How does this happen? Well, what's been clear all along is that Joe's tentacles reach out everywhere, including into law enforcement. In last week's excellent episode, which I didn't have a chance to review, the plot hinged and swung in Joe's favor when a local cop in upstate New York turned out to be one of the following. She steps out from her undercover role at just the right moment, and prevents Ryan from rescuing Joey. Everything is back as it was - Claire is back home and Joey's still kidnapped.
Tonight it gets much worse. The following kidnaps the warden's daughter - the warden of the prison holding Joe - which gives Joe the leverage to help him escape in the trunk of his lawyer's car. Before the episode is over, she's choked to death by Joe. The warden's daughter is unharmed. But Claire's put into witness protection, a sensible move with Joe at large, and a big victory for the erudite madman: in one fell swoop he gets back his son and puts his wife beyond Ryan's arms and reach.
Joe's power over his followers and consequent power to make events go his way - almost every time - makes this almost an unequal contest vis-a-vis Ryan. How can Ryan possibly win when a local cop, a warden, and a lawyer are in one degree another all under Joe's absolute control? And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
Next week, it looks as if Joe will turn his sights on the FBI. His follower already killed one agent. Tonight, Joe lets Ryan live because he'd rather Ryan stay alive to witness all of Joe's depraved victories. I'm still thinking that someone in the FBI, someone we already know, if not already working for Joe, will sooner or later come under his control after he puts one of their loved ones at lethal risk.
The bad guy has never had such awesome assets in the land of television, and that's one of the things that makes The Following so good.
See also The Following Begins ... The Following 1.2: Joe, Poe, and the Plan ... The Following 1.3: Bug in the Sun ... The Following 1.4: Off the Leash ... The Following 1.6: The Lawyer and the Swap