Maybe it’s because it’s after midnight and I’ve been up since 6 a.m., moving nonstop through work, a four-mile run, a gym workout and a two-and-a-half hour night class. Maybe it’s that I’m all hopped up on Pretzel Chips and Ken’s Steakhouse honey mustard dip. Maybe it’s that I’ve passed through that stage of delirium and exhaustion to a place where I’m both wide awake and prone to clock-melting Daliesque hallucinations. Maybe it’s the fact that The Beatles were referenced as much as Poe. Whatever the reason, I rather enjoyed this episode—perhaps the best one so far—and I’m not ashamed to admit it.
That doesn’t mean the damn thing made sense all of the time. We meet Bo, the scariest-looking follower yet, with his neck tat of a snake and a nasty scar around his eye. For a second, I thought we might learn the story behind his wound. Silly me—he ends up with a bullet in his head. He merely served a brief purpose, we’re told; apparently the WWE-sized bad guy was the only dude who could kidnap an Oberlin coed. While Bo and Emma argue, little Joey finds a girl in a cage and becomes my favorite character on the show. As he sets her free, she tells him her name is Dana. “Nice to meet you,” Joey says. Too cute, you guys!
Of course, we all knew that Carroll’s prison transfer would end badly, long before the three-car, one-chopper caravan of FBI fools hit the road to Georgia. Turns out the warden’s daughter is the cage girl, so he pulls the ol’ “fake surveillance camera” footage trick to help Carroll escape. Olivia the Eight-Fingered Attorney is also still so terrified that she agreed to stash Carroll in her trunk, yet apparently has no problem with him riding shotgun. That ends rather badly, as Carroll chokes her to death with a gleeful look on his face. In that moment, Carroll reminds us again he’s the most compelling character on the show. Another great sequence was the simultaneous reveal of the warden’s car trunk and the armored car transport, both of which were empty. I know the guy had nine years to plan this stuff, but he was in a maximum security prison all that time. I have trouble planning what I’ll make for lunch tomorrow.
Two more scenes worked particularly well, starting with the parking garage showdown. First Carroll meets David, a handsomely dressed follower who acts like a serial killer concierge: “Right this way, sir, we have a chopper and all the Dexter seasons you missed on Blu Ray.” Then a business-suited lass named Louise shows up and guts a security guard like a mackerel. Absurd? You bet. But at least Carroll’s welcome-home party was fun. Even better is his faceoff with Ryan, as Carroll admits this is only part one of the grand novel he’s plotted. Like the pilot, this episode benefits from Carroll playing cat-and-mouse with Ryan, something he couldn’t do behind bars. There’s also a moment reminiscent of Jack Bauer in 24, when Ryan says, “If we’re gonna end this, if we’re gonna find Joe, his son, the rest of them—we gotta start doing things a different way.” Cue the “finger in the bullet hole” method of making a guy talk. It works, but Carroll is always one step ahead of him.
The big payoff comes in the closing moments, as Carroll’s car pulls into the driveway of a secluded, collegiate-looking mansion while a foreboding song throbs in the background. (The song is “If I Had A Heart” by Fever Ray. Never heard of it, but the video is more haunting than the show itself. Speaking of the soundtrack, kudos to the music director for unearthing some dark tunes, expertly placed to great creepy effect, from Marilyn Manson to Deftones to Brazilian headbangers Sepultura covering trip-hop hypnotists Massive Attack. Bonus points for anyone who can naming the scenes for each.) As Carroll arrives, scores of his devotees stream out to greet him, lead by Emma, who gets a hearty hug for enduring those semi-gay knuckleheads and keeping his kid safe. Just hours after strangling his lawyer, it’s Carroll who gets choked up at the sight of Joey. Imagine all the Poe that poor child will have to memorize.
Not everything in the episode worked so well. Oddly, this was the first episode without a single flashback. Nothing was revealed about the protagonists, including Mike, who’s likeable but a mystery. Worst of all, it made use of one of the show’s laziest plot devices—when Carroll’s in trouble, simply conjure up a new follower to save him (the other is when Ryan gets too close, cue up the heart palpitations). But perhaps Carroll’s getting by with a little help from his (legion) of (psychopathic) friends marks a turning point for the series. Or maybe I’m just high with a little help from mine—junk food and sleep deprivation.