“The Final Chapter” – The Following

Screen Shot 2013-05-01 at 10.24.07 PMOh ye cruelest fates and writers of cliffhangers…

What a fantastic finale from The Following to round out a stellar first season on the air. We hardly know where to start. The death of Agent Parker seems as good a place as any. We never thought they’d go through with it. After 15 episodes, she was one of the very few characters we actively knew, or even liked. While her goodbyes lacked the emotional punch we usually expect from such things, we were sorry to see her go. But we can see why she had to – for the show and for Joe’s book. In a creepy twist, Joe had written her death into his manuscript, and left it for Ryan to find. The manuscript gave Ryan instructions on how to reach the final chapter (the final showdown).

Of course, this was one of those situations where facing Joe was something Ryan had to do by himself. Part of us was hoping, though, that that wouldn’t be the entirety of it. We envisaged a final moments twist (and GOD, do we wish it had been this one instead of the actual twist) in which Mike came to the rescue (we still haven’t abandoned our Mike-as-follower theory, but we were willing to shelf it for this episode) as the unlikely hero. It would have been the final twist in the book. Throughout, Ryan was painted as the hero, the one who saved the day, but maybe it was going to be Mike after all.

We were wrong. And we were glad we were wrong. This really was something Ryan had to do himself. And the ending for Joe and Ryan was perfect. Joe’s death leaves next season wide open. We don’t think it’s going to be as simple as rounding up the leftovers of Joe’s cult. It couldn’t possibly be. The manner of Joe’s death made our spidey-sense tingle, and left us wondering if he was really dead. We can’t really be sure. DNA results can be faked, and dental records changed. What if it wasn’t Joe’s body they found? And what if it was? If it was, we need a Follower to rise up and take Joe’s place. Emma seems the most likely, as she is the highest-ranking cult member still in the wind. But, like a dog with a bone, we’re not willing to give up on the idea that it could be Mike.

Before we get to THAT cliffhanger, there are a few other aspects of the episode worth discussing. First of these is the dynamic between Claire and Joe, which we’ve always loved. There’s an inherent familiarity there born out of years of marriage, and a sense that these two people know each other deeply (in spite of her not knowing he was a killer until his arrest). This led to some interesting discussions, most notably that which explored the guilt Claire feels for the lives Joe has taken. She blames herself for the deaths because she didn’t know what Joe was doing, and she feels that she should have. This was a really interesting insight we hadn’t considered before that point. In these shows, we rarely consider the horror and guilt that family members of killers must feel. His reaction to this guilt was no less interesting, as he claimed the crimes violently and jealously for himself.

Another thought-provoking aspect of the episode was rather timely considering the tragedy that befell Boston two weeks ago. When Ryan and Mike capture the follower that kidnapped and buried Agent Parker, we are confronted with the issues of justifiable torture and the public safety exceptionThe Following has never shied away from making its viewers really think, confronting us with likable killers at every turn, but that has never been as powerfully brought about as it was this week. Mike and Ryan’s treatment of the follower is chilling and brutal, and incongruous when it’s coming from the good guys. So what is justifiable torture? Is it acceptable to torture someone (and not Miranda them) if someone else’s life is at stake? And how far is too far? We love that The Following can force us to ask the truly moral questions without descending into the ‘message of the week’ format that has plagued Glee lately.

And now that cliffhanger. Joe is dead (maybe) and everyone is safe. Or so we think. We have to admit that, as soon as we heard where Ryan and Claire were going to be hiding out we saw this coming, but it was still a whammy of an ending. Everyone has finally started to relax, and Ryan and Claire are heading toward ‘loved up’, when Molly re-enters the picture. She comes into Ryan’s apartment (avoiding the armed guards by dint of living next door), stabs him, then stabs Claire. As the episode ends, Ryan is bleeding on the floor of his kitchen and Claire has just been stabbed in the back. Molly is still there. No one can hear them scream.

So next season may see us without Claire, or without Ryan. Which one of them dies, if either does, will define the entirety of Season 2. If it’s Claire, we will get a season of Ryan believing he really is cursed and we will witness this ‘rebirth’ Joe was touting. If it’s Ryan (unlikely), we will see a whole new cast and, potentially, a whole new plot. We can’t wait to find out. Season 2 can’t come soon enough. – K

Quoteworthy: “You were always my chapter, Ryan. Joe promised me. I would be the one.” – Molly

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