The Following has proved to be a unique thriller that doesn't let up for a moment. On most cop or FBI-led shows, the detectives or agents have the upper hand on the bad guys. They investigate, find clues, and then solve the case. In most instances, that's done in an hour.
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Occasionally, a show will carry over a criminal case through several episodes in a season or seasons, while putting away criminals in between. That's where The Following succeeds in being different, the FBI is the underdog in the fight against Joe Carroll and his cult of followers. They are constantly playing catch up every moment. Just when they believe they have caught a break in the case, it turns on them or they are too late.
By shifting the paradigm upside down, The Following is an enthralling thrill ride of television each week. Within the first three episodes, it's clear that this case will be difficult to solve and will require huge sacrifices for those who are usually the heroes of a story -- the investigators.
"A Poet's Fire" showed the depth and ruthlessness of Joe's plan. It wasn't difficult for him to create a follower, he even snagged Ryan Hardy for a time. Joe has a profound ability to figure out what is missing in a person's life and fill that void for them.
He recognized Ryan's loneliness and offered him conversation and friendship, just like he offered Emma and Jacob love. There's no telling how many people are under Carroll's spell given his access to the internet and visitors.
A new follower, the guy in the Poe mask, Rick was revealed. He targeted people that harmed Joe, including a reviewer and a dean. They both hurt Joe professionally by giving him a bad review and by not granting him tenor respectively. For that they had to die. The third person, Ryan continues to be the primary target.
Everything Joe and his followers are doing is to hurt Ryan. Joe's obsession with Ryan seems to be deeper than that of his own followers for him. While Joey's kidnapping hurt Claire, it was designed more to hurt Ryan through his former lover.
That became clear when Emma and Jacob were teaching Joey to kill a bug and the mouse and then said hi to Ryan on the video. Joe's having them teach his son to follow in his footsteps and taunting Ryan for being unable to prevent it.
What Emma and Jacob did with Joey was sick, but Paul's presence in the house with them puts Joey at even greater risk. All three of them have mental issues individually, but combined they are a bomb waiting to go off. Paul's jealousy puts Joey particularly at risk.
Emma and Jacob both care about Joey, which provides him some safety. Neither of them would hurt Joey out of their own love for him but also because of Joe. Paul is different. He hates kids and if Emma and/or Jacob push him, he could easily take out his anger on the kid. For now, Paul has Megan to keep him busy. At least he didn't kill her, though her life expectancy went down to a few days once she was taken.
The death toll went up substantially in "The Poet's Fire." Not only did Rick burn the reviewer to death, he stabbed Dean Barnes and then he was killed by Ryan. One follower down. Plus, Jordy makes two. Two followers dead, but Rick's wife got away after sticking a knife in Agent Reilly's throat. Her involvement in the cult was quite the surprise.
It proved that they are manipulative and their plan is well thought out. The flashbacks showed Emma's leadership abilities and the control she has over the group. If she continues to dominate them, it will be difficult for the FBI to find and stop them. A break from the plan will be a dent in their armor, like Jacob's visit to the store and kidnapping.
Reilly's death is going to hit the team hard. Why was he sent alone? And, even though Ryan and Mike were outside, they weren't able to protect him. The case has always been personal to Ryan and now it's personal to all of them.
Will Rick's wife make her way to the house where Joey is being kept? A fourth person could be the equalizer they need to keep the peace and protect Joey's life. Though, she could make the situation even worse.
The most heartbreaking moment: Joey saying, "I never killed anything before." and then "Hi, Ryan" will a huge grin on his face. So sad!
Which was the biggest surprise: Rick's wife being a follower? Agent Reilly's death? Or, Joey being trained to kill with the bug and mouse?