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First off, I apologize for not recapping last week’s episode “Let Me Go.” For some reason it did not air until Saturday night in my market and thus a recap was not possible. I will say that while the prison break of Joe Carroll was on the ludicrous side of the spectrum. But Carroll’s reuniting with his cult, some of them actually being introduced for the first time, did offer up some excitement that the tiresome manhunt began to lack and new opportunities to get to know both Carroll and some of his followers better. With that said, this week’s episode in “Welcome Home” failed to deliver on anything more than the absurd and confusing.
“Welcome Home” was a practice in the mundane. Whether it was the introduction of the new FBI head of the investigation in Nick or the failure to present Carroll’s true hold on the hearts and minds of his followers, the episode failed to deliver. “Welcome Home” provided a golden opportunity with the introduction of Joe Carroll to his followers, whether they had a personal history with Carroll or not, to allow the audience to finally see the followers’ connection to him but failed to capitalize. Although the show finally did introduce Roderick who seems to have a magnetic personality and may be capable of injecting some magnetism and life back into this by-the-book procedural.
Carroll’s first appearance comes while he is observing Joey, the son he hasn’t seen ever(?), while he sleeps. Talk about creepy and a completely unwise move to begin to make Joey love you so that he can do your bidding. For the rest of the episode Carroll has very little interaction with any of the tens (or possibly hundred) followers that are living at this cult compound. He is reintroduced to Louise, the woman who wasn’t captured and helped him escape, and then spends most of his time talking to Roderick and Emma.
It was good to finally introduce the audience to Roderick. Warren Kole as Roderick offers up a dynamic and likeable character, a first for The Following. Roderick does get a few flashbacks in which he becomes Carroll’s first “student” of killing. The flashbacks aren’t much but hopefully it will be explained how exactly Roderick ended up taking a liking to Joe and becoming such an ardent follower. Roderick is clearly Carroll’s right hand man as he as become the sheriff of the town where Carroll’s cult compound is located.
A new cookie-cutter character is also introduced within the FBI ranks. Nick has been sent to become the head of Carroll’s investigation due to the screw up that was Carroll’s escape. Thus far he is more of a plot device than a character. He immediately puts Ryan in his place and restricts, or at least tries to, Ryan’s role in the investigation due to his consultant status. He also sends Mike home, which ends in his kidnapping by Roderick and the gang, because Ryan asks Nick to pull up some information for him. Nick will end up being a needless thorn in the side of both Debra and Ryan going forward.
Mike gets kidnapped by Carroll’s Louise, Charlie, and Roderick in hopes of them obtaining information on the whereabouts of the Claire now that she’s in the witness protection program. They play a game with Mike where he must fight Charlie every time he lies about not knowing where Claire is. The bouts escalate from fisticuffs to the use of pipes and finally knives and are completely unbelievable and clearly thrown in for cheap TV/movie thrills. Mike eventually gets stabbed in the stomach (remember this for later) only for Ryan to save him while also killing five of Carroll’s followers. Luckily Mike will be ok.
The greatest disappointment in “Welcome Home” is that Carroll is never shown being the magnetic personality that one would assume a leader of such a massive cult would be. Instead of addressing all his followers, or even sympathizing with a few, he seems cold and almost distant. Emma’s affections for Carroll are clearly stated and are acted upon by the end of the episode but Emma was the one that took matters into her own hands instead of showing Carroll’s ability to manipulate and sweet talk his way back into her heart.
In fact at the end of the episode Carroll kills Charlie seemingly just for fun of it. Charlie definitely failed at least once in not keeping Claire under his command but when Charlie offers himself up to Carroll as a sacrificial lamb Carroll a little too easily goes with it. What happens next is an odd and a little too subtle visual explanation that Carroll needs to kill again, almost like an addiction. Carroll seems more relieved after dispatching Charlie with a simple stab wound to the stomach, much like the previous wound of Mike at the hands of Charlie but somehow this wound kills Charlie almost instantaneously.
In the final montage Roderick’s dark side is revealed as he chokes his apparently lover Louise for trying to cheer him up through sex. While this is going on Emma makes her play for Carroll in his bedroom. Eventually both couples get down to business in what feels like forced intimacy of the troubled souls that are Carroll and his followers.
The Following continues to give itself ways to create a better and more meaningful show but decide not to utilize them. While Carroll may have a scene down the line where he invigorates his cult into dastardly deeds it probably will not be handled properly. Usually cults are possible due to their leaders and their ability to manipulate and empathize with their followers. By not exploring that relationship straight off the bat with Carroll The Following feels more shallow than it did before. Hopefully Carroll’s specific skills that allowed him to gain such a cult will be revealed but until then The Following will remain treading in the waters of mediocrity.