Image credit: David Griesbrecht/Fox
THE ANXIETY OF INFLUENCE Despite his best efforts, Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) was seduced and fooled by Poe-wannabe Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) during the early days of his investigation into the killer.
Jordy’s implied reference contained an irony that he clearly wasn’t hip to: The Greatest American Hero told a story of a guy who becomes a superhero after receiving a suit of power from aliens. The problem? He loses the instruction booklet. He bumbles and stumbles his way toward learning to master and express his abilities – a metaphor for the artist struggling to find his own voice. Jordy is The Greatest American Hero, except he has an instruction manual: The historical record of Carroll’s crimes. But it renders him hopelessly derivative. Also, a stickler for literalism and genre rules. When Hardy – frustrated by Jordy’s sing-songy stonewalling – snapped and pushed on Jordy's wounded gut, Jordy cried foul on Hardy for not playing his part properly: “YOU CAN’T DO THAT!” But Hardy – no longer a deputized agent – did not feel obligated to abide by the structures of law enforcement society. Hardy: The poet with his own moral code, letting it bleed into his work.
Rick Kester stood in nuanced contrast to Jordy’s form of discipleship. He wanted to push forward Carroll’s movement but he wanted to do it with his own unique style. His assignment was to punish those who had impeded Carroll’s artistic flourishing. Revenge. An essential Poe theme, he believed. The hit list began with the critic who blew up Carroll's Poe-inspired The Gothic Sea, and continued with Phillip Barnes, the Dean at Winslow University, who denied Carroll tenure because of the perceived failure said novel. Circumstance didn’t allow Rick to work with his preferred media, fire, so he had to assay the challenge of using a knife -- and he surprised himself by successfully gutting Barnes with ease. Rick not only looked awestruck by his achievement, but also transfixed by the beauty of The Dean’s expiration. So this is why Joe worked with blades! My eyes have seen the glory!
Maggie Kester presented herself as a different kind of f’d up follower trope: The abused wife. Rick's suffering spouse claimed that she had suffered her scary, domineering husband for years. She decided to finally stand up for herself and make a break after Rick lost his job and got mixed up with the Friends of Carroll. Yet from the get-go, Hardy found it very hard to buy her story. Still, everyone wanted to believe her, even after finding credit card statements showing that the Kesters had bought items to furnish Joey’s room at the Friends of Carroll’s new HQ in Rural, Somewhere. After all, as Agent Parker explained, abused/enabler wives like Maggie were commonplace. Her family, she said, was full of them.
Agent Parker assigned Agent Troy Reilly to take Maggie home and watch over her. Hardy – reeking of Vodka-Coffee mood equalizers -- was commanded to go back to the motel, sober up, take a nap. But his Spidey sense was tingling. His gut told him Rick Kester would make a play for his wife. Agent Weston joined him for a clandestine stakeout by pretending to go rogue, too. In truth, he was a good soldier, following Parker’s secret order to babysit Hardy. Yeah, Ryan was Weston's FBI Academy role model, and sure, it was cool that Hardy “marched to his own drum” and all that. But Weston was a junior agent who couldn't afford to take risks on hisway up the ladder. And he needed the paycheck. “This is my career,” he said. Hardy kinda understood. But when Weston tried to bond with him by sharing personal life details – Hardy was raised in Albany; he never went home; clearly some issues there – Hardy bolted out of the car. He was there to be do a job, not to be known by a fellow life traveler. Later, we’d understand a little better why he was so reluctant to let his guard down, even with comrades.
But other places, the walls were breaking down. Agent Parker worked her sly, disarming wiles on Jordy, pushing a button she knew would work: Sh promised Jordy she would grant him an audience with Joe if he told her what she wanted to know. Jordy didn’t believe her. “Character!” responded Parker. “I say what I mean and mean what I say!” That made sense to narrow literalist like Jordy. And so he talked, and Jordy coughed up the detail that conformed what we all knew. Maggie was no wounded shrinking violet. She was full bloom crazy Carroll loyalist. Agent Parker left Joey wailing in despair as he realized he had been seduced and deceived and had failed Carroll. He responded the way devoted ronins respond when they fail and dishonor their sensei: He committed by suicide by eating and gagging on his shirt. If Jordy didn’t like fire before, he’s going to hate it now. And forever.
(Agent Parker is quickly becoming my favorite character on this show. I loved her smirky showdown with Carroll. The content of the scene served to reinforce the idea that Carroll’s plan is all for Ryan’s benefit/destruction – I still believe Carroll is trying to build Ryan back up into a heroic husband/father for Claire and Joey – but the chemistry between the two actors kinda had me hoping she’ll remain a permanent part of the series… although do I worry that her “fascination with abomination” -- to borrow from Joseph Conrad -- is going to get her killed?)
Calls were made. Heroes rushed in. But Hardy and Wetson were too late to save Agent Reilly when the text message signal arrived for Maggie to unleash her own barbaric YAWP: She knifed him in the throat. RIP the good man, sadly divorced and full of regret. "She wasn't the problem," he told Maggie when she pried for intimate details and seduced him further into truth. An awkward action beat that followed, Hardy shot and killed Rick Kester, who showed up to spirit away his faithful bride, but Maggie herself got away. Will she adopt her husband’s vengeance motif? Will Maggie’s next stab at homicidal artistry be… an attempt to kill Hardy? TBD.
NEXT: The love that dares not speak its name. Especially to Emma.