Another fantastic episode from The Following. “Guilt” stuck, for the most part, to established modus operandi – Follower of the week, Ryan being vaguely misanthropic, Emma being creepy… Yet, even though the show does undoubtedly have a formula, it hasn’t become formulaic. Each week, viewers are treated to something new. Something that we haven’t seen before. Something to keep it all from getting stale. This week, that something new is insight into Ryan. Not flashbacks to when he was hunting Joe, or his early days with Claire, but his friends, his girlfriends. His life, in short. After weeks of having it drilled into us that the Joe case changed his life and that his world revolves around Claire, it was strange to see him in this new light.
“Guilt” also provided us with a slight twist on the established ‘Follower of the Week’ trope. Where most ‘chapters’ revolve around murder, this week’s protagonists aimed only to get Claire to Joe. This led to a high tension, high stakes, high excitement chase and stakeout-shootout. It led to Claire and Ryan finally admitting they still have feelings for each other and sharing a ‘we’re about to die’ kiss.
And yet, at episode’s end, Ryan is, perhaps, in worse shape than when it began. He now has two friends in hospital (his best friend, Tyson [David Zayas, Dexter], was injured in the attempt to get to Claire) and Claire, who he had finally let back in, was driving off with Roderick. She went willingly, desperate to see Joey, mouthing ‘I love you.’ to Ryan as the car pulled away, but he’s got to be asking himself all the same why people keep leaving him.
Stepping away from Ryan for a moment, we turn to life with the cult. It didn’t take long to find out how committing his first murder affected Jacob. We’ve got hallucinations, we’ve got threatening demeanor, we’ve got the full gamut of ‘I just killed someone’ behavior, all the way from guilt to aggression. But it remains to be seen whether he will kill again, or even whether he will stay with the other cult members. He’s still clearly devoted to Joe, but he disobeys him by not forgiving Emma. Is this an early indicator of a person who’s losing faith in his Poe-obsessed leader?
Although the episode largely stayed clear of the FBI investigation, there was one development that made us wonder – a website the Feds uncovered, with a hidden recruiting video. That’s plenty creepy, but what really got our attention was the voice behind the Poe mask. Why do we recognize it? Our mind immediately leapt to Weston but that’s probably because we want so badly to be right about him.
A twist at the end brought us crashing back to those Ryan flashbacks. His last ‘serious’ girlfriend, Molly, is a Follower – something we’re sure Ryan didn’t know. Fortuitously, Tyson told Claire about Molly earlier in the episode. The question is what Claire will do with the information.
And yet none of this really brought us up short and made us think. That honor rests with Joe’s speech to Ryan at the end of the episode. “That’s no way to talk to the man who saved your life,” he says. “I’ve allowed you a second chance. Don’t you understand anything yet, Ryan? This is your story. Your rebirth. Don’t you feel it? With every death you come just that little bit more back to life. So, no, you… you can’t quit now. No, you… you’re not quite yet the man you need to be.” And it’s true. In a chilling, disturbing way, it’s true. Since the pilot episode, the change in Ryan has been dramatic. He’s been reaching out to people, he stopped drinking, he told Claire he loved her… He’s coming out of that funk, that fugue, that stupor. This case is bringing him back to life. Does that make anyone else’s skin crawl a little? – K
Quoteworthy: “She tried. She held on as long as she could. You know the deal. But let’s face it. If he couldn’t go there with you, she didn’t stand a chance. So was there ever anyone serious? Yeah, Claire. You.” – Tyson, about Molly and Ryan