Rick Kester, the one who was reciting “The Raven” in last week’s episode, before he set fire to the man at the hot dog stand, did so for a reason. It wasn’t a random act at all, because the man he killed was Stan Fellows, a critic who had written a scathing review of Joe Carroll’s book, “The Gothic Sea”. Rick is a follower who prefers fire over Carroll’s and the other followers’ signature sharp instruments. He wants his chapter to be about revenge, and, in order to make that happen, he has to kill those who had tried to ruin Joe’s reputation – the critic, the dean who denied Joe’s tenure and Ryan Hardy.
There were a number of flashbacks, with scenes about all of the characters in the years between 2003 and 2011. This is how we learned that Ryan Hardy first sought out Professor Joe Carroll to help him solve the murders of the young, female college students. Ryan had sat in on Joe’s classes and listened to his lecture on Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter”. Joe told his class that Hester Prynne had created her own moral code and then asked them what their moral code was. He suggested that they make one unique to themselves so that it bleeds into their writing. Got that, you future psychopaths? Later on, Ryan would bring pictures from the crime scene to Joe’s house, where they shared their thoughts and drank Scotch together, and Joe could delight in the photos of his work. At the time, in the middle of his investigation, Ryan believed that Joe was a genius who could give him insight into the mind of a killer. Joe worked a little of his charm, and mind control on Ryan by praising him for the work he did. He told Ryan that the payoff of helping people and saving lives certainly outweighed the personal toll on friends and family – “I think what you do is quite remarkable.”
Ryan and Debra (Agent Parker) visit Jordy in the hospital to find out if he knows where little Joey is being held. Instead of answering their questions, he starts singing the lyrics to “The Great American Hero”, something he thinks he’s become now that he’s in with the cult. Ryan loses his patience and exerts a little pressure, physically, which didn’t help matters much. It’s only later, when Debra tells Jordy that he can see Joe if he helps her to find Joey, that he tells her that Emma, Jake and Paul have the boy. She walks out, leaving Jordy screaming that she lied to him about his chance to see Joe.
Things at the farmhouse where the young boy is being held are rapidly deteriorating among the three followers. Paul is getting more and more agitated with the relationship between Jake and Emma, and tells Jake just how he feels, while Emma is listening. When he realizes that he may have gone too far, he tries to apologize to Emma who responds by slashing his arm with a knife – a clear message that he shouldn’t f*** with her or the master plan. Soon after, Paul leaves and drives into town where he finds a young woman, Meghan, working in a store and asks her to go out with him after her shift is over. The two of them go to the woods where they start to make out. When she tries to get him to slow down, he knocks her unconscious, then takes her back to the farmhouse, where she’s gagged and bound to a chair. Emma and Jake aren’t happy about what he’s done and the fact that he’s brought the young girl to the house. He thinks that his stunt assures him, and them, that he’s no longer just the “third wheel.”
The agents have found Rick’s house, and when they enter, a woman flies out of the pantry, wielding a knife. She’s Rick’s wife Maggie and she tells the agents a doozy of a story about how she was afraid of Rick. Maggie, when shown some pictures of her stab wounds from an incident years ago, tells the agents that she was stabbed by Rick when she asked him for a divorce. Rick is already back to working on his chapter and kills the college dean, Phillip Barnes, who had turned down Joe for a position as tenured professor, by stabbing him. As the dean is dying, Rick tells him that this is the first time he’s killed someone with a knife.
In other flashbacks, the stories of the followers shed some light on how and why they had joined the cult. In last week’s episode, we saw that Emma is very crazy and very dangerous. This week we find out that Jake and Paul may not have been simply faking their relationship as a gay couple. The two of them shared some serious kisses, with Paul, apparently, falling in love with Jake. Jordy was just an odd man out who wanted to belong and was eager to do whatever his master told him to do. It seems that Maggie wasn’t injured in quite the way she’d described it to the investigators. She’s also a part of the cult, and Rick had stabbed her as a sort of initiation ritual, to prove his worth to Joe and the followers. Maggie goes along with it, so I’d put her in the very crazy category, too – right next to Emma. They’re all busily forging their own “moral compass”. They’re unique, alright.
Not knowing any of this, Agent Riley has been assigned to watch over Maggie at her home. Ryan, who was supposed to get some sleep, has taken the young Agent Weston with him to sit outside the Kesters’ house. Riley hears some noises and opens the back door to look around. Seeing nothing, he goes back inside and tells Ryan that someone’s in the yard, Then Maggie receives a text that says “now”. She stabs Riley, just as Ryan and Weston are breaking down the front door. While Weston tries to help the dying agent, Ryan runs outside after the fleeing Maggie. She glances over Ryan’s shoulder, and when he turns to look, he sees Rick charging st him. He shoots Rick, and starts to look back at Maggie when he’s jumped by Rick. Shot a second time, Rick dies, but Maggie is now gone.
Debra is disappointed in herself for having believed Maggie and allowing, in her mind, for Agent to Riley to be murdered. Ryan tells her that Joe had fooled him, too and that he should have known that Joe was the man he was looking for the first time he set eyes on him. Jordy, now realizing that he’s a complete failure and will never be able to make things right with Joe, shouts out his apologies to him and commits suicide by swallowing pieces of his bandages. Claire calls Ryan to come over and when he does, she shows him an video she received by email. In the video, little Joey is being coached by Jake to kill, first a bug, then a mouse, by closing them inside glass jars. Emma and Jake are seen celebrating the boys’ work and tell him “We’re just getting started”. Claire says “They’re teaching him.”
There was one part of the episode that didn’t make any sense to me. I don’t know if it was done intentionally or if the writers just got it wrong, but it had to do with that confetti Rick threw all over the street when he was dressed up as Poe. When Ryan and the other agents were looking at the evidence bag with the confetti, Ryan said that it had this written on it:
“The gen’rous Critick fann’d the Poet’s Fire, And taught the World, with Reason to Admire.”
Ryan said that this was a quote from Poe, but when I looked it up, (Sorry, I can’t help myself. I wanted to know where it came from.) I found that it was actually from Alexander Pope’s “An Essay on Criticism”. It certainly fit the scene and the circumstances surrounding it – with the critic’s death and all, just not the storyline we’ve been given, so far. I don’t know if the producers wanted to throw us off or send the story in some different direction. I’d think that if the cult is based on Edgar Allan Poe, somebody should get it right. Oh, and just in case, I’d like to note that this is not a criticism, just an observation.
Previews for next week provide a little peek into Ryan’s life and family, and we’ll meet his sister. Until then, sleep with one eye open and don’t read anything heavier than some cheap romance novels.