This review contains spoilers.
1.14 The End Is Near
The Following seems to have blown all its lighting budget on collapsible knives and corn syrup blood instead of investing in ways to shoot outdoor scenes at night without losing the entire scene to murky nothingness. A chase through the woods is all noise and occasional flashes of shadows moving across less shadowy places, and it’s not the effective sort of noise that we got at the end of the episode over the ending title card. In some scenes, such as this week’s big, confusing cultists versus townspeople orgy of violence, it makes sense for the show to go dark in the literal sense; there are only so many stabbings and guttings and shootings you can show to America, even on the Fox Network.
I understand that taking light away can create tension where there is none, even if nothing happens except Kevin Bacon tripping over an ottoman, but when you’ve got stuff that’s already fairly tense—searching room to room for a hive of killers, for example—you don’t need to resort to cheap tension so much. It’s a technique that can work, but if it’s overused (like it is on this show), it becomes tedious. Joshua Butler, this week’s director, ends up going back to the darkness multiple times. Sometimes, it works great; other times, it’s just kind of annoying that we can’t see what’s going on.
However, when we can see what’s going on, I kind of like how the show is playing out the Joe Carroll string. James Purefoy hasn’t had a lot to do with his character, but this week seems to be Joe’s best episode since the opener, if only because he’s been doing a lot of character work all season long that seems to be finally paying off. The more Joe’s plan unravels, the more dangerous Joe becomes, but not necessarily to Ryan. Mostly, Joe’s becoming dangerous to himself, thanks to his increased drinking, his gobbling of pain pills, and the massive open wound on his side that gives all his button-down shirts a telltale stigmata.
Joe still isn’t much of a compelling cult leader, even when he’s rallying his troops for a big cult event via goofy prayer/chanting. However, as a completely unhinged failure, he’s a lot more entertaining. Watching Joe try to keep his cool as he keeps screwing up scheme after scheme is actually pretty fun, and it gives Purefoy something to sink his teeth into as Joe becomes less confident and cool and more desperate and twitchy. I wouldn’t say that the show is finding the character, but I would say that the character is sinking to the level of the writing in a sense. The Following uses a ton of cliches, and as Joe’s facade is intentionally cracked, his cheesiness makes more sense as he’s just frantically trying to cling to the shreds of his broken empire.
That’s what is so curious about The Following getting picked up for a second season. With the way the Followers seem to be dying off and with the way the FBI seems to be finally closing in on Joe, I’m not sure how they’re going to get a second season out of the programme. If they hadn’t blown through all their ideas about Joe escaping and having his cult and all that stuff this season, then they could have saved some of it for next year. As it is, they must have some kind of idea for next season, perhaps based around the few of Joe’s followers that haven’t died, or… who knows, really. Maybe Ryan joins the FBI again as part of an anti-cult task force?
There are two episodes left, and it doesn’t seem like Joe’s going to make a getaway if things continue to go the way they area. In fact, I’m not sure he should make a getaway; he had all the technology and manpower he could want at his disposal, and he wastes it kidnapping his ex-wife and picking on Kevin Bacon and writing a terrible book. There may be a lot of bad blood between Hardy and Carroll, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say the two are an even match. Thankfully for Joe, the average FBI agent is as incompetent as he is, so that makes the clashes between cult and cop more even.
Maybe next season one of Joe’s more intelligent acolytes—perhaps the mysterious Alex or whatever his name is that the show introduced this week out of nowhere as the Roderick replacement—might be a fitting replacement for the mad associate professor of Stab University.
Read Ron’s review of the previous episode, Havenport, here.
US Correspondent Ron Hogan likes the idea of Joe being a big failure as a cult leader and as a serial killer, rather than the idea of Joe the beloved mastermind. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.
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