“We’re gonna die soon. I can feel it”
“Havenport” wasted little time in reeling in the ramifications of the previous episode. If it was a little convenient that Hardy and the FBI failed to recognize ‘Sheriff Nelson’ as Roderick, it was satisfying to see how quickly things escalated as Weston came face-to-face with his nemesis for the first time since their brutal cult club encounter. I felt Weston could have contained Roderick better than he did, but I enjoyed how it played out with Roderick using his diminishing cover as a shield to make his cool and calm escape.
In truth, he was anything but calm, as we saw when he gave Carroll the bad news about blowing his cover. Tensions between the pair have been growing ever since Carroll returned home and Roderick’s justifiable questioning of his leader’s intentions represented the beginning of the end (if not the end of the end) of their relationship as Carroll near killed his protege. I’d like to say I found Carroll’s ‘relaxed’ attitude strange a bit, but it’s been clear for a while now that his priority is finishing his book, everything else is secondary.
What does amaze me is that these people have any faith in Carroll at all. He’s got more to him than Roderick, but he’s not exactly the ‘inspirational’ leader he seemed when he was behind bars. I guess we did see a few strained smiles from cult members during the Hardy press conference, but any group discontent is mostly relayed through Roderick, when it would be nice to see more of the group mentality.
Still, that’s a minor nitpick in an episode that kept playing its cards. At times I’ve struggled to believe the motivations of some of the characters, but Roderick’s decision to kidnap Joey made sense for that character and where he was following his brush with Carroll’s fireplace (that’s where Carrollytes go to die, right?). Suddenly the dynamic changed, with Claire pleading to Jacob’s better nature to not only find Joey but set him free, while the rattled but not overly concerned Carroll put the kill order on his former right-hand man.
This was exciting new territory for a show that can sometimes feel a bit repetitive. Some of the best moments came when the FBI captured and interrogated Roderick, with both sides playing convincing hands. Roderick proved that while he’s not leadership material he’s not stupid either, as he used Joey’s and Joe’s locations as bargaining chips, while Hardy devised a plan to find Joey without letting go of his mole in the hole.
It was nice to have the uncertainty of whether or not Hardy was going off script when making the deal with Roderick. I had an inkling that he had no intention of setting Roderick free, but some nice sleight of hand and Hardy’s recent rash behavior prevented the outcome from being too obvious — while there was always the possibility that events could spill out of Hardy’s control, and they almost did.
The Joey rescue/re-abduction was a tense affair. I’ve never been a big Roderick fan but I warmed up to him in this episode. It’s almost like Carroll strangled some life into him. I guess it helps when a character is in free fall, but I also liked some of the fun little things Warren Kole did with the character before his inevitable demise. I think Weston would have taken him out anyway, but it was good to see the tension continue to ramp up as Jacob and the Carrollytes made their move for Joey.
Jacob ended up being one of the focal points of the episode, with his decision to let Joey go suggesting that perhaps the old Jacob isn’t gone after all. I guess the definition of the ‘old Jacob’ needs some work, since he wasn’t such a great guy either, regardless of what Joey thinks, but he’s still conflicted and it’s that resistance to the demands of Carrollism that continues to make him an interesting character. His scene with Emma, which I thought I was going to hate, ended up being one of the most authentic as these two broken characters reformed under the encroaching eye of death. Jacob’s ability to “feel” death’s march makes sense based on his exploits in the episode, but it’s even more interesting given that he’s one of the most sensitive characters in the cult, as seen with his heightened guilt over Paul’s death.
Elsewhere, Carroll’s obsession with his book was only broken by Claire’s promise to be what he needs her to be, before almost stabbing him to death. What I love about this is that she basically played Carroll’s own lines back to him by saying she could grow to love him again in time. Carroll’s so in love with his script that he failed to see the obvious twist in the tale. How interesting that Claire at least tried to do what a much-maligned (and similarly imprisoned) character in The Walking Dead couldn’t, though I spent the rest of the scene wondering why it required two Carrollytes to detain Claire while they left their beloved leader to bleed out. Little help here, guys?
It’s often said that a story eventually takes on a life of its own and this is precisely what’s happened to Carroll’s masterpiece — which in his eyes means that the leading lady has to die – a total ‘rewrite’, as Carroll informs Hardy. Again, there’s a lot of interesting meta connotations with all this as Carroll prepares to rewrite the script, a writer scorned by a beloved character that just wouldn’t be tamed. Claire wouldn’t be the first leading character to be sacrificed to advance the plot/narrator’s ego, but she’d be an interesting victim of this particular tale.
With Carroll losing both Joey and Claire (essentially), it becomes ever clear that his true love isn’t the leading lady but the hero character. This is, after all, a love story – one between the writer and the writer-stroke-protagonist.
Overall, I found this to be one of the most satisfying episodes to date. The characters were on-point for the most part, the visuals were great, we got some good continuation, and it ended with the kind of crazy you’d expect from The Following. Carroll needs to have more ‘bad days’.
9/10 Seriable Stars
To be continued…