Even The Following creator Kevin Williamson knows that the Fox series' first season was, to put it mildly, often idiotic. Reporting from the TCAs last week, HitFix writer Geoff Berkshire quoted Williamson during The Following's candid panel, where the showrunner admitted that he and his staff's ability to write about FBI investigation tactics is suspect. "Looking back on season one, any time you have a serialized show where your main character is sitting with the FBI task force and trying to catch the bad guy, and you have a six act structure, [it's tough]."

In other words, Williamson knows that having the reckless Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) constantly break protocol and endanger the lives of everyone around him betrays the common practices of real-life FBI agents. That, in the real world, Ryan Hardy wouldn't last a day on the force before getting fired, or, worse, getting his ass kicked by those partners he nearly got killed.

Williamson's solution for season two? Taking Ryan out of the FBI altogether. (Brilliant.) Set one year after cult leader/serial killer Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) seemingly died in the lighthouse explosion, ending the first season on a ridiculous and anticlimactic final showdown, second run (which premiered ast night) finds Ryan living alone in New York City. His one true love, and Carroll's ex-wife, Claire (Natalie Zea), didn't survive the finale-ending knife attack by one of Carroll's minions, and Ryan's been trying to get his shit together in the wake. He's in AA, and eight months sober; has reconnected with his niece, Max (new cast member Jessica Stroup), a detective herself; and, known to only Max, he's obsessively tracking the surviving Carroll cult's members' whereabouts.

Yes, Ryan Hardy has gone rogue, convinced that Carroll is still alive. His suspicions get gassed up even more when he's called in by local Big Apple FBI agents to consult on a recent subway mass murder, in which three people wearing Joe Carroll masks and all-black clothes slaughtered all but one of the car's passengers, punctuated by the catchy chant of, "Joe Carroll lives! Ryan Hardy can't stop us! The resurrection is coming!" Like all of The Following's frequent and always brutal outbursts of gruesome violence, the subway sequence is the episode's highpoint.

Max jokes that she's part of the "Ryan Hardy Secret Task Force." Anyone pleased with the episode's earlier reveal that Hardy's no longer an FBI agent, meanwhile, won't find it funny. Because, despite what Williamson said at the TCAs, Ryan Hardy is still an investigator, and it doesn't take long for him to settle back into his incompetency. He learns that one of the subway killers was, previously, part of Joe Carroll's original cult; through the endless case files in his possession, Ryan identifies the man as a Mr. Carlos Perez (The Wire's J.D. Williams), heads over to Carlos' apartment, and, at gun point, gets him to admit that Joe Carroll is still alive.

In fact, dude's the one who drove him away from the burning lighthouse, though, because The Following loves inexplicable plot developments that make even half-witted viewers hate life, how Carroll escaped from the inferno, not to mention the crumbling and fiery wood, is never divulged. Just accept the absurd fact that he survived and keep it moving—after all, you're watching The Following, so you're already masochistic at heart.

And here is where everything goes wrong, and where we're once again reminded that Ryan is the worst law enforcement official on TV: Given the confirmation that Joe Carroll isn't dead Ryan turns his head and points his gun away from Carlos' head.

How else would the "carroller" (as the cultists are now referred to) manage to flee from his apartment and cause a foot-chase scene that ends with Ryan Hardy getting rammed by a taxi? Indeed, Ryan's plan to nab Carlos didn't involve anything that would actually bring him to justice (like handcuffs, perhaps)—it just incorporated Hardy's lame-brained knack for botching arrests, or, since he's no longer FBI-affiliated, the unsanctioned questioning of murderers.

In unemployment, Ryan Hardy remains the bureau's biggest liability.

Written by Matt Barone (@MBarone)

[GIF via WiffleGif]

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