Being Debra Parker seems like a lot of work.
Between giving people obvious orders so that the audience understands why your team is about to be comically ineffectual and finding ways to become a liability at every turn, she has to be exhausted at the end of the day. I imagine that she must come home, kick off of those shoes, melt into an Olivia Pope-inspired bowl of wine on a stem, and just reflect on how she's George Costanza-ing her career.
Although, I'm not really sure it's George Costanza-ing, because that would mean doing the opposite of your impulses to better results. It seems like she thinks of the best decision, does the opposite, and it becomes the worst thing that ever happened to her.
It troubles me, watching how ineffectual she is as a manager, how passive she is as a leader, and how weak she is while being in charge of a team that's been proven to constantly be in danger while she can barely control her weapon. Did you see her shooting in the hallway? Each kickback was like someone had just caught her gun while fishing and refused to let that treasure go. Emma had a better time handling the recoil, and she's just a frail pixie visiting our human world. Also, I've been yelling "Stop going down dark hallways alone!" so often that I'm starting to think people on TV can't hear me.
So she did go down that hallway alone and she did send that poor soldier away without any backup or cover and she did get buried alive (or at least that's what we were led to believe from how the episode trailed off). Which is sort of fitting, because so many of Poe's characters in stories revolving around being buried alive suffer from some sort of catalepsy, and Parker can often be confused for being completely braindead.
Oh, that might not be fair to Parker, since she's supposed to just be a cult expert, not a natural born leader or gruff military type. But the bureaucracy of the FBI seems to always set her up to fail and it's miserable to watch. There are times where I feel like our weekly poll could be comprised entirely of things Parker did.
But she can't take all the blame for this week's shenanigans because everyone got duped by some weak plans by a hack writer. I can't help but think that if they could've jumped to the same conclusion we all arrived at almost instantly, everything would've ended up a little happier. Let's run through our collective thought process regarding the episode: Reporter mentioned that everyone should hide out in the recreation center. The murder cult people were not only out and about, but right there in the same crowd, and they even stabbed the reporter. They were all in danger. We knew they were all in danger because, even without reading "Mask of the Red Death," any time people gather together in one spot and it's expressly mentioned, it's a terrible idea.
But Parker's FBI didn't have the benefit of our limited omniscience. They did, however, have a working knowledge of the story Carroll hinted at all episode, from the book to the stabby telegram. Watching them work it out among themselves was painful. As soon as they mentioned the plot of "Red Death," you all knew immediately where Carroll's minions were. While they struggled to find the answer, you were painfully aware of what the next step would be. But Ryan's seeming precognition of Carroll's behavior didn't help him.
I don't blame Hardy & Co. for running for the evacuation after what felt like a tortuously long scene. I mean, it was weird that the police wanted to round up civilians like sitting ducks, since they didn't seem to be doing a whole lot of security on the building (maybe they asked, "Are you in a murder cult?" at the door). But the sheer theatricality, even if it was convenient for Carroll that the police did ask everyone to assemble rather than employing a curfew or telling everyone to stay in their homes until they were done sweeping the area (maybe that's just us living in a post-Boston-bombing world), would be enough to attract the full force of the FBI's mighty hand. With all these pieces falling into place, how could this not be the plan Carroll had all along?
The other person I don't blame: Jacob. I liked that Jacob looked around and basically said, "Hey, I don't want to be a red shirt." Because Aaron—my pick for standing on Carroll's charred remains and laughing hysterically as the last one left—died, really, for no good reason. The followers at the rec center were basically target practice for the Keystone Kops (did Hardy add to his body count?). And the cult has a history of losing so many people along the way, martyrs for Carrollism. Jacob said he loved Joe (a facet of the story that has yet to convince me—Carroll doesn't seem engaging enough to command that kind of adoration) but it was time to get the heck out.
Forgiving Emma was terrible, though. When Emma came in sobbing, "I hate what I did to you," I wanted Jacob to still be furious. He was trapped. There was nothing else but death for him because he couldn't run and there was definitely no chance for him to have a normal life again. He had to stay in the cult and do Carroll's bidding. His life was ruined. And I get the sense that all of that was Emma's fault. He just wanted to do a couple activity. But instead of taking a trip to the Grand Canyon or going on a spa getaway, Emma wanted to be part of a cult. Her trespasses, leaving Jacob to die and being Joe's sexual outlet while he was in crisis, are the kind it's okay to hold a grudge for. But he forgave her. And he paid the price for being so very stupid. But it's just as well. How many times could Jacob come around the corner and announce, "You killed them." Yes, Jacob. She's in a murder cult.
Speaking of forgiveness, the show desperately wants us to forgive Claire for being a harpy for most of the season. After we facepalmed last week when Claire stabbed once and hoped Carroll would just keel over from a flesh wound, she made herself useful this week in freeing the hostages. I can appreciate that she stabbed Carroll again in the same spot because, cripes, that has to hurt. But it's interesting that she never went in for the kill. She basically had Joe on the ropes while Emma and Jacob were, based on how long it took them to react, arranging the cop bodies in dirty positions ("I think that's illegal in Virginia!"). She could've ended it right there by putting him down. Instead, she kicked him and caused him more pain. Then they ran. Obviously, the show doesn't want to kill Carroll off, but considering all the hate she harbors and the obvious disregard for his well-being, it's becoming more apparent that she'd rather not be the monster slayer.
The next time we meet will be the finale! Who will survive? Who will Ryan shoot next? Will Carroll kill Claire and dump her in the ocean? Or will Claire get Stockholm Syndrome and want to stay with her ex-husband? Will Hardy have any more awkward and inappropriate post-coital pillow talk? Stay tuned for the (almost assuredly) ridiculous conclusion to Season 1 of The Following!
– The final chapter has begun? This is the end of the book? Was it a novella? I know that Carroll had some other things in mind that Roderick's betrayal and scores of dead followers may have affected but Joe really made it seem like he had all sorts of puzzles and tricks for Ryan but, outside of that one "kill all the Claires" chapter, there weren't really a whole lot of obstacles. I bet Joe's feeling pretty sheepish about making a big deal about it early on. Probably wished he'd slow-played his hand a little.
– Part of the Carroll School of Killing with Love must be shushing them while they die. It's an art to murder someone and then tell them to be quiet while life escapes them. And the dying people do it like they have something to lose. Hey, you're dying. If you want to sob or yell or gurgle the blood that's filling your throat, you should go ahead and do it. What's the worst that can happen? You die faster?
– Hey, FBI agents: Stop getting kidnapped.
– I'm 95 percent sure Parker's going to get out of the box alive, but why are the cult members doing that? You have to wonder why they're going through the trouble of burying her, how they had the box available to bury her in, and what the overall purpose of keeping her alive long enough to die slowly is? I'm guessing all will be revealed next week but it seems pretty silly right now.