“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 Continue reading

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“The End is Near” – The Following

Screen Shot 2013-04-24 at 12.18.55 PMIn the most action-packed episode of The Following since its pilot, things were certainly ramped up for next week’s big finale. And yet the scale of action, while immense in its execution, was relatively minute in scope. The episode never strayed from Havenport, keeping the bulk of activity centered on the house, the police station and the community center.

This week saw Joe’s escape plan put into action. And it was a great plan. Distract the feds with a bloodbath at the community center and allow Joe to slip through their net. The plot was sparse, but not in a negative way. The episode was about Joe getting away. Everything else was incidental. He’s taken to the high seas with Claire, but we know there’s been a huge increase in coast guard patrols so we’re not sure he’ll get that far. The coast guard, after all, is the one group that won’t have been distracted by the antics in the community center.

There were a number of strangely hilarious moments centered on Joe’s escape, predominantly his behavior in his safe house – his overly civil attitude and his polite interest in his captives lives were surreal, but wonderful. If only the rest of the episode had been that creepily lighthearted. Not that we’re complaining. There’s nothing about “The End is Near” that we didn’t thoroughly enjoy (in the way anyone would enjoy good TV, not in the ‘isn’t murder fun’ way). But there were aspects that we were less than happy about, aspects that terrified us and aspects that made us a little bit sad.

The first of these was Continue reading

“Havenport” – The Following

Screen Shot 2013-04-21 at 3.13.32 PMWe’re torn here. Can an episode be fantastic and kinda disappointing at the same time? We guess the answer is yes when all of the disappointment is as a result of the writers just not using our (oh so clever) guesses for their story development…

This week’s episode saw things come to head as Ryan and the FBI drew ever closer to Joe’s hiding place. We have no brilliant character insights this week, other than to express a little more of that disappointment at Roderick NOT turning on Joe. Or, at least, not in the way we had expected. He did kidnap Joey and allow Ryan to rescue him. But he didn’t completely flip. He didn’t tell Ryan where Joe is hiding. Semi-loyal to the last, then. We’re strangely sad that Roderick is dead. He was a great character and we enjoyed watching his antagonistic relationship with Joe. It was an interesting character study, and the show may suffer for its disappearance.

But in the remaining episodes, The Following shouldn’t be without character studies. Jacob continues to appear salvageable. Ryan has announced the FBI’s willingness to grant a one-off immunity to any cult member who will turn on Joe. Anyone who is now realizing they made a mistake. We’d still like that person to be Jacob. And it’s looking ever more likely. He’s not a bad kid. The only person he’s killed so far is Paul, and Paul was dying anyway. That was an act of mercy rather than an act of murder. He talks a big game, but he’s still clearly compassionate and gentle – that was obvious in his releasing Joey to Ryan. Claire, Ryan and Joey all begged him to think of what Joey wants and not bring him back to the cult. And he listened. He’s redeemable. If he takes Ryan’s deal, he could be a functioning member of society again. We’d like to see that. We’d also like to see Emma be the one who flips on Joe. That’s a scenario we hadn’t thought of, but one that seems likely after the antics of this week.

Another aspect of the show that should be interesting Continue reading

“The Curse” – The Following

Screen Shot 2013-04-15 at 1.04.58 PMMike Weston just doesn’t have any luck, does he… Or does he? I suppose the fact that his first day back resulted in a standoff with Joe Carroll and a knife to his throat might make a person think he’s unlucky. The fact that he walked away from it? Completely different story. Perhaps the luckiest thing to ever happen to him. OR WAS IT?! Was anyone else wondering how Joe got the drop on Mike, killed Monroe and tied Mike up in a bulletproof room all in a matter of seconds? It can’t just have been us. We’re still pushing the Mike as Cult Member thing, and we still don’t think we’re wrong. We don’t care how often you say, “but he nearly got beaten to death by Carroll’s men”, or “Carroll himself just tortured him” – we’re not buying it. It’s a case of the double agent protests too much. His comments to Ryan in the back of the ambulance seem almost perfectly calibrated to get Ryan to open up more about his dad’s death. He’s digging. All that stuff about how he doesn’t owe anyone anything so why is he hurrying back to work? What if he owes Joe… Was Joe suddenly struggling to define Ryan’s character because he didn’t have Mike by Ryan’s side?

