Weirdly, the least interesting part of The Following is that which was set up initially as the reason the watch: the interplay and stories of Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) and Joe Carroll (James Purefoy). Some of you have mentioned in the comments how Hardy is a lot like Jack Bauer from 24 – he always saves the day in the last minute, throwing himself body and soul in the job, carrying the weight of the victims on his stooped shoulders. Carroll, now re-incarcerated, hasn’t really had much to do in the last few weeks, instead getting his kicks vicariously through his following, some of whom are interesting (the love triangle) and some of whom are terribly boilerplate (Maggie, despite Carroll’s protestations otherwise). Hit the jump for the good and bad of the series, and my final judgment before moving on.
I mentioned last week I would probably wrap up my coverage of The Following this week, and because it really is little more than, as one of you said, “a more stylized Criminal Minds,” and there’s not much to take away from it beyond an hour’s entertainment. While there are a few twists (Megan, the captive, being left alive in the end … at least for now) most of the series seems pretty rote. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, it just doesn’t leave a lot to unpack.
Here are the best things: the following itself, which, presumably, there are more of somewhere because Hardy keeps killing the current ones off. Hardy’s relationship with Weston (who finally got him to call him Mike) is a cute, long-range character arc that has been paying some decent emotional dividends. The whacko threesome and their bonding over sex and death is probably the most engaging of any relationship on the show, and seeing Jacob’s journey — or lack of one — into becoming a killer is frightening to witness.
Hardy’s personal redemptive arc is familiar, but it will manipulate us and wear us down over time to care. We get it — his whole family died tragically except his sister, which is why he is too messed up to have a stable relationship, and too afraid to really love anyone. His excuse that he loves Claire too much to be with her is a typical misguided noble hero trope, and while their relationship is completely fucked up, they do have genuine chemistry and obvious emotional investments with one another.
Less convincing are the Murders of the Week, some of which have been genuinely shocking and gruesome (like Jordy’s sorority rampage), but this week’s was beyond cliche. Carroll tells Hardy that while his other pod people are damaged and crazy and maybe not all that bright (including Rick and his Poe mask antics), that Maggie is truly special and different. Really though? Because she committed just about ever villain trope in the book: cut the victim loose before they are really dead, monologue to them about their childhood and the meaning of the moment instead of just killing them, and forgetting to stay wary because when in the history of ever when a criminal says “come to this place and TELL NO ONE!”– especially to a cop or federal agent — does that ever actually happen? So to not even suspect that someone would probably be coming around to stop her? This is, as Hardy said, some kind of amateur hour.
Plus, had Jenny been on the chopping block we might have felt some real suspense. For one, damaging Hardy is the main objective for Carroll, and though Maggie went “off book” she surely didn’t go so far as to kill off our main hero. I mean, The Following has had some twists but come on. The bigger twist with more suspense was Megan, with whom we got the double fake. Normally I would have suspected that Jacob would let her go, sure, but with this show I wasn’t so sure. It would be gruesome and difficult, but he could potentially have killed her. It didn’t surprise me at all when Emma wielded the knife … except it turns out of course that she didn’t, not fatally anyway. The episode concluded with Jacob finding Megan back in her chair. Back as the sacrificial lamb though, presumably, where maybe the new happy family can all grab the knife and thrust it in together! (Joey included!)
Joey definitely saw the phone, and I can’t imagine that he remains captive much longer. Whether Carroll intended that or will allow for that twist I don’t know, but he seems pretty bored by most of the proceedings. Still, while The Following relies heavily on cliche, it still has plenty of low-level frights and surprising twists that keep it interesting. I may already know where Hardy and Carroll’s stories end, but it’s the fate of the following that interests me the most.
So that’s all from me officially about the series — I’ll be picking up ABC’s new thriller Zero Hour this week to see how that new series goes. For now, Poe himself probably sums The Following up best: “I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity.”
Episode Rating: B-
Musings and Miscellanea:
- I wanted to know how Maggie had been so successful with her six unsolved Arkansas murders when she was so clumsy with this one. Magnets? That’s like an idea that Nick Brody who come up with talking to Jesse Pinkman.
- The only thing more typical in a drama such as this where a cop becomes a cop because their father was killed on the job, is when they also have a mother who died after a long battle with cancer when they were young. And then on top of that he invokes 9/11? Lord, y’all. We get it, ok? He’s tortured and cursed!
- I still can’t stand Emma, I think her character is really uneven, not seeming to care that Jacob and Paul “got their gay on” (which is clearly what bothered her before, why not confront it then?) then taunting Paul into the shower to hook up about ten seconds after she said they wouldn’t.
- It seems like Joe paired Jacob with Emma because Emma was such a strong / sure personality, and he knew that she could potentially mould the spineless Jacob.
- If you’ve been watching The Americans you might have noticed Jenny was played by the same actress who also plays Stan’s wife on that show.
- Mike Weston is cute. “I’m an overachiever, sir.”
- Anybody going to keep watching? Or are you giving up?