The Following Conversations: Comparing Two Pairs of Rivals in “Teacher’s Pet”
According to the old adage: “opposites attract.” But does that in turn mean people who are too similar repel? I don’t think that’s necessarily true in real life, but this week’s episode ofÂ The FollowingÂ certainly presented a compelling case for it.
While I was fascinated to learn how Joe got his start in “the killing business” (talk about a well-rounded education) and loved seeing the full story behind Claire’s survival (Mike has known all along!), it was the following conversations that I found most interesting.
The first occurred when Ryan went to visit Joe’s murder-mentor Dr. Strauss:
Strauss: He has quite a gift to incite obsession and attract followers. Like you. Look at you, perfect example of obsession. You stole his wife, wrote a book about him, became a teacher, like he was.
Ryan: Well, when you say it out loud.
Strauss: Did you know one of the many traits of a psychopath is to mirror another’s behavior? You have no life of your own so you copy someone else’s.
I don’t know why I found this so compelling. Maybe it’s because the Ryan-Joe relationship has always fascinated me. You put those two in a room together (or on the phone, like in this episode) and something dynamic occurs. We’ve long known of Ryan’s obsession with Joe and have assumed it was an obsession built out of his need for vengeance.
But what if there is more to it than that? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to revere Dr. Death or call him an expert on all things mental health, but the man did present an interesting point. Joe and Ryan, for all their difference and long-standing rivalry, are actually much alike. Two sides of the same coin, you could say. Sure, Ryan tries to save rather than murder people and clearly has the empathy that Joe lacks, but that doesn’t mean they can’t come from a similar thread.
Everything Strauss pointed out is true, while he obviously doesn’t have a compulsion for killing, in many ways, Ryan was living Joe’s life, or at least one parallel. So does that make Ryan a psychopath? Maybe yes, maybe no. Many people with psychopathic tendencies and abnormal brain scans grow up to be fully functional adults who never add “cult leader” or “serial killer” to their resumes. But this goes both ways, like Ryan’s obsession with Joe, Joe is equally obsessed with Ryan. Writing a book about him. Focusing his whole cult and master-plan around Ryan’s actions. And at least in season 1, Joe appeared to be doing this out of vengeance. Sound familiar?
However, this wasn’t the only parallel drawn between enemies in this episode. It’s been clear ever since they met that Emma and Mandy are not each other’s biggest fan. Sure, they’ve tolerated each other and even stuck together when put in front of a bunch of gun toting cult members, but there has always been an undercurrent of resentment and jealousy between the two of them.
They clearly both crave Joe’s attention and want to be his favorite, each having filled the role at different times in his past. But now that Emma and Joe’s relationship has blossomed, Mandy is feeling left out and in turn, Emma is ready to stomp her competition in to the ground and show her who’s Joe’s #1 gal. After walking out on Joe’s cat-killing ceremony (which genuinely disturbed and upset me more than any of his human murders), Mandy is approached by Emma, who attempts to tell her to shape up. However, Mandy is no push-over and has much the same strength and sass as Emma and she inevitably is the one to put Emma in her place.
Emma: You failed today. You know that right?
Mandy: Joe said it’s okay, I’ll get there.
Emma: Do you know what happened to the others who left the hall? The ones who couldn’t hack it? I put them in the hole.
Mandy: For how long?
Emma: Who knows. And that’s where you should be, except Joe said to give you another chance. I hope you don’t disappoint him, but I have a feeling you will.
Mandy: It really bothers you that Joe thinks I’m special. That he cares about me. Doesn’t it?
Emma: No, it doesn’t. I just need you to respect my relationship with him.
Mandy: Sure, whatever that is.
Emma: Look, Joe wants us to get along so why don’t we just fake it for him?
Mandy: Good idea, that’s all your capable of anyway.
Emma: Excuse me?
Mandy: I read the book, Emma.
Emma: Watch yourself, little girl. You have no idea who you’re dealing with.
Mandy: Do you know who you’re dealing with? You’re not the only one around here who killed her mother.
Watching these two go toe-to-toe was utterly fantastic. We’ve always known both of them are strong, defiant and a little unhinged, but to see them turn it towards each other presented a possibility for real future showdowns. Even after Mandy walks away, Emma has a little smile on her face that seems to show that despite her dislike for the girl, she can’t help but respect her nerve. And Mandy is 100% right. Both of them are desperate for Joe’s attention, willing to do almost anything for him, posses a certain sense of fearlessness and both have killed the woman who gave birth to them. I’m definitely interested in seeing more of these two together. Working together, they could be unstoppable but they’ve chosen to work against each other and I can’t begin to imagine how that will end.
The Following airs Monday at 9/8c on Fox.
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