The Following: Demons Review
At this point, The Following holds on to whatever sticks best. Here's our review...
I feel a bit divided about James Purefoy still essentially being on the show. On one hand, faithful viewers of The Following are still treated to Purefoy’s chops on a weekly basis. On the other (more logical) hand, Purefoy still being part of the show feels like the longest tug-of-war the world’s ever seen; by the time we got to Joe’s death at the end of last week’s “Evermore,” it was seasons overdue.
Come the previews at the end of “Evermore,” we found that Joe is still going to be a regular because Ryan is losing what’s left of his sanity and begins to hallucinate? I find myself saying the same thing I do about the once-great Chuck Palahniuk, who chose to “remix” and give long-awaited sequels to his Invisible Monsters and Fight Club, respectively: “It’s really time to move on.” However, Purefoy’s involvement in “Demons” isn’t the most pressing issue.
As the episode begins, Ryan wakes up the bed of a younger woman, hungover and groggy, after a night of drinking, post-Carroll’s execution. It’s not surprising; Ryan has been teetering off the wagon in recent weeks and if there’s ever a time to fall off, it’s after the lethal injection of the serial killer you’ve been chasing for a huge chunk of your life—a serial killer you’ve begun to show frighteningly similar shades of, recently. Joe’s death was poetic and fitting for the Poe-obsessed madman: being forced out, and Ryan being the very last thing he saw.
What’s unfortunate is that I felt almost nothing as Ryan did his walk of shame home to Gwen and she leaves him. I’ll admit that I thought Gwen’s agenda was far different than it ended up being, but if this is the end of her and Ryan, what a blasé, hollow end it was. As is, Gwen has almost no lasting effect on the show.
Mark and Daisy are chasing Mike, as per usual. They accost the owner of a bike shop, who they believe can help them track who has Mark’s laptop, and so they get in touch with Theo…who am I kidding? At this point, no one really cares about the Daisy and Mark storyline, sadly. Their inclusion in The Following, while once a fresh injection of new life, has gone staler than pizza left uncovered. I truly admire Ruth Kearney and Sam Underwood as actors—they’ve both got bright futures—but their characters’ storylines have been twisted and mangled beyond comprehension, and worse, beyond audiences caring, as well.
After Gwen lets Max know that she has left Ryan (in a really roundabout way; have these two even spoken before this?) Max comes to Ryan’s aid. Ryan, of course, insists he’s okay, while hiding a bottle and taking medication. Like any caring niece, after a good thirty seconds of cajoling, Max stops trying to see if Ryan is okay and tells him that she found Theo’s real identity: he’s the survivor of a killing that left everyone else in his family dead in Philadelphia twenty-five years ago. Theo might be the only interesting character left on the show, though I’m not sure if it’s because he’s well-written or if Michael Ealy is just that electric.
Theo and his sister—who is called Sophia in the episode, and Penny on IMDB, played by Megalyn Echikunwoke—head for a multimillion dollar mansion that they think can help them disappear. Theo believes that there’s a Strauss connection; I truly don’t get why Strauss’ name has had such a huge weight throughout the three seasons of this show. His on-screen presence was a whisper of his legacy off-screen.
Mike and Max stay with Ryan to study Theo’s family’s murder file. Their research leads them to think that Theo’s family was killed by someone named The Madman, who was big in Philadelphia around the time Theo’s family was murdered. In a matter of moments, Ryan and Co. are out of his apartment and in Virginia; it’s amazing how fast they get places when they need to, and how a serial killer’s whereabouts can be unknown for twenty-five years, but if the plot so demands it, they’re found in days.
Tom gets a call from Erin (Monique Gabriela Curnen, Batman trilogy) and he begins feeling the heat about the stolen laptop. Tom, unfortunately, is another character whose purpose has been so muddied that he’s essentially a time-waster when he’s onscreen. Again, nothing against the actor—Gbenga Akinnagbe; Tom��s purpose originally was to provide tension between Mike and Max, but it now feels like the writers didn’t know what to do with him, so they tried a few different roles: rightfully jealous boyfriend, dirty cop, nervous criminal, and (by the end of this episode) murderer. It’s not character development, it’s character confusion.
New addition Lisa Campbell (Diane Neal, Law & Order: SVU)—an agent from the FBI’s Virginia office—tells Ryan and Co. that The Madman has only ever left one other survivor besides Theo. It turns out it’s Penny/Sophia, Theo’s foster sister.
Ryan and Co. check into a Philadelphia hotel in the hope of catching The Madman. (It’s believed that catching The Madman will draw Theo out.) Again: The Madman has been on the loose for twenty-five years and The Following’s police authorities think they can catch him in a matter of days. How are we supposed to care about every villain with the glut of characters being introduced and done away with?
Ryan, seeing Joe everywhere, takes a car and leaves the hotel… to go to The Madman’s house. Again, twenty-five years on the lam, to having his address, in days. Was the FBI just biding its time?
Theo and his sister accost Daniel Carr, an architect who was invited to a party at the house they’re trying to hide in. Carr tells Theo that the house is owned by someone named Eliza. It’s become a chore just to keep track of who’s who on a week-to-week basis.
Ryan arrives at The Madman’s house, alone and armed. Ryan breaks in, of course, because who cares about warrants? The Madman comes home while Ryan is snooping on his satanic drawings; Ryan is tossed down the stairs and the suspect flees. Ryan has to be one of the worst detectives in television history. How he—the man of endless second chances, with complete irreverence for police procedural work—keeps his job after a career of screwing things up is beyond me.
Theo and his sister enter the mansion house party, which just happens to be a mask-themed event—shades of Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death” short story, here. It turns out that it’s a kill party: all of the guests are murdering their plus-ones. Theo and his sister accost the woman named Eliza (Annet Mahendru, The Americans) in her office. Theo admits that he killed Strauss, who was Eliza’s friend, too. (Seriously, this guy was well-connected, huh?!) Theo offers to bring Ryan Hardy to Eliza—ensuring her safety—after she admitted only seconds earlier that she only “vaguely” knew who Ryan was. This is the first time we’re hearing of her, meaning Ryan likely isn’t after her, so why would she be intrigued by that offer… especially an offer she seems to have to pay handsomely to accept?
The madman comes to the hotel Ryan and Co. are staying at and starts slicing away. Ryan is much more concerned with getting Gwen back. The Madman comes to attack Lisa and Ryan gets to him just in time. Unfortunately, he beats him to a pulp, nearly tomahawking him over the head with his own knife. In the interrogation room, The Madman he admits that Theo asked him to kill his entire family, except for his foster sister. Creepy.
Erin arrives at Tom’s house because “the details aren’t adding up” when the team entered Mark’s house. Tom and Erin go over the story, but when she realizes that Tom is lying and she suspects he’s dangerous, she draws her gun; they grapple, and Erin dies. Like I said earlier, no offense to Mr. Akinnagbe, but Tom isn’t important enough of a character for the audience to worry about.
When Ryan comes home, Gwen’s stuff is gone and imaginary Joe tells Ryan to drink, rounding out a frustratingly uneven, all-over-the-place episode. The Following was once a show with a really clear, crisp vision of where it wanted to go, and what it wanted to be. Now, it feels like the writers will hold onto whatever sticks best. Unfortunately, right now, nothing but Ealy’s Theo is sticking. As is, the show cannot last. This season could be it for The Following. I really hope, if they can’t stick to one solid storyline that works, they can at least finish up strong.