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.
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