This review contains spoilers.
1.9 Love Hurts
There’s a certain kind of casual violence that has infected The Following that I’m not sure about. In certain situations, like tonight’s harpoon gun incident or when Ryan randomly guns down Joe’s cultists, it’s borderline funny. For instance, tonight Ryan shot Louise – she’s the blonde woman who gutted a random security guard a few episodes ago – in mid sentence without even blinking. I’d say that’s a spoiler, but nobody really cares about Louise and she’s basically another random cultie there to take a bullet for Joe. In other circumstances, the random violence is kind of disturbing, such as when one of many women named Claire Matthews dies via defenestration or when random helpful strangers are gutted.
That’s this week’s scheme du jour. In order to keep the FBI running and draw out the real Claire Matthews, one of Joe’s brilliant followers, Amanda (Marin Ireland) has decided that love hurts. Her husband cheated on her, so she killed him and the mistress. Since Joe’s wife cheated on him with Ryan, well… the natural response is to bring Joe and his wife back together by killing every other Claire Matthews she can find until real Claire comes out of hiding and the Followers can scoop her up. If that makes Ryan Hardy suffer, so much the better.
Any excuse for violence from screenwriters Nora Kay Foster and Adam Armus, who seem to have turned the show into what is simultaneously a commentary and a big joke. Of course, violence is a risk pretty much anywhere you go in the world at large, and to see that kind of random pointless death on television is off-putting at best. Perhaps that’s the whole point, but I think that The Following is a show that glorifies murder a bit too much to be making a salient point about the random nature of violence and more a show that just loves to randomly shock viewers by killing throwaways. (Though that can be very fun.)
The followers have proven themselves to be the most interesting character group on the show. While most of them are pretty much stock cult archetypes or wannabes, the whole vibe of the murder plantation is a boon for The Following. I like those scenes much more than, say, scenes of the monitor-lit FBI office. There’s an unpredictability there; while most of the folks are milling around and having cocktail hour, Emma seems like she’s willing to kill anyone there who isn’t Joe, and during her confrontations with Roderick this week, I really expected her to take a knife to his belly just out of sheer spite.
That might be a great idea for shaking things up next season. Joe is the figurehead of the group, the one who leads the unholy creative writing circles, but Roderick is the man with the ability to make Joe’s desires happen. Roderick is the one who controlled the group during Joe’s time in prison, who seemingly put together Joe Carroll’s Joestown. Would the group function without him, or would it splinter? The killers are a more interesting group than the FBI agents, Hardy aside, and it might be fun to watch them slowly turn on each other while the FBI picks them off, one by one. Could a show about serial killer cultists fly without a focus on Hardy? Isn’t Hardy basically a serial killer himself at this point, given his incredible body count?
Kevin Bacon remains great on the show, and if The Following continues to head down the black comedy route of having Bacon shoot folks mid-sentence and cracking wise, then I think maybe they can turn the series around in the eyes of the critics. (It’s already a big hit for Fox in the ratings.) At the very least, dropping or minimizing the FBI drama while emphasizing Kevin Bacon shooting people and the cultists fighting amongst themselves would make for a better programme.
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