The Following drew big numbers in the ratings with its premiere last week, and delivered during its initial hour an incredible number of plot points and situations (and gruesome murders) to keep us interested. While many (myself included) lamented the shoehorning of Poe with awkward expositions to explain the motivational canvas serial killer Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) was using to exact his evils, the actual idea of “the following” that he had amassed to do his bidding seemed worthy of further viewing. This week the show pushed Poe to the background slightly (though his work was probably still too present) and focused more on the following itself, which presented a few surprises. Hit the jump for what went right, and why I wish they would stop harping on Nevermore.
I don’t think The Following is an exceptional series or even has the makings of one, but there is something undeniably absorbing about it. Something in the equation of (Bacon + Purefoy) x frights = something worthwhile. The best thing about The Following is the aspect of pod people, some of whom we got to know a little better this week, but also the idea of people that could pop up anywhere and at any time. FBI specialist Debra Parker (a new character played by Annie Parisse, who I accidentally credited last week as the former wary female detective — she’s now the new wary female detective!) is in questionable status. Was her act of handing over Poe’s complete works to Carroll an act of curiosity, or of solidarity? Was it a sign that she was ready to be “activated” into his service?
I thought it was a neat trick that babysitter Denise/Emma (Valorie Curry) went largely ignored and unnoticed in the pilot, which is both her strength and her trigger. She pulled off something big by kidnapping Joey, and had shown both her dedication and her wounded (and easily manipulated) personality by killing her mother, who had always openly dismissed her as a “plain Jane.” Her eyes flashed too when confronted repeatedly by Paul/Billy (Adan Canto) for being “beneath” Jacob/Will (Nico Tortorella), something Emma’s mother had also said. But it is exactly her unassuming looks that make her so able to blend in, and despite her mousey appearance, she is the bitch running the show.
While there was some commentary last week about how the not-gay gay couple are being demonized, I have to say that there’s something ok in the subversion. First of all, that the TV trope of the super-supportive gay neighbors was turned on its head, and also that they aren’t actually together. Yet, that whole idea wasn’t totally dropped — Paul’s jealous behavior towards Emma and his obvious affection for Jacob (whether platonic or more — after all, I don’t have trouble believing he just doesn’t like or trust Emma) brings in another layer and interesting twist. Might the followers start turning on each other because of personal drama?
Security guard killer Jordy is ridiculed by the others, as well as by Carroll for being “the village idiot” and “easily disposable.” His ability to be manipulated may be something Hardy attempts to exploit, even though Carroll claims he doesn’t know anything. He does know some of the identities of the other followers, I’m guessing, and can help Hardy in his pursuit of the one who attacked him in the house (“Rick”). By the way, I know this is all part of the cliche, but why is Hardy ever going into houses alone? Why is Claire not being watched by the FBI instead of the local police? Why did not even one person on that crowded sidewalk attempt to apprehend the Rick after he set a guy on fire? It just annoys me (although he did just set a guy on fire).
Anyway, in addition to some of the eye-roll-worthy cliches, the Poe stuff is just too much for me to handle. Is “nevermore” the only thing anyone remembers from anything? Was Emma’s mother buried in the wall because of the Cask of Amontillado, or because it was just a convenient place to store an inconvenient corpse? (and what of the smell??) The scribbling on the wall, the masks (which look like Tig from Sons of Anarchy, which made me laugh), the shrines — it’s all creepy, but something about it being shoved down our throats as “Poe! Poe! Nevermore! Annabelle Lee! Faux-intelligent commentary on the power of eyes in gothic romance!” is all hooey. I would prefer it if more characters rolled their eyes at this and just made fun of Carroll and his pretensions.
Still, there’s something about The Following that keeps me interested. Maybe it’s the mystery, or Kevin Bacon, or Carroll’s promise of more schemes and challenges to come, with Hardy needing to keep up with him (and in some cases surprise him, as he did with Jordy). I guess they’ve hooked me like the novel they are pretending to write — I do want to see how it ends.
Episode Rating: B+
Musings and Miscellanea:
— I like that Hardy isn’t issued a gun, it reminds me of the Rockford Files (where Rockford never took his along anywhere because he said he didn’t want to actually have to use it). He gets one when he needs it, though!
— So do we think Debra is a follower or not?
— EyeRoll.gif at the comment about our “cyber generation” needing to feel alive (although maybe I proved that point by expressing myself in GIF form)
— Closing in the network of followers from just randos all over the nation to, in at least one case, a tight-knit group helps this not feel like procedural and makes it more engaging from several angles.
— Speaking of procedural, I love how quickly the sorority murders were just glossed over. “Yeah he killed like 5 chicks and cut out their eyes, what else is new?”
— I kind of like the sociopath Paul. His comments about the kid made me laugh because they were so absurd. I think he’s much more cold-blooded than Jacob, but possibly less so than Emma. It’s always the quiet ones!