The Following was a bit of a blur when it opened its second season – what with Lily and her ilk making a big, seemingly unnecessary mess of New York and Connecticut. Finally, we've managed to rid ourselves of that narrative burden so that we may focus on the reason we're all here: Ryan Hardy and Joe Carroll.
Following the funeral for Mike's father, we meet FBI director Tom Franklin who wants to hire Ryan secretly and have him solve the Joe issue without the rest of the FBI knowing. Sure, it will help prevent further leakage, but doesn't it sound highly illegal? Still, Ryan is on the case and he won't let Mike come with him, convinced that he needs to protect him.
Ryan sets out on his mission with a reporter he drunkenly shared his story with a few months earlier hot on his trail. She follows him to the home of Dr. Strauss, who turns out to be the one who taught Joe how to murder people with flair. When Carrie reveals that she knows too much, Dr. Strauss drugs her and takes her down to his murder lair and when Ryan follows, Strauss' minion takes him down as well. Next thing we know, both Ryan and Carrie are tied up in the basement and Strauss' minion is about to go all Kathy Bates on Carrie's ankles when Mike and Max miraculously come to the rescue. (Do the writers on this show understand how long it takes to travel anywhere in the Tri-State area? Do these people have the power of teleportation?)
Long story short, our trusty trio saves the day, finds out that Strauss knows Joe visited his FBI source, a woman in the suburbs (we know he's talking about Janna), and manages to keep Carrie off her reporter horse for now. They return to Ryan's apartment, where Ryan wallows over the memory of Carrie telling him Joe had won because his life was so sad even after Joe's "death." In the living room, Max and Mike get closer to their inevitable makeout by sitting in silence when his father's death finally overwhelms him. They're a room apart, but her eyes are saying plenty.
Over in cult land, Joe is really starting to fit in. Micah has officially decided it's time to remove Joe, Emma, and Mandy's masks and Mandy even has a crush on a cute guy who shovels soup at lunch. Joe has a meeting with Micah and we finally get a look at what this nut is after: notoriety. He wants to have a book written about him just like Joe (you have to be interesting first, dude) and he thinks murder will accomplish that. He's even got a pen of "crazies" that he occasionally slices up a bit. Certainly they can do some killing for him, right?
Joe doesn't quite think that's the right method, but instead, helps Micah create a scheme to kill off those who doubted him by throwing a party not unlike a frat mixer and combining it with a deadly round of communion. He hands out the wafers to specific people, who later drop dead while Micah proclaims that they're going "home" (to the ninth "planet" he dare not call Pluto because that's what would upset science folks about this show). Later, Julia (his wife) is upset because Micah killed his threats. She blames Joe, but then Micah has her restrained, so clearly Joe won that round.
In fact, Joe is so thrilled that he makes out with Emma and tells her it's time for him to go public with his "I'm not quite dead yet" announcement. Oh happy day.
After last week’s terrible tragedy at the hands of Lily, who’s now completely missing and showing no signs of return, we open on the funeral for Mike’s father. He has a veteran’s burial and it appears that Mike may be the black sheep of the family as the only non-military child.
At the Corbin cult, Mandy is developing a crush on the cult’s soup guy who is cute, but man this girl is easily impressed. Meanwhile, Emma is having a completely rational reaction to last week’s sacrifice. She wants to leave because this place is nuts. Joe says that with the FBI after them, they need this place and that they have so much more to accomplish. Joe, hiding out in playschool masks in the forest doesn’t seem like the most solid of ideas. Just saying.
But the masks don’t last long because Micah comes running into the dining area like a kid on too many pixie sticks and says that they’re about to welcome three new people into their family. "Corbin is family. Corbin is love," he says as he removes their masks. Micah says that it doesn’t matter who Joe was beyond these walls…even though who Joe was beyond those walls is exactly why Micah wants Joe there.
At the funeral, Ryan gets a blast from the past in the form of a journalist he once accidentally slept with when he was on a bender. At the time, he drunkenly gave away information about Joe’s "demise" and she’s back for more: a comment on the theory that Joe is alive. He won’t answer her gotcha journalism attack, but she’s not just flying by the seat of her pants. The woman has Joe’s could-be pilot from last week on record and she’s definitely barking up the right tree.
At the cult, everyone is congratulating Joe’s trio on being accepted, especially the cute soup guy who finds Mandy, says she’s beautiful without her mask, and whisks her away like the hero at the end of a high school rom-com. Then Micah calls for an audience with Joe. Julia is upset that Joe doesn’t respect their "religion," but Joe seems to think she knows it’s complete BS. Still, she says that she runs things there though Micah seems to have the illusion that he does. But she may not be as in charge as she thinks, because in this little meeting, Micah simply announces, like a petulant child: "I wanna kill people." Oh boy.
Meanwhile, Ryan is finally getting legitimized. The director of the FBI, Tom Franklin, is at Mike’s dad’s funeral reception and he seems to finds Ryan and Max’s adventures charming, rather than snarling at them the way Mendez has been doing. They can’t find Lily, but Tom is more focused on finding Joe Carroll, so Tom dismisses the blonde weirdo and enlists Ryan off the books as his personal one-man Joe Carroll task force. He’s got information on Joe’s half-brother, who he used as a decoy in his "death," so Ryan starts there. Supposedly this clandestine appointment is meant to side-step the leak in the FBI, but it’s certainly a convenient plot twist to ensure Ryan is alone in terrifying places all the time. Ooh, dramatic.