, but it's the only time I ever enjoy Parker, since otherwise she's the worst agent on record. Just demote her to whatever level a federal psychic would be and everything would be fine. Better yet, let's just drop her and bring on The Closer-style Kyra Sedgwick from for all the cult members Hardy doesn't kill. I hear Bacon's got the connection.
So Parker was being held by Jacob, Vince was +1 to Hardy's series-long body count, and Carroll had Weston hostage in order to workshop his protagonist. For an entire act of the episode. I mentioned sexless exposition before because at least Game of Thrones has the common courtesy to throw in naked-to-the-waist nudity (or full-on orgasm scenes) with this much blatant backstory. Hardy might as well have sat in a rocking chair and told us the story of how his father died. We thought it was the heavy use of flashback that's been choking this series, but sometimes it's just the lack of creativity in coloring characters.
And it lasted forever. How long did we sit there and wait while Carroll and Hardy kicked the old peanut around, with a couple bits of Weston torture acting like pinches to keep us awake? The one thing their chat did do for us was set up the flashback to actually killing the junkie. Without Hardy spinning that yarn about his dad's death, we wouldn't have seen what a younger Hardy was supposed to look like, and then we wouldn't have been able to see Hardy's mind's eye recalling that forced overdose. It seems like such a high price for us to pay to learn that Quick Draw McGraw has a revenge streak in him.
Then Carroll tried to make a vague connection between the two of them that death is their fuel and it was so terrible you could actually see why Carroll's considered to be a hack writer. Maybe he's crazy, or maybe he's just trying to draw conclusions that get into Ryan's head, but that whole "we're the same" speech sounded like it was lifted from a better serial killer drama but they forgot the context and had to make some up.
After all that, we saw that Roderick was there, ready to thwart the FBI's investigation because they were so close. And that, after what felt like an eternity in that basement, is what reminded me that this series is moving at such a fast clip. We closing in on the end of the season and the FBI is basically in Carroll's backyard. IF any credit can be given to this show, it's that the run has been efficient so far. Light on watchable content, but definitely efficient.
– Is Jacob's hair getting taller? I feel like with every episode we see, his hair is getting taller. Carroll may be his guiding light for murder, but I feel like his style icons are Marge Simpson, Eraserhead, and 3rd Bass-era MC Serch.
– Did Claire really think that she was going to be able to leave the compound just by being the early bird? These people are part of a Poe-inspired cult. They don't sleep! Being obsessed with Poe is like being a vampire, right?
– The best thing Claire has done so far is in this series is try to choke the poser out of Emma. "I will kill you." The only way to demand respect from a predator is to insist that you are not prey. These girls shouldn't be fighting anyway. Don't they realize they're igloo sisters?
– I just realized that one of the major premises of this show is that Carroll is mad that he and Hardy are Eskimo brothers.
– I'd just like to see an extension of that last Emma/Carroll scene where a cult member comes down to make a peanut butter sandwich and rolls her eyes at them. "We have to eat off that, you know!"
– Every time Emma says something like, "Why do you have to be such a jerk?" there should be some sort of audience response that's like, "You're in a house full of murderous psychopaths! Duh-doy!"
– Maybe the cult members should invest less in their seemingly bottomless supply of wine and stock up on, I don't know, bullet-proof vests.