“What defines Ryan Hardy?”
“The Curse” offers the deepest insight into the Carroll/Hardy dynamic to date, elaborating on the previously established idea that they are both driven by death, in one way or the other. There was something about Carroll’s state of unravelling that didn’t quite strike a chord with me, but it was important nonetheless in taking us inside the character’s vulnerable state of mind. Curiously, it turns out he’s actually writing a book (like, a real one!), though he’s struggling with the hero character. Perhaps this helps explain my initial hesitation, as previously he seemed so in control of the narrative to the point where he was telling Hardy what to do next. But all writers can hit stumbling blocks, and while there was a hint of comedy to his woes (perhaps intentional on the show’s part) and a touch of contrivance to the events that ultimately led him and Hardy to come face-to-face, it was important for their narrative lines to collide. After all, there’s only so many times Carroll can phone his lead character before it gets a bit silly. Right?
Despite the forced nature of their encounter, Carroll’s quest to find out what defines Ryan Hardy delivered plenty of interesting meta morsels and also gave us extra insight into Hardy’s close relationship with the big Death. As we see in flashbacks, Hardy’s retired police officer father was killed in a robbery shooting, which would explain Hardy’s career path and attitude towards death, but it’s the fact that the robber spared Hardy when he was certain he was going to die, coupled with the revelation that Hardy got his revenge on the robber by killing him with an overdose, that makes our ‘hero’ character more of a tainted hero at best.
Certainly these backstory nuggets make him a more flawed, and hence interesting, character and suddenly gave Carroll the clarity he was previously lacking. If it’s helpful to the audience that we actually got to see this element of Hardy’s past rather than just being told about it through dialog, then it must be super helpful for Carroll to now be able to plot his main character’s arc now that he knows where that character has come from (not that he’ll find much support in Claire, who tears town his creative ambition, which sends him scuttling to Emma for comfort). Moreover, we get the importance of both characters acknowledging the idea that they’re driven by death. This is possibly more important for Hardy at this point as Carroll readily embraces his demons, but it’s interesting to see a gray mirror manifest before both of them, reflecting the core idea of connections, and within that Hardy’s connection to Carroll.
All of which reminds me of their earlier flashbacks together when they got on like a house on fire and seemed so well suited as BFF’s — now we have a firmer sense of why that is. Of course, what’s also interesting is that Hardy held onto the important plot point about him killing the robber, giving us knowledge over Carroll and Hardy a secret he’s not ready to let go of.
Elsewhere I was pretty pleased with the developments at the cult crib, which got off to a dream-like start with Claire and Joey trying to escape. Given how the show has heightened the narrative with Jacob of late, it was rather surprising to see that the dream was actually just the creepy reality of the Carrollytes emerging from out of nowhere to nip Claire’s escape in the bud. Given the amount of security in that place I’m surprised Claire even got as far as she did, but I’m all for a bit of heightened drama every now and then.
It also felt right that Claire got to have her pound of flesh with Emma, whose apology for kidnapping Joey struck me as more than a little feigned. And even if she was genuine, I’d question the stability of her conscience — as we’ve seen with the Jacob/Paul situation.
While I found it odd that Parker failed to reign the out of control Weston in a lot sooner, I was pleased to see her continue to be involved on the front lines, with her meeting of minds with Jacob serving her character while also impacting Jacob emotionally as she touched a nerve. While I suspect some shortcuts have been taken with Jacob’s arc, who doesn’t strike me as being as capable as he’s portrayed, he’s still an interesting character and he journey through the ‘Carrollism’ ranks should probably make Roderick a bit nervous.
I like how the episode ends with Hardy being introduced to Roderick, though I half expected him to recognize the would-be cult leader from the police sketch. That said, it surely can’t be long before Weston and Roderick collide again, which should set things up nicely for the finale.
An enjoyable enough episode in which both Hardy and Carroll made progress — Carroll with his book, if not his wife, and Hardy in recognizing that the puppet master doesn’t have all the strings — while the conflicts between Carroll’s personal story and the promised ‘larger plot’ continue to elicit friction.
8/10 Seriable Stars
To be continued…