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The Following, Ep. 2.09, “Unmasked”: Praise Joe

The Following, Ep. 2.09, “Unmasked”: Praise Joe

The Following two

The Following, Season 2, Episode 9, “Unmasked”
Written by Vincent Angell
Directed by Nicole Kassell
Airs Mondays at 9pm (ET) on Fox

The Following figured out the best thing going for the second season a couple weeks ago and has been playing it up ever since- Joe’s (James Purefoy) manipulation of Micah (Jake Weber) is perfection, easily distracting from some of the episodes’ issues. Joe has always been at his best as a character when he has a group to control and an audience to play to. His final moments in “Unmasked” highlight this point to a terrifying degree.

Finding the FBI mole, Jana (Leslie Bibb), seemed to be a big deal but there was never enough attention paid to it; it seemed like once the information was out there, that it would have implications that would ripple through the rest of the season, but The Following has always had a frustrating history of picking at storylines and then hastily tying them up and forgetting them. For right now, Jana and her connections to Gina (Valerie Cruz) seem to be one of these plotlines, which is unfortunate. Jana in theory is a great character and her relationship with Gina was intriguing, if poorly executed.  More attention should have been devoted to her- so much was made of the mole yet there hardly seems to be any blowback from it.

The same could be said for Julia (Jacinda Barrett). One thing The Following seriously lacks is developed and arresting female characters. Both Jana and Julia had great potential; not everyone has to die bloody, even on a show about a killer cult. Emma (Valorie Curry) stands as an example of how great a fully realized female character could be for the show. At this point Carrie Cook (Sprague Grayden) hardly seems like a strong female lead.

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Even with these issues, “Unmasked” is easily one of The Following’s finest episodes. Everything that the show does well is found here. Episodes have always worked best when they move fast, lean into the crazy, and rely on the best characters, such as Joe, Emma, and Mike (Shawn Ashmore).  The Following seems to have finally figured out that it cannot take itself so seriously. It will never be too grounded in reality- it’s great fun now that it’s not trying so hard.

“Unmasked” also boasts some of the season’s best scenes, from the chilling bookstore massacre to the night’s biggest surprise. Claire (Natalie Zea) is alive and while it’s a great epic twist that works in shocking the audience, this reviewer can’t help but wonder, is her return really necessary?  Yes, it adds another layer to Mike; did he know about her survival all along? It will also toss a wrench into Joe’s plans and change Ryan (Kevin Bacon), probably for the worst. But even with all that it just seems like a step backwards. How her arrival is handled from this episode forward will determine if reviving Claire was a good thing or not.

A few finale questions from “Unmasked”:

At this point do we even really need anyone chasing Joe? The argument could be made that a show featuring Joe running his own cult would work just fine.

It’s been asked before but are The Following law enforcement officers the worst cops in the history of the world?

Tressa Eckermann