The Following: Family Affair review

The Following brings in some Manson-esque imagery in "Family Affair" but also requires some leaps in logic. Here's Dan's review...

I have to admit, I had high hopes for this episode of The Following after last week’s thrilling leap forward. “Family Affair” is flat, but that could be my fault for expecting more than I should have.

“Family Affair” begins with Joe and Mandy driving to meet a woman named Jana, played by Leslie Bibb (Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby) in a really interesting role for her; she’s usually confined to static characters in movies like Iron Man 2, A Good Old Fashioned Orgy, and Movie 43. The house Jana lives in is expansive, with Bibb doing a perfect luxurious stay-at-home-mom. When Joe cradles Jana’s infant child, we think: He can’t kill a child, can he? Jana’s perfect pampered life is ripe for bursting, but as she threatens Joe with a knife, she realizes who it is and leaps into his arms. Later on, she turns out to be a divorcee of an important character (which, let’s be honest, is cool, but a little too convenient).

Though it’s unbelievable how well-connected Joe—a brutal mass murderer—is, it makes for suspenseful TV. I can’t help but be a little tired of how Joe has endless failsafe plans put in place, always with a back-up tech-savvy, well-connected genius when the current plan fails. Some viewers may say that’s what makes Joe Carroll such a legendary character; I say it’s become unrealistic.

Ryan and Max continue to work together, trying to stay ahead of the FBI. Eventually, Shawn Ashmore’s Mike meets/threatens Jessica Stroup’s Max, and they have visible on-screen chemistry. With the animosity between Mike and Ryan growing with each episode, a romance between Mike and