“No-one ever wants to see what’s really there”
1. The scope and reach of Carroll’s Clique continues to reveal itself, but just how big is it?
2. As Jordy revealed, the cult is divided into component groups to prevent any one follower from knowing the complete book (no binge-reading for them!). Does Carroll have a second-in-command, a sub editor to make sure things go according to plan or is he really relying on the flock to stick to the script at all times?
3. Turns out Jacob and Paul’s relationship was not built purely on pretense; Jacob seems to care for both Paul and Emma. We saw what Emma did to Paul with the knife — how will she react when she finds out?
4. Maggie disappears into the night. What role will she play going forward?
5. It seems Parker and Carroll haven’t met prior to bookgate (unless they have) — what does Carroll think of Parker?
6. The acolytes are teaching Joey how to kill animals. Does Carroll want to make a serial killer out of Joey?
“The Poet’s Fire” continues the search for Joey, though taking center stage is the introduction of another member of Carroll’s Clique; the development of Emma, Jacob and Paul’s strained relationship; and the further unveiling of Hardy and Carroll’s ‘origins story’. I give major props to The Following for deepening the story by bringing Rick into the eye of the storm instead of doing a ‘follower of the week’ one-shot. Sure, we barely knew him by the time he went down in a hail of bullets, but he wasn’t a random killer disconnected from the central pie. That would have been the normal route for a show like this. But The Following, it seems, isn’t a show like this; it’s something much better, certainly at this embryonic stage.
I like that Rick had his own unique attributes; his preference for fire over knives and the whole Poe mask thing certainly added an enigmatic (and creepy) air to his character. But it was his connection to the other followers that really added depth to the episode and pulled the curtain back on just what Carroll has created. He’s a match-maker. This was intimated in the previous episode, but it became much clearer here. What’s interesting is that while Carroll has put these specific people together with their specific others, they each seem to have their own strengths and weakness and they’re not the perfect unit. This continues to be most evidently seen through Paul who abducts a ‘third wheel’ so he doesn’t have to be the odd one out. And we can add her fate to the list of burning questions.
While I still think the show can brush up on how it executes flashbacks (a little look at LOST wouldn’t do any harm), the glimpses of the past were some of the episode’s most interesting elements, offering insight into the acolytes and more context for Carroll and Hardy’s relationship, which also gained a few extra shades of gray. I like the idea that Hardy himself was once Cray Cray for Carroll as it suggests that the grand master’s powers are not just limited to attracting the depraved and dangerous mind or vulnerable teenage girls. At the same time, it leaves it open to question whether Hardy himself is of that variety — not a vulnerable teenage girl, but someone with the prerequisite buttons that Carroll looks for in people. Either way, it makes for a more layered dynamic to see that these men were once compatible – how much of that compatibility was a total fabrication on Carroll’s part, hopefully we’ll find out. What we do know is that Hardy eventually pressed Carroll’s buttons through his affair with Claire.
My main bone of contention with proceedings was the predictability of Rick’s partner Maggie being part of the cult, and the fact that Hardy, Parker and the entire FBI missed it. Very slack, as was leaving Jordy unattended to choke himself to death — although to be fair his method was fairly imaginative! I’d question why he would kill himself before Parker had confirmed whether or not she would live up to her word about letting him see Carroll. I guess he wasn’t the most stable of personalities and maybe he realized that Carroll wouldn’t be best pleased, but it did feel a bit like the show wanted to have its cake and choke it down.
The Maggie oversight was compounded by the fact that she killed Agent Troy (RIP) in another predictable twist in the tale. Poor Billy Brown must be sick of these serial killer shows — first Dexter, now TF. It sort of raises the stakes now that Carroll’s Clique has taken out one of Hardy’s ‘friends’, as it were, though I think more drama and suspense could have come from it. I don’t need the show to mask every twist; sometimes the most tension can come from knowing what our heroes don’t and seeing it unfold, while a certain amount of predictability can lubricate the wheels. But this crack team has yet to really earn my trust in their abilities, so while I understand their need to miss things for the good of the story, it’s a push-pull situation. Still, it’s early days and they’re still finding their feet.
With Maggie and Rick making a feeble attempt to fly the nest, the ensuing confrontation saw Hardy even the scales a little bit by killing Rick, twice. And of course, Maggie’s now in the wind, which is great because it means less resolution.
I certainly have more quibbles with this episode than the first two installments — that’s partly due to my growing expectations as the show matures and the fact that “The Poet’s Fire” contained one or two weaker elements in its bid to open out the story. But all things considered, I was engaged throughout and learned more about Hardy, Carroll and the acolytes.
To be continued…
7.5/10 Seriable Stars