Poor, poor Ryan Hardy. Not only has the second season of The Following brought back Joe, a slew of painful memories, and a raging conspiracy theory, it's also brought on some early heartbreak.
Despite Mendez pointing out all the ways Ryan has broken the law so far this season (obstruction and vigilantism, both caught on tape) and commanding him to stay off the case and away from Lily, Ryan keeps on keeping on. After all, can the police really bar one civilian from seeing another civilian who wants to hang out with him and sends him constant bedroom eyes in broad daylight?
But Ryan does try to cut off contact, likely because when Mike breaks into his super secret Joe conspiracy lair and hears out Ryan's ideas about how Joe could have faked his death, the FBI young gun feels bad for his old buddy. Mike says he'll keep Ryan in the loop, as the Feds are after Emma Hill and that could lead them to Joe, if Joe is actually miraculously alive. This seems to be enough good faith for Ryan to show his and tell Lily goodbye. Only he doesn't, because Lily flirts with him, gets him to open up to her by invoking Claire's memory, and then asks him out to dinner.
Serves us right. We should have known right then and there that Lily was a sociopath: she just used a dead woman to get a date with Ryan. Still, it takes Ryan a bit to realize the telltale mistake she made: she said she was in a hurry the day she was attacked, but video shows her deliberately skipping the express train. She's in on the followers' crime, but Ryan makes sure to stare across her at the gallery until she realizes he's found her out. She escapes because he gave away his upper hand like it was a rose on The Bachelor. Minutes later, she calls Ryan and tells him she was going to give him to Joe as a gift, then hops in a car with her son, Creepy Twin 1, a.k.a. Luke.
Meanwhile, at Creepy Twin headquarters, Mark decides he wants to contact Emma since she was Joe's number two. They meet up and have a creepy connection while the FBI raids Emma's follower compound and kills everyone except Emma's only on-camera pal. (Side note: Is anyone else concerned with how fervently they mowed these people down?) That's it, Emma's now a part of the gang and they can kill Carlos because Emma was more important to Joe that he was (but mostly because he's just a burden on the plot at this point). Just before Luke calls them to say it's time to bail on their lair, Emma manages to cement her hold on Mark by suggesting they pour ice on Carlos' dead body to postpone the decaying process. Ah, young love.
Finally, Joe is caught with blood on his hands when Judy comes home shortly after he kills the reverend and as Mandy predicted, she's mad. So, Joe decides he needs to leave and when Judy pulls a gun on him, he grabs her neck and squeezes until Mandy's pleas make him stop. He goes on to plan B: tie Judy up and make it look like the reverend did it so no one comes after him for either murder. When he turns his back, Mandy grabs the knife and Judy begs her to kill Joe. Instead, Mandy kills her mother. Mandy says she believes in Joe (in what? His ability to kill and kill and kill?) and they burn down the house and ride off into the dark woods. A regular creepy father-fake-daughter duo, those two.
At the same moment, Ryan is in a puddle on the floor of his conspiracy room, staring wistfully at a picture of Claire. After having to tell Mendez that he missed Lily's telltale detail before she helped kill five people, he's keenly aware of his touch of death in the crime-solving realm. But, guys. This show is half about Ryan Hardy, so he's not actually going to give up on Joe. Not for long, anyway.