The Following episode 3 review: The Poet's Fire

Review Ron Hogan 5 Feb 2013 - 07:27

More blood is shed in this week's episode of serial killer drama, The Following. Here's Ron's review...

This review contains spoilers.

1.3 The Poet's Fire 

The Following is one of the stranger successful shows to hit the airwaves in recent memory. The mere fact that the bulk of the show's characters are serial killers and that they receive more character development than the FBI agents hunting them (Ryan aside) gives it a really weird feeling. Are we supposed to identify with them? Because they get the bulk of the series' attention (at least so far). 

They do horrible things to people who otherwise don't deserve them, and yet a love triangle between three of the acolytes - Emma, Jacob, and Paul - takes up the bulk of the action again this week. Or it seems like it took up the bulk of the show's action, anyway. There's a very interesting idea behind their dynamic, even if the show isn't fully exploiting it. The friction between Emma and Paul over Jacob is handled pretty well, and the reason behind this friction is something I've suspected since the beginning, but it is nice to see them actually doing the big reveal in all its glory, as it were. This week we find out both how Paul and Jacob's relationship was egged into being by Emma, how it developed over time in deep cover, and how/why Paul is struggling with the new way of things. 

That's a problem for the show in the long run, though. They (in this case writers Adam Armus and Kay Foster) set up clever twists, then telegraph them a little too much, or somehow mishandle the reveal. If you don't suspect at least two of the show's shocking moments this week, then you're probably not paying close attention. The show lingers in cliché territory, which is kind of sad, but there's a point to it. Or I'm going to say there's a point to it. These people aren't serial killers, they're wannabe serial killers. They're taking up the mantle of Joe Carroll and living out their dreams with him as their teacher. They're going to be awkward and sloppy and fall into cliches, because they're trying to replicate what they've seen on television and whatnot, even as they perform horrible acts of violence. 

However, this week's killer of the week, Rick Kester (Michael Drayer), does have a pretty interesting gimmick. He's not so good with knives (you could ask his stabbed wife Maggie [Virginia Kull] about that), but he's really, really good with a can of gasoline. Hence, he burns a book reviewer to death for the crime of criticizing Joe Carroll's book. Is he the link they need to catch the escaped trio and recover the missing Joey Matthews? 

That's one of the good things about the show's unrelenting darkness. There's nothing to distract from the graphic nature of the show's content. There's no wink, no chuckle, no one pulls on a pair of sunglasses while making a quip. Ryan Hardy occasionally makes a sarcastic comment, or has one made about him, but it's so far removed from the show's kill scenes that it doesn't lighten things up. It's constant and bleak and I have to admit that I kind of love that the show's creative team seems so willing to stare into the void. They're pretty bold about depicting violence, from a fairly traumatic immolation scene at the opening of this week's episode/the close of last week's episode to a very clever suicide, The Following managed to bring some more of the ultraviolence that marked its first episode back for the third, with some added child torture scenes just to make things even more uncomfortable than they were already. 

That's going to be this show's choice. It's never going to win any awards for writing, despite Kevin Bacon's best efforts, and it's not particularly clever aside from its general premise. What's going to keep The Following interesting for the long-haul is sheer willingness to shed blood, and I mean anyone's blood (Bacon aside, of course). So far, it seems like they've got what it takes. 

Read Ron's review of the previous episode, Chapter Two, here.

US Correspondent Ron Hogan doesn't buy Joe Carroll as a charismatic cult leader, but he does buy that a guy likes to set people on fire. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi

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This was the last time I watched the show last night....I am tired of the same story every week. They come close in catching somebody but they are always too late......becoming really annoying....

My biggest issue with the premise of the show is that the fact that Joe Carroll is made out to be some sort of supervillain mastermind, but it's all contrived. Every interview the heroes have with him, they let him dominate the conversation like they were rookies instead of experienced interrogators (in contrast, a character like Tim Roth's in Lie to Me or Kyra Sedgwick's in the Closer would have had him broken down and confessing in the first episode). Despite his proven threat he still seems to have the same freedoms as other prisoners, I'm surprised some prosecutor hasn't declared him a domestic terrorist threat and imposed some Gitmo-level isolation practices on him. And his acolytes are not the socially inept semi-literate morons who would follow a man like him (look at the Manson Family members for comparison). Unless the man is running an actual Doomsday Cult with religious foundations I can't see this level of devotion occurring.

It's very well produced and acted rubbish. I will watch next week just to see if Bacon changes his suit.

Something that is bugging me - can the FBI not just look at Joe Carrolls visitor records and then round them all up?

Couldn't agree more, well put. The whole premise of this show is flimsy at best. Joe Carroll's motives are whimsical and certainly not potent enough to form a cult from. The Manson family was a product of that era where people dropped out and were looking to take on 'The Man' - to compare this (badly acted) group of teen drama rejects is ridiculous. This guy is a Teacher (who doesn't have much about him to be honest), who apparently inspired people to become killers...sorry not buying it.
Don't think I can be bothered to continue with this series - totally overrated.
It will need to provide something extra special to make it worth watching but to be honest it's just a predictable second rate 'drama'

Agreed - if it survives it will be on the star power of Kevin Bacon, the way Kiefer Sutherland did for Touch.

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