Our weekly Weston-watch out of the way, we can turn to the remainder of the episode. It was most notable for the fact that for the first time in weeks we’re reminded that Joe is trying to write a book. Early episodes were fantastic simply because they tied the book and the action tightly together. Elements of the book were big players in the show. Joe was writing the book, but was also the show’s unspoken narrator. It was clever. And that’s been missing recently. But, with “The Curse”, the book was brought to the fore again. Not only did we actually see Joe writing, but we were confronted again with the correlations between the book and the show. As Joe’s world unravels, as his position becomes ever more precarious, his writing begins to suffer and he begins to take risks for the book. This redirected focus also paints Ryan and Joe more as partners than anything up to this point. Like we said last week, neither can exist without the other and, this week, we saw just how symbiotic that relationship is – for Joe, at least. He may be bringing Ryan slowly back to life, but it’s Ryan who’s the real life-giver in this situation. Joe needs him, for his book, for his story, for everything.

Another aspect of the episode worth discussing is Continue reading

“Whips & Regret” – The Following

This marks a strange milestone for us – the first week we were less than overawed by The Following, and the first week that we saw past the awesome to the minor issues underneath. It was the first time we questioned anything. It was the first time we wondered when exactly Joe is going to start writing this magnum opus of his, because he certainly hasn’t done any of it yet. We hear endless talk of chapters and motivations and, this week, talk of what aspects of Ryan’s personality will be glossed over in the tome (his alcoholism). But, as far as we can tell, nary a pen has been lifted. Surely he must be feeling pretty inspired fairly constantly at the moment, so what’s he waiting for?

That wasn’t the only problem with the episode. The casual phone conversations between Ryan and Joe are inane (rather than insane, which would have been better). The relationship between Joe and Claire is creepy, but doesn’t feel like a real rival for her feelings for Ryan. And, finally, that whole Molly (Jennifer Ferrin, The Cape) as an angel of death – more specifically, Ryan’s future angel of death – angle is ridiculous, unrealistic and unthreatening. It’s creepy, sure, but she’s waiting for the go ahead from Joe, and that will never come. The show has adopted this heaven v hell, good v evil, black v shades of grey struggle between dark knight Joe and white knight Ryan as its main antagonistic relationship. Without either of them, the show ceases to function. Ryan will never be killed, unless they’re planning a single season run. So to even introduce a ‘threat’ to his life is a pointless waste of screen time.

And yet, overall, the episode was still enjoyable. The cracks may be showing, but the series is yet to travel across the line to irredeemable. We’re optimistic that these issues were just a blip, or even just our imagination entirely, and that next week will see us back to normal epicness. In the meantime Continue reading

“Guilt” – The Following

Another fantastic episode from The Following. “Guilt” stuck, for the most part, to established modus operandi – Follower of the week, Ryan being vaguely misanthropic, Emma being creepy… Yet, even though the show does undoubtedly have a formula, it hasn’t become formulaic. Each week, viewers are treated to something new. Something that we haven’t seen before. Something to keep it all from getting stale. This week, that something new is insight into Ryan. Not flashbacks to when he was hunting Joe, or his early days with Claire, but his friends, his girlfriends. His life, in short. After weeks of having it drilled into us that the Joe case changed his life and that his world revolves around Claire, it was strange to see him in this new light.

“Guilt” also provided us with a slight twist on the established ‘Follower of the Week’ trope. Where most ‘chapters’ revolve around murder, this week’s protagonists aimed only to get Claire to Joe. This led to a high tension, high stakes, high excitement chase and stakeout-shootout. It led to Claire and Ryan finally admitting they still have feelings for each other and sharing a ‘we’re about to die’ kiss.

And yet, at episode’s end, Ryan is, perhaps, in worse shape than when it began. He now has two friends in hospital (his best friend, Tyson [David Zayas, Dexter], was injured in the attempt to get to Claire) and Claire, who he had finally let back in, was driving off with Roderick. She went willingly, desperate to see Joey, mouthing ‘I love you.’ to Ryan as the car pulled away, but he’s got to be asking himself all the same why people keep leaving him.

Stepping away from Ryan for a moment, we turn to life with the cult. It didn’t take long to find out how committing his first murder affected Jacob. We’ve got hallucinations, we’ve got threatening demeanor, we’ve got the full gamut of ‘I just killed someone’ behavior, all the way from guilt to aggression. But it remains to be seen whether he will kill again, or even whether he will stay with the other cult members. He’s still clearly devoted to Joe, but he disobeys him by not forgiving Emma. Is this an early indicator of a person who’s losing faith in his Poe-obsessed leader?

