Though I really enjoyed—and was kind of freaked out by—this episode, it didn’t have quite the punch of the first one. I suppose that’s intentional since there’s no way they can continue on at that pace, but it’s left me considering why I’m less spazzy over it.
First off, let me say that Jordy scares the crap out of me. I understand that Carroll (and company) see him as an idiot and disposable, but that just adds to the whole fear. He idolizes Carroll and is doing a shoddy copy-cat with the college girls. (Side note: College Girl, letting a strange man into your house, even one in uniform, is a dumb thing to do. Standing there while he’s breathing hard and sweating and saying how much he’s been looking forward to this is an even dumber thing to do. Scream! Run! Something!) And him coming out of the attic or whatever like he’s freaking Michael Myers… I made some scared-girl noises there. I’m definitely glad that they didn’t just kill him off because, though he’s obviously dumber than a box of rocks and is just repeating what Carroll (and company) told him, the tears in his eyes when he said he didn’t think he was ready to die makes me want him to stumble about a bit more. Very curious to see how this’ll proceed.
Now on to the juicy stuff.
I just love Kevin Bacon as Hardy. I feel like he’s coming out of his washed-up-FBI-agent funk a little more in episode 2. He’s got something to fight for—just as Carroll planned. It also kind of amuses me to watch his face every time a body shows up. When they pulled Denise’s mom out of the wall in the attic he looked like he was going to puke.
And that house? Brilliant. Though it definitely shows a high level of being unhinged. Who the hell writes on the walls? Why can’t you just create a serial killer scrapbook like normal people? On the other hand, it’s artistic, which falls in line with the rest of the show. Death is beauty. Death is art. Death is going to be happening a whole lot more often before this season runs its course. And I totally screamed when the masked dude just kind of stepped out of the wall. Seriously, my sister ran upstairs, sure I was being murdered. I most definitely did not see that coming though, in hindsight, it felt like of like a cheap thrill. Anyone can make you jump—the real fear is keeping you up at night wondering if someone is going to crawl out of your closet and kill you.
This show has both.
The FBI’s insistence (at least initially) that this isn’t a cult and Carroll’s reach is finite was annoying. Yes, there were only five or six people’s handwriting on the walls of Denise’s old house. All that means is, in this part of the U.S. there were that many people around. Or that they were the inner circle (though not sure that’s a particularly correct assumption). They mentioned in the first episode that he had his hands on thousands of websites and blogs and what-have-you. Pretty safe bet that Carroll’s got a bunch of little followers just wetting themselves to be called into the game.
Speaking of followers, not a whole lot happened with the trio of acolytes. The not-so-gay couple is, unsurprisingly, not gay. And the adorable little nanny is, also unsurprisingly (after the end of episode 1), a cold-hearted killer. Turns out, one of the men is actually her boyfriend (and, seriously, how strange is it that Carroll played matchmaker? Weird, right?). I really do like the almost-love-triangle element they have going on. It’s refreshing that it’s the boyfriend in the middle instead of the adorable girl. Which brings up the question—yeah, they might not be strictly homosexual, but living with someone for three years… You can’t fake that kind of comfort level, right? Just in how they acted when they were together spoke couple. After three years of pretending, apparently one of them wasn’t pretending as much as he…pretended (that’s a lot of pretending). But I absolutely love that Denise is the one in charge of their group (and, apparently, the other unnamed followers whose writing was in the house).
I like the new FBI woman, Debra Parker. She doesn’t have the inherent antagonism that the last one did. All through the first episode, it annoyed me that that woman always seemed to be itching for a fight. Debra, on the other hand, has this aloof thing going on. When she went off about the mindset behind cults, I got a chill and wondered if she’s a little more connected than she’s saying. I mean, it’s a pretty thin line between being an expert on the subject and being a member of one. And Carroll has already proven time and again that he’s one for the ladies. Her giving him the book of Poe’s works at the end of the episode had me raising my eyebrows. Is this her trying to get inside his head or is she doing the work of a man she worships? Guess I’ll have to keep watching to figure it out.
On to Claire. God, this particular plot line makes me twitchy. I’m a mom. The idea that someone (let alone an ex-husband) would come along and scoop up my kids is inherently terrifying. She’s kind of taking the “I’m going to power through this” approach and I can respect that. Her conversation with Carroll fascinated me. She didn’t lose her mind until the end. I would have come through that door and gone for his eyes, but she actually attempted to gain a little control. Her sharing the details of their son’s life makes me wonder… Did Carroll ever try to contact his boy? Did he even care about him? Because we’re not seeing a bit of that. As far as I can tell, he took his son in order to rattle his ex-wife—not because of any emotional anything. I mean, she shows up and all he cares about is reliving the glory days and how they were naked for a month in wherever.
Which brings us to Carroll himself. He was brilliant in the conversation with Claire, but I didn’t get much from him after that. Even when he was talking with Hardy, he seemed kind of off his game. The relationship between Carroll and Hardy is going to be the thing that holds this show together. As Carroll said—he needs a hero, a grand battle between good and evil. If I don’t believe in the villain, then what the hell are we doing? The thing is, in the flashbacks of him teaching (and dealing with Denise), he’s brilliant. I’ll admit that I’d totally fall for the compelling serial killer. But once we get up to present day he seems kind of…bored. I’m hoping to get back to how much he snagged me in the initial episode, because I know he can pull it off.
With Carroll talking about how there needs to be a great romance, it makes me wonder in all my paranoid thoughts, if he and his wife reconciled and are just playing a wicked game with Hardy. Why not, right? The boy is being taken care of and all the rest of the players are running around two steps behind the game, like chickens with their heads cut off.
So that’s where I stand. I definitely enjoyed this episode, but elements of it (Carroll, specifically) felt a little flat.
What’d you think?
Katee Robert is the New York Times bestselling author of the Come Undone series. She is zombie-prepared.