This review contains spoilers.
The director of tonight’s visit to the fine men and women of the FBI is Nicole Kassell. You may recognize that name (but probably not) from the Kevin Bacon film The Woodsman. I can’t help but think Bacon got her this gig. If so, then it worked out for both of them, because this was one of the better episodes of The Following in recent memory. Not that it was without its crazy leaps of logic (thanks to writers Vincent Angell and David Wilcox), but it was at least well-shot craziness. This is the show’s most successful use of chiaroscuro shading; it’s dark in a key action sequence, but not so dark you can’t tell what happens. That’s a big improvement for the show, which loves shoot-outs in the dark but hates actually lighting them.
One of the things that The Following has been doing well towards the end of this season is teasing at dissension among the ranks. Joe and Roderick, after all, have been butting heads for a while now, and before them Emma, Paul, and Jacob took the lead on the inter-terrorist squabbling during their time as babysitter for Joey. Even though the threesome has broken up, there’s still some residual conflict there. Jacob has been trying for a while to become the killer Joe wants him to be, but he hasn’t made that leap into brutality that Roderick and others have been able to; meanwhile, Emma can’t quite shake off Jacob (or get Joe to shake off his wife). Much like a real college relationship, it’s messy and may be over, but hasn’t officially ended given what we see this week. I like that all the relationships on the programme are messy; even if it’s not executed well (and usually it is not), at least the show is trying to make things complex and interesting (and they succeeded this week with the Joe/Roderick conflict, the Claire/Joe conflict, and Ryan in general).
This week’s episode is definitely the chance for Roderick (Warren Kole, who has done some good work with his role) to shine as the character of the week. He’s the agent of action, even though his actions are expected. (Ditto the strange girl that shows up near the end of the episode to talk to Ryan; I knew something bad would come from that, but I was glad to see it happen.) I like that things happen; if they’re predictable, that just means that, perhaps, the show laid the groundwork for the events by putting conflicts into motion and hinting at problems in the ranks well before actually acting upon the tension.
It begs the question: if a twist is predictable, is it still a twist? If you expect a twist, but you get something that’s a little less traditional than the twist you expect, does that make it a victory? I suppose to me any surprise is a good one. Even if I expect something will happen, and something does happen that’s slightly different than the direction I figured the show was going, it’s a boon. Any trick, any clever idea, any little change in routine is a step forward for The Following, which will probably not be able to wring a second season out of the Cult storyline unless something major happens to prevent Joe Carroll’s book from having a downer ending.
Read Ron’s review of the previous episode, The Curse, here.
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