Although the episode largely stayed clear of the FBI investigation, there was one development that made us wonder – a website the Feds uncovered, with a hidden recruiting video. That’s plenty creepy, but what really got our attention was the voice behind the Poe mask. Why do we recognize it? Our mind immediately leapt to Weston but that’s probably because we want so badly to be right about him.

A twist at the end brought us crashing back to those Ryan flashbacks. His last ‘serious’ girlfriend, Molly, is a Follower – something we’re sure Ryan didn’t know. Fortuitously, Tyson told Claire about Molly earlier in the episode. The question is what Claire will do with the information.

And yet none of this really brought us up short and made us think. That honor rests with Joe’s speech to Ryan at the end of the episode. “That’s no way to talk to the man who saved your life,” he says. “I’ve allowed you a second chance. Don’t you understand anything yet, Ryan? This is your story. Your rebirth. Don’t you feel it? With every death you come just that little bit more back to life. So, no, you… you can’t quit now. No, you… you’re not quite yet the man you need to be.” And it’s true. In a chilling, disturbing way, it’s true. Since the pilot episode, the change in Ryan has been dramatic. He’s been reaching out to people, he stopped drinking, he told Claire he loved her… He’s coming out of that funk, that fugue, that stupor. This case is bringing him back to life. Does that make anyone else’s skin crawl a little? – K

Quoteworthy: “She tried. She held on as long as she could. You know the deal. But let’s face it. If he couldn’t go there with you, she didn’t stand a chance. So was there ever anyone serious? Yeah, Claire. You.” – Tyson, about Molly and Ryan

“Love Hurts” – The Following

       

One aspect of The Following that’s been incredibly good at drawing us in over the last few weeks has been the ongoing Jacob arc. In Jacob, we had (relatively speaking) an innocent. He hadn’t killed yet. He didn’t particularly want to. And, while he stayed a murder virgin, he was redeemable, he could be saved, and he was the uncertain element. That struggle between his inability to kill and his desire to be part of Joe’s cult was a very compelling storyline. His straddling of that invisible divide kept us hooked – would Jacob succumb or would he be the one member of the cult who could be persuaded to help Ryan and the FBI? This week, it looks like we have our answer. Or do we? Yes, Jacob killed Paul. But is it really that cut and dry? Does the death of Paul tie Jacob to the cult irretrievably or was it just a man helping a former lover to move on from this world? It seems that only time will tell, but we will watch avidly to find out.

Other interesting storylines to be ready for in the coming weeks relate almost in their entirety to Jacob re-entering the fold of the cult. Roderick, in an effort to unsettle Emma and, perhaps, keep Joe all to himself, finally brought Jacob in from the cold. This should kick up some interesting arcs, not least that of how Jacob will move forward now that he’s taken his first life. His reaction upon seeing Emma speaks of rage and perhaps even hatred. Watching how he re-integrates in her life and his behavior when he (inevitably) finds out about her and Joe – we’re fairly certain that Roderick will tell him – should be entertaining to say the least. Running alongside that arc may be a continuation of the tension between Roderick and Emma. To say that Roderick thrives on conflict would be an understatement (last week’s closing scene with Louise is a case in point). We’re seeing sparks of hatred between the pair and, with Roderick, that’s likely to turn into something sexual.

As for the other relationships in the show, those have been stepped up considerably. Ryan has finally admitted that he still loves Claire. And Joe has not given up on Ryan. With this week’s chapter – a killing spree that targets every Claire Matthews in the state – he appears to be playing a game on two fronts. On one level he is simply punishing Ryan for stealing Claire away from him. On another, he’s trying to draw Claire into the open. And, in a way, he succeeds. When Nick Donovan calls Quantico to ensure that Claire hasn’t heard about the spree, Joe’s people trace the call and locate her. Going by the series’ progress thus far, Claire’s protectors are unlikely to be able to stop Joe’s people from taking her. This is going to up the ante in a huge way. While Claire will finally be reunited with Joey, she will also be even further out of Ryan’s reach. Watching him wrestle with that knowledge should be riveting viewing.

We expected to lose interest in The Following sooner, rather than later. But that clearly hasn’t happened. It remains compelling viewing. We hope it will for a long time to come. – B+K

Quoteworthy: ”How much hurt can one man endure, Ryan? At what point does he break? You must let me know.” – Joe

“Welcome Home” – The Following

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We watched a lot of The Following during our own personal hiatus, and we realized why we enjoy it so much. There’s no set procedure or pattern. There’s no murder of the week. It all just keeps unfolding like they’re telling a story. Mysteries are short-lived and quickly solved, because mystery isn’t the point. Motive and means were dispensed with early on. The only surprises come in the form of who the key ‘Followers’ will be any given week. And that’s a good thing. Surprises detract from the story. Mystery detracts from the story. All the usual plot devices, all the little intricacies that are meant to excite and thrill (but only confuse), have been pushed to the wayside and all we’re left with is a strong show that gives its story space to breathe and allows viewers’ enjoyment to be simple and unsullied. It’s easy to watch, but still manages to be stimulating – rare, but indescribably welcome.

This week saw Joe reunited with his Followers. It saw the introduction of Roderick (Warren Kole, Common Law, The Chicago Code). It saw the continuation of the increasingly disturbing pattern of sexual arousal among the Followers after a death. It saw a new bureaucrat to hate (Nick Donovan; Mike Colter, The Good Wife, Ringer), it saw kidnap, and fight club, and cyanide capsules, and sarcastic Ryan, and Emma being just the biggest creep in the world. It was edge of your seat stuff, but it was also strangely touching. In the final scenes, when Joe kills Charlie, the combination of stirring music and powerful emotion made the murder seem beautiful. Romantic even. It made the cult seem sympathetic, and that made us cringe. We shouldn’t like these people. We shouldn’t be moved by them. But we do, and we are, and that’s the strongest compliment we can pay this show and these writers. They make us truly understand how easy it could be to fall prey to this enigmatic man. That’s more terrifying than anything else The Following has shown us.

But, while this was certainly thought-provoking, it’s not what has us talking two days later. That’s our ongoing suspicions of Mike Weston. Mike has always tried a little too hard to get to know Ryan. There is no readily-apparent reason for him to instantly and consistently cover for Ryan’s drinking, or follow him everywhere. We’ve always felt like Mike is Ryan’s ‘Follower’, just as Charlie was Claire’s. He seems too interested in Ryan’s personal life, in what he’s thinking, in his past. It’s almost like he’s (badly) gathering information to flesh out Carroll’s new story. And, for a while, this week’s episode made us think we had him wrong all along. He didn’t seem to know any of his assailants, beyond recognizing them from photos. He allowed himself to be beaten, nearly to death, in an effort to protect Claire.

But then we thought about it some more. We wondered if Joe is the only one who knows who Mike really is. We wondered if he is so deep undercover in the FBI that no one else in the Cult knows he exists. We wondered if his sudden desire to join the FBI after studying for a degree in Political Sciences was Joe’s doing. We wondered if he joined the Protective Custody Division because Joe knew that, eventually, the Feds would whisk Claire away. We wondered if this was all a double bluff. We wondered if Joe was getting frustrated at Mike’s lack of progress with Ryan, so engineered this situation to ensure that Ryan would trust Mike with anything. We may have wondered too much, but we enjoyed the guessing… Maybe a little mystery isn’t the worst thing in the world. – B+K

Quoteworthy: “Oh, you’re not going to find Joe. You don’t find us, we find you. And we’re everywhere. We’re your sons, your daughters, husbands, your wives, neighbors, fathers, mothers, and soon more will be dead.” – David 

“Chapter Two” – The Following

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Really strong follow-up from The Following, avoiding the second-episode slump with aplomb. While the action isn’t as frenetic as in the pilot, that can be attributed to the fact that the creators just don’t have as much to tell us with this episode. The pilot was all about the back-story and the set-up. This episode was allowed to move the narrative forward, significantly. It gave back-story for other characters – “Denise”/Emma, for instance – and developed both the urgency to catch various members of Carroll’s cult and the romantic relationship between Claire and Ryan. It raised questions about who we can trust – new character Debra Parker (Annie Parisse, Law & Order) is a cult specialist who seems to know a lot about Carroll’s mindset. Are we wrong to suspect her? It brought Poe masks to the fore, and made them a symbol of Carroll, and of fear. It also dealt with prison officer Jordy in short order. What was most interesting to us, however, was the positioning of Carroll more as narrator than villain. While he is, undoubtedly, the driving force behind the work of his acolytes, he seems to consider himself a writer, rather than a criminal. And it is he who speaks our inner thoughts and gives voice to the narrative drive of the show, explaining, for example, that Ryan saving Claire’s life cemented the leading man’s love story. Eerily enough, we had been thinking the same thought moments before. It lends an interesting format to an already interesting show. – B+K

Quoteworthy: “You’ve got to toughen up, Ryan. You’re dealing with depraved minds. Sick and twisted. Jordy was a mere puppy compared to some of the games I have in store for you.” – Carroll