This review contains spoilers.
1.6 The Fall
The story of The Following thus far has been one of squandered potential. After a pretty good pilot that set a lot of interesting things into motion, the show hasn’t really followed up on that in any really satisfactory way. However, this week, everything seemed to click into place for the programme. Indeed, this might be the best episode since the season opener. That may or may not be high praise depending on what you feel about the show, but I’m still kind of on board with it, and this week was a really good continuation of last week’s instalment.
Kevin Bacon is brilliant. Nowhere is this brilliance more obvious than on this particular programme. Bacon isn’t given the best stuff to do week in and week out, but he always sells what he’s given to the best of his considerable abilities, and he’s kept the show watchable without a whole lot of help from those around him. However, when you give Bacon stuff to work with, he really shines, and this week he was given some awesome stuff to work with from writer Shintaro Shimosawa. Ryan Hardy is, in turns, funny, sarcastic, clever, manipulative, heroic, villainous, and menacing.
Of particular note is a scene early on in the episode; Paul has a gun on him, and Paul orders Jacob to tie Ryan up. Ryan turns to him and announces, quite coolly, that if he gets within two feet of him, Ryan will break his neck and shatter his spine. Threats of being shot by Paul are coolly dismissed with a repeated, “But his spine will be cracked.” It works for two reasons: it’s funny and it’s sold well. Kevin Bacon is so good at being threatening without being overt, and Ryan’s slight smile here really communicates that he wouldn’t mind being shot if it gives him the chance to mangle someone with his bare hands.
The fact that the show’s strongest actor was paired with its strongest storyline (the Emma/Paul/Jacob love triangle/power struggle) made for some very good television. The tension of the scene, with cops all around them but not quite all around them, the race between various support groups for both good guys and bad guys to arrive first and shift the balance of power… it all works really well, as does the power between the three kidnappers being upset by external forces after (seemingly) coming to a happy arrangement a few episodes ago, only to have it all subverted by Ryan the FBI agent of chaos.
I do like the dissent amongst the ranks teased throughout this episode, either planted by Ryan or simply revealed by him; I also really like where this episode seems to be going with the Emma/Jacob/Paul trio. Together they’re interesting, but only if they’re not all on the same page. I like the friction between them, the uneasy alliances forged by Joe as part of his master plan and the potential that their emerging personalities might just shatter the whole thing before Ryan can thwart him. That’s pretty cool.
However, the Claire Matthews angle and the bits with Agent Parker exploring her cult past didn’t quite work for me. I don’t particularly care about Charlie (well-played by Tom Lipinski) and his stalker relationship with Claire, nor do I care about Parker’s past as a member of a cult in the middle of nowhere, Iowa, or her conflicted relationship with her mother and father. It seemed like filler to me, though Parker’s scenes in the FBI van were pretty good, as were her exchanges with Emma where the two of them seemed to try to out-stall one another at cross purposes. I just don’t really care that much about Claire as anything other than Ryan’s love interest, and I’m not a huge fan of the cult-member-turned-anti-cult-crusader story angle (as previously seen for a period on Big Love).
The episode was a little uneven, but the good elements were enough to carry the day. I am afraid that the upcoming Roderick reveal (not teased this episode, but it’s coming) may be something I won’t like that I won’t spell out here for fear of speculating above my pay grade, but if they keep feeding Kevin Bacon episodes like this one and continue to twist the kidnapper trio around in creative ways, I’ll keep watching the show.
Read Ron’s review of the previous episode, The Siege, here.
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