The Following is as seductive as it is dark. There’s absolutely no joy in it, you never feel comfortable watching it, you’re constantly tense, there’s murder, there’s abduction, and there’s animal cruelty, and yet you want more.
After the opening sequence, in which a man wearing a Poe mask sets another man on fire, on the street and in broad daylight, you might wonder, “How can this be topped in this episode?” And you want the writers to top it. How about witnessing a kidnapped child having his morals corrupted as he is instructed in killing small animals? How to make a killer 101.
As I said last week, the writers are going to spell everything out for us, but that doesn’t mean that there’s no insight that can be offered. “The Poet’s Fire,” as we’re told, was about finding your moral code and revenge. I don’t know what kind of man (well, probably a serial killer) would want to shift his son’s moral code and make him a killer, but that’s what Joe Carroll is doing. In doing so, he’s also exacting revenge on his ex-wife. But that’s part of the greater revenge arc at work in The Following, as is the revenge against Ryan Hardy.
Carroll is a charming and persuasive man, but it takes more than that to build a small army of loyal followers. He also has to spot a weakness and a desire to please and, most important, he has to make his target believe that “it was their idea.” As Carroll said in his lecture, “What is your moral code? Make it unique unto yourself and it will bleed into your writing.” What writer or literature student wouldn’t want to find their unique moral code after hearing that?
So Carroll has assembled what we’re being told is a cult. However, Agent Debra Parker, the resident cult expert, has told us that cults have a family objective. Meaning that they do what’s good for the group. But, for the most part, that’s not the case with our cast of followers. As we know, Carroll is “writing” his masterpiece with the game he’s playing with Hardy, but he’s allowing his followers to write their own chapters.
For example, Rick isn’t a knife person, he likes fire, which doesn’t correspond to Poe’s work. However, Carroll allows Rick to write his chapter based on his skills. But to tie in the fiery death, Hardy attributes an Alexander Pope quote to Poe (which Poe also said): “The generous Critic fann’d the Poet’s fire. And taught the world with reason to admire.” It’s worthwhile to note that Poe was also a critic, giving this quote two legs to stand on.
Then there’s the moral code that has to do with the love triangle going on between Emma, Jacob, and Paul. And the moral bankruptcy there has led to a woman being kidnapped so Paul no longer has to be the third wheel. As Emma would say, “Way to stick with the script.”
Come back next week for some insights into the next episode… and I may get into some contrast between the Carroll and Hardy characters.
Rock Hard \m/