REVIEW: The Following’s “Whips & Regret” (1×11), by Anne W. Brennan

Available on Hulu and on fox.com in 8 days (cuz they like to make you beg for it).

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One thing’s bothered me from almost the very beginning: why did FBI Agent Parker give Joe Carroll that thick, complete works edition of Poe when Joe was still in the clink?  We’ve learned by now that Joe’s Followers are everywhere and have been “there” for years.  Is Parker a Follower?  She’s supposedly anti-cult because of her parents, but I’m curious … *arched brow*

That aside, this episode was aptly named.  Shall we start with the whips first or the regret?  For some characters, it’s one or the other, and for some, it’s both.

 

Let’s start with regret – less salacious.  The episode was rife with regret – Claire regretting her marriage to Joe, getting in the car to see Joey, Jacob regretting killing Paul and being involved with Emma in the first place, the list goes on.  It’s an easy list, though.  The key is questioning those who regret, and those who don’t.  Joe is an admitted monomaniacal whackjob whose need to kill will only increase with time – he doesn’t regret his “imbalance,” as society sees it, he “embraces it.”  He uses it to brings others like him to him – perhaps to justify his loose marbles?  It may be that the only regrets Joe has are that things don’t go as smoothly as he’d like, there have been hiccups and “sacrifices.”  But so far, everything is pretty much going according to plan, and, finally, we’re seeing that it’s a much bigger plan than just getting his ex-wife and child back under the same roof with him.  I was relieved to see the armory/boot camp and to hear Roderick speaking of “getting started,” as the whole “I want my happy family” ideal of Joe’s was getting tiresome.  But let’s not forget, he also sees killing as an art.  That brings a new level of creepy into the mix – Joe doesn’t kill for just the pleasure, but because he believes he is creating something, rather than destroying something.

Whips – Roderick is whipping out of control.  The dude has some serious issues (amongst a houseful of serious issues, that’s saying something) and he’s obviously going off the rails of Joe’s plans.  He’s having a harder and harder time keeping his cool, as evinced by his bitch-whipping (pun intended) the poor IT guy after Vince took off to the fetish club.  And, of course, there are the whips at the club, and the only sexy chick at the club is the owner herself, Haley Mercury.  The show had no qualms in showing overweight, unappealing people getting their freak on.  It wasn’t sexy, it wasn’t alluring, it was about whips and pain.  And for a lot of people, torture, even something as “mild” as fetish flogging, is a means of purging their regrets, of punishing themselves for something they’ve done.  And it’s not just physical whips that can bring the pain, it’s whips of regret.

That’s how we get to Ryan – not only does he feel that he’s cursed, but he regrets so very much about his life, and yet those memories that bring him regret also vitalize him.  His love for Claire is not an easy thing for him to bear, and he whips himself with the regret of falling in love with her even as he revels in the fact that she still loves him as much as he loves her.  He whips himself with his failures: losing Joe to the wind, getting his friend in the hospital, Weston being tortured and put in the hospital, Mistress Mercury almost being killed … and yet, Parker urges him on, plays on his need to redeem and help.  I wonder if he’ll regret that somewhere down the line.

What struck me the most about this episode, however, was that Joe seemed to be practicing a sort of mental zombie-ism on his followers.  The bootcamp was constructed to desensitize, to dehumanize, to the point where the cult members in the lock-up were driven only by the need to kill.  And that’s Joe’s goal – to take those who are maladjusted, lonely, confused, or already murderers (like Molly, the Angel of Death) and turn them into killers like himself.  He swears he can make Claire love him again – and you *know* he let her see Joey only as another ploy to get her to view him favorably.  He realized that the longer he kept Joey from Claire, the harder it would be to turn her back to him.  Will he be successful?  Or will her love for Ryan somehow help her keep her very self from being lobotomized?

Meanwhile, the questions pile up.  What’s the big plan?  How many Followers are there?  Why is Joe watching a tape of Molly and Ryan getting it on?  (Is he imaging Ryan and Claire?  Sick bastard, but completely in keeping with his level of psychosis.)  Is Roderick going to completely snap, and if he does, how will that affect the grand plan?  Does Joe realize just how volatile that house of nutballs really is?  Or is he counting on their own aggressions, agendas, and inherent flaws to keep them at each other’s throats while he twitches the puppet strings?  And will the FBI really get any closer to him?  They seem to keep making strides, yet all they do is find information on the periphery.  Like an elegant, scheming spider at the center of a seemingly fathomless web, Joe sits safely by the fire and drinks his wine while the FBI have only begun to pluck at the outer strings of his web.