What is it about serial killers that attract such attention? In Joe Carroll’s case, it seems he has a penchant for capturing the poor souls that have slipped through the cracks of humanity and enabled them with every excuse in the cult-leader’s handbook for blaming their woes on society.
Not unlike the politician’s campaign guide, really.
I’m not much for the graphic nature of this show, which is to be expected, but I am interested in the psychological aspects, particularly those necessary pawns in Carroll’s evil scheme. While watching characters like Joe Carroll and Ryan Hardy is like putting a magnifying lens over certain aspects of human nature, Emma, Paul and Will as the fledgling murderers show the shades of grey that lead to ultimate depravity.
No doubt the fictionalized serial killer will offer some surprises, but the case studies of such murderers are near mathematical. What’s most interesting in The Following is, well, the followers. Is it more ironic that the brilliant, black hearted Carrol is unable to acknowledge his need for help from his pawns, or that the pawns themselves can’t see their own worth outside of wreaking havoc and murder?
For me, it’s the latter. Obviously narcissistic, all three are only capable of playing their roles in Carroll’s twisted games to the point that they’re able to assuage the pain that drives them to hurt others for relief.
I am reminded of C.S. Lewis’s comments on writing The Screwtape Letters. “The world into which I had to project myself while I spoke through Screwtape was all dust, grit, thirst, and itch. Every trace of beauty, freshness and geniality had to be excluded. It almost smothered me before I was done.”
Coming back to the fledglings, it seems to have started for them with a very simple and deceitfully intentional turn, namely the comparison game.
Lewis writes that the debased mind he ventured into nearly “smothered” him – a very honest confession. But it’s the strong who can admit their weaknesses, isn’t it? Carroll’s own inability to admit his short comings, that he needs help from the weak-willed, I expect to be shown toward the end of this season.
The followers have bought into the lie that they’re incapable of contributing. This game of comparison is exactly the leverage Carroll needs. It’s understanding that we possess intrinsic value that can spare us the pains of the inner critic, the one that drives Emma, Will and Paul right into the open arms of Carroll, even ignoring his own, glaring inabilities, at the promise of proving wrong the projected criticisms of society. All the parallels of The Raven are mere theatricality. The proof, the evidence where Carroll tips his hand, is shown where he himself is never satisfied.
One quick prediction before I sign off:
Agent Weston is another one of Carroll’s pawns, he enables Hardy’s bad habits. Agent Parker’s seeming admiration of Carroll is a red herring.