The Following, Season 2, Episode 12, “Betrayal”
Written by Lizzie Mickery
Directed by Marcos Siega
Airs Mondays at 9pm (ET) on Fox
When The Following is good, it’s really good. At the beginning of its second season, it seemed like the show had finally found its footing. It had accepted the fact that it was kind of insane and unrealistic and had resigned itself to the fact that it could just be really dark, devilish, guilty pleasure fun. And then it happened; it slipped right back to season 1. The reveal that Claire (Natalie Zea) was still alive seemed like a false note and frankly, there hasn’t been enough Joe (James Purefoy) to hold the show together. The show’s other most compelling characters, like Mike (Shawn Ashmore) and Emma (Valorie Curry), just don’t have a lot to do. New characters like twins Luke and Mark (Sam Underwood) always impress but never really seem to have anywhere to go. Last week’s “Freedom” was an uneven mess with some truly great moments but “Betrayal” is a great improvement.
Picking up directly where “Freedom” left off, “Betrayal” is a strong episode full of much-needed character development and eerie atmospheric scenes, particularly Mike and Ryan’s search of a frat house. There is an effective cliffhanger that finds Ryan getting closer than ever to Joe and a very uncomfortable family dinner at the Grey mansion. Like most episodes of The Following though, there are some issues that need to be dealt with.
One of the most disappointing aspects of this season has been its handling of Mandy (Tiffany Boone). She’s never been the brightest character but her relationship with Joe was an interesting one with a lot of potential. The parallels between her and Joe’s mentor-like relationship and Ryan and Mike’s partnership was a fascinating connection. The Following has always excelled when it highlights the similarities between Joe and Ryan.
It is understandable that Mandy would want to escape Joe and Emma, but running off to Lily’s (Connie Nielsen) “family” and believing that everything would be just fine is a ridiculous concept. Mandy’s presumed death, though, does open interesting doors. First off, it appears to drive a wedge between Emma and Joe and secondly, it puts more weight on Joe’s confrontation with Lily. Even though Lily’s character hasn’t been handled perfectly, Nielsen is so good and so in control of her character that it almost doesn’t matter.
Even though this reviewer was less than thrilled at Claire’s return, her reunion with Ryan is certainly one of the best moments of the night. Bacon hasn’t had a lot to do this season but Ryan’s utter shock, heartbreak, betrayal, and love play out across his face in an agonizing way. It’s the exceptional high point of “Betrayal”. Claire’s survival puts Mike and Ryan in a terrible place. Even though Ryan tells him that all is forgiven, it’s hard to believe. Everything we know about Ryan suggests that he isn’t a man who forgives easily.
Ryan’s car ride conversation with Mike is the night’s other great moment; paired with Joe rage against televangelist Kingston Tanner (Tom Cavanagh), this elevates the episode above any of its issues. Joe has always been at his evil best when he’s teetering on that line between deceptive mastermind and absolute insanity. Mandy’s death, Lily’s hand in it, and Kingston could be the things that finally push Joe over that line.
“Betrayal” is a much better episode than “Freedom” and with just three episodes left this season, it leads the show in an interesting direction.
“There’s a headstone with your name on it”- Ryan after discovering Claire’s alive.
“Living in the shadows is no way to live”
“She was mine”- Joe’s threatening warning to Emma might be one of his most terrifying things he’s ever uttered.
“I hate religion. I hate the hypocrisy of it”. It’s great that after two seasons we are still learning things about Joe.
“If there is a God then I am his truth”
At this point it’s obvious that brothers Luke and Mark (both played by Sam Underwood) desperately need their own spinoff.
After the phone conversation at the end of the episode, a Joe and Lily confrontation might be great after all.