The Following episode 4 review: Mad Love

Review Ron Hogan 12 Feb 2013 - 07:28

It may have more viewers than positive reviews, but The Following is moving in the right direction for Ron. Here's his review of Mad Love...

This review contains spoilers.

1.4 Mad Love

The Following is a very dark show. If you're getting deja-vu, that's because I talked about the darkness of the show's tonality last week. This week, I'm talking about actual darkness. There's a murkiness to the episodes in general - and this episode in particular - that makes me feel like I need to adjust the colour balance on my television so I can actually follow what's going on. Ryan's in his perpetually shadowed apartment. Ryan's creeping through a darkened house. Emma, Jacob, and Paul are skulking in their darkened farmhouse. Joey squats in the darkness at the top of the stairs. That kidnapped Asian girl is taped to a chair in a dark basement. Everything's dark dark dark; the one thing The Following has managed to do is convince me my television has pretty good black levels. 

This is generally the show's aesthetic, but this week's episode features more blacked-out screen in sixty minutes than some entire movies, and no doubt part of that is due to this week's director, Henry Bronchtein. He goes overboard both on moody lighting and on the shaky camera work, particularly when attempting to inject some harrowing action into specific scenes involving the serial killer trio. It doesn't really work most of the time. A little bit of Shaky Cam goes a long way, and this is a bit too much. It tends to be detracting from the episode itself, which is unfortunate because the two segments in which the Shaky Cam is most prevalent are two segments which really didn't need any spicing up. 

However, I do like one development amongst the serial killer trio. The show has been commenting on, teasing, or outright showing the quasi-gay relationship between Jacob and Paul for a few episodes now - they started out as a fake gay couple, after all, and ended up as something more than just friends. It seemed like a pretty trite storyline, but Kevin Williamson (the creator and the writer of this week's episode) actually manages to take it into a couple of interesting directions. I'm not sure how tenable it is in the long term to devote so much attention to characters who will likely end the season arrested, dead, or both (since crime doesn't pay), but I like that they're fleshing out the villains and giving them some layers. 

The same can't be said for Joe and Ryan and the FBI gang. Even with a lot of reveals concerning Ryan's back story this week (as compared to Joe's last week), it doesn't play out to be as interesting as the serial killing trio's farmhouse escapades turn out to be. The less said about Ryan's tragedy-filled back story, the better, as far as I am concerned. He's not lucky; we get it. 

That said, I did like Ryan's show-down with Maggie at his sister Jenny's hipster restaurant, and I like that Shawn Ashmore got to be something other than a sycophant for Ryan for once, as well. Those two have the makings of a decent buddy cop team, except they're not really buddies. Ryan's refusal to bond with his associates at the FBI is one of the show's more endearing call-backs. It's certainly more appealing than his unrealistic shirtless Eeyore lifestyle he lives. 

Complaints aside, the show seemed to perk up over last week's edition, which has been my least favorite thus far. It's still not brilliant, and definitely not living up to the great premise, but it's at least continuing to find new wrinkles, even if The Following hasn't quite gathered up a following of critical praise to go along with its impressive collection of viewers. If the show can continue to get creative with its nastiness while forcing the audience to make tough decisions on who to root for, it can turn itself back around into something different and clever, rather than existing in the procedural realm exclusively. 

US Correspondent Ron Hogan is still functioning despite probably having broken a toe trying to walk down a flight of stairs. He is very graceful. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.

Read Ron's review of the previous episode, The Poet's Fire, here.

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Maybe I wasn't paying attention to how bad the previous episodes were, but there is no denying that the 4th episode was more annoying than entertaining. It was nothing but a long list of horror movie cliche's and pointless plot points. So this is the episode that turns it around for you? Really? I want to like the show I really do, but this episode would have been better if they didn't try so hard. That is try so hard to and bleed every single plot point completely dry. We know that Ryan isn't really going die in front of his sister, because then there would no longer be a television series. So why play it out to such absurd, incredulous lengths? Why not focus, instead, on the things we don't know and find the suspense there? We didn't know if the serial killer chic (SKC) was going to be killed or become another source of information to advance the the story. Instead of committing to the ridiculous possibility that Ryan could die, why not structure the scene so the suspense lied in if the SKC is going to get away, get captured or killed. Of course we care more about Ryan so there's more invested there, but this is what I was referring to earlier when I mentioned how hard the writers are trying. Not every single scene needs to try and capitalize on the suspense if main character is going to make through the end of the episode. Of course he is. This is the very opposite of structure. Its all climax all the time. Unfortunately, this results in some very anti-climatic television.

Please, geeks. What's your take on Bacon's "heart condition", and Maggie's electromagnetic genius masterplan where I use "genius masterplan" to mean display of "brain dead retardedness".

Did not like the scene with the girl escaping, it was like watching a typical slasher movie. Hide in barn, make a run 2 secs after killer moves out of sight

It's utter rubbish. The biggest cheer from me was when Bacon finally changed out of his suit and tie. He's had the same thing on forever. The flashbacks are so much for padding. It's the weakness of the modern American show in that they want a 7 series hit but is there enough story? Don't matter lets drag it. The 3 wannabes look like they've staggered in off Buffy. The ineptitude of the police and prison authorities is almost like a comic. It's acted very well, but it's hysterical realism. The production values hide it the full extent of the hokum. I have watched my last episode.

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