The Following Recap: Ryan’s Dark Secret

Can this show get any darker? (Hint: Yes.)

Daddy issues! Smackdowns! A shocking backstory! Bad prose! Last night’s episode offered up a variety of twisted treats as we head toward the final three installments of the season. Once again, there’s not much forward motion—Ryan inches closer to Carroll’s compound, and the story crawls to its conclusion. But there’s much to discuss, from little head-scratchers to big-picture riddles that could foreshadow how this will all wrap up. A few key points worth reviewing:

Claire Goes Badass
Maybe she’s angry with herself for thinking she and Joey could stroll out of the compound in broad daylight. Or maybe it’s just psycho-pixie Emma’s attempt at bonding that’s ticked her off. Whatever the motivation, Claire finally stops whining/acting the fool and gets nasty. She also manages to get under Carroll’s skin in a way no one else has so far—by calling him a hack. Based on the opening line of his book (“This is a story about death”), Claire’s right. Maybe Carroll’s next torture technique will be a book reading.

Ryan and Debra find a creepy mural at the armory that’s full of the usual Poe references and looks like a Slayer album cover. There’s also a dash of religion in the mix, including references to Scientology (guess they couldn’t resist slipping that one into a show about nutjobs). Debra somehow deduces that dying for Carroll is considered by his acolytes as the greatest sacrifice and coins the phrase “Carrollism.” Ryan speaks for the viewers when he responds, “Did you just give Joe’s religion a name?” (In another wink to the audience, Claire takes issue with Emma’s choice of words: “Kidnapping my son was awkward?”) Is it a religion now? A cult? An extreme book club? I’m not sure anyone knows at this point.

Mike Goes Rogue
Great to have Mike back in the fold (and a nice Fight Club reference regarding his busted-up face). Ryan and Debra are both shocked by his new dark side, but by the end, it’s a short-lived personality change, as Mike recognizes the error of his ways—and sets up a revealing flashback.

The Indian cult dude’s name is Aaron. Glad we have that settled.

Father Figures
Three characters reveal their Daddy problems, beginning with Mike, who says Ryan sounds like his old man when he tries to dole out advice. More importantly, Debra gets into Jacob’s head, theorizing that he quit med school because he didn’t want to be like his father. Jacob’s bad-boy façade disappears when he calls his Daddy, teary-eyed, then hangs up. Could he be ready to go home? Then there’s Ryan, who Carroll grills during the most elaborate effort to cure writer’s block ever. As he digs his fingers into Mike’s forehead wound (nice move), Carroll forces Ryan to recall his father’s death. “We are so alike, Ryan,” he says. “It is through death that we both live.” It’s more proof that Carroll’s a lousy scribe, but the chemistry between Ryan and his archenemy still makes for the show’s best scenes.

Cracks in the Armor
Jacob’s true wussbag nature suggests that he’s either a dead man walking or a weak link that will help the bumbling Feds finally catch up to Carroll. Roderick appears ready to snap as well. Considering how unstable he’s been all along, why would Carroll continue to push his buttons? Perhaps he’s too egomaniacal and drunk on power (or booze; see below) to notice his right-hand man seems ready to revolt.

Are We In Cougar Town?
Anyone else find it odd that a show set in the real world uses fake locations—like “Warner County,” where the armory is located in New Jersey—for no apparent reason? Perhaps that helps explain certain quirks that exist outside our reality, like the seemingly endless supply of wine at the Carroll compound. When he comes home to chat with Claire about his tough day, he’s armed with two glasses of vino. When she insults his prose, he runs off to Emma, who’s uncorking a bottle of red (and ready for kitchen-countertop humping). Could this be a subtle hint that next season’s psycho will be Courtney Cox?

The Needle and the Damage Done
Back to Carroll’s line about how alike he and Ryan really are—little does he know how true that statement is. As we learn during Ryan’s flashbacks, watching his father die is only part of the baggage he still carries. Somehow, the teenage Ryan tracked down his dad’s killer, held him at gunpoint, and forced him to overdose on smack. So in addition to the Hardy Family Death Curse, Ryan also murdered a guy. Man, this show is dark. However Ryan’s tale eventually wraps up, there’s no light at the end of this tunnel for him.