[This is a Review of The Following Season 2, Episode 8. There Will Be SPOILERS.]

The Following continues its season 2 upswing and reveals the face behind Joe’s skillful murdering, while also forcing Carroll to put his ability to manipulate to the test in order to secure a future for himself and his followers.

In this week’s episode, “The Messenger,” written by Alexi Hawley, Hardy’s search for Joe leads him to the home of Arthur Strauss – a former professor and mentor of Carroll’s – with only reporter Carrie Cook as backup. When Strauss sidesteps Hardy’s interrogation, Cook steps in and almost becomes a victim of Carroll’s murderous tutor. Elsewhere, Joe faces off against Julia and slowly begins to turn Micah into one of his followers.

Now that Mike Weston is somewhat sidelined following his father’s brutal death, it’s interesting to see Hardy delve into the case himself, without the safety net that Weston provides. Hardy may be recovering from his drunkard past; however, even when faced with a credible lead, he’s still more than willing to fall victim to his obsessions and allow his need for information to lead him into situations he’s not completely prepared for – or able to protect himself from. Fortunately, nobody sidelines Weston – even if it is in his best interest.

As the episode suggests, Mike’s reaction to his father’s death is appropriate, if emotionally hazardous, and Hardy wants to protect his proverbial partner from the same dark path he now finds himself unable to escape from. Of course, Weston is not Hardy, and previous episodes have shown that this season’s new and improved Weston is able to handle what’s thrown at him as well as can be expected, considering the circumstances. Even so, the fact that Hardy continues to be concerned with Weston’s well-being means that even though Carroll is his main objective, he’ll be more likely to consider his options, or approach, as venturing off without his partner never leads to anything good. Joe, however, is a different story.

Now that Carroll has immersed himself in actual cult lifestyle, forcing him to remain resolute when faced with the control its leaders have, the gloves are off, so to speak, and all of Carroll’s many psychological skills are welcomed, in order to overcome the single-mindedness of the entire group – as well as its true leader, Julia. While Hardy and Westin must show restraint in order to succeed, Carroll must now indulge his need to control and must do whatever needs to be done in order remain in power.

Two weeks into Carroll’s plans – or 2 days, according to the episode – and the thin ties which bind Micah’s cult together are now slowly coming apart, allowing Carroll to manipulate the situation to his benefit. Julia, now ousted, is the only one who is able to see through Joe’s lies, and unless Hardy is able to save the cult from Carroll, Julia’s defiance may not last too long – no matter who she’s married to. When it comes to collusion, Joe is the best, and now Julia now must face the consequences of hubris in the face of a true monster.

The Following is already coming back for season 3, so there’s at least a few people who we now know will be safe from “sacrificing”. That being said, if The Following has taught us anything, it’s that death is easier to watch than pain, and with the way things are going now, in season 2, there’s so much pain that can – and probably will – be inflicted.

The Following returns next Monday with “Unmasked” @9pm on Fox. You can check out a preview of next week’s episode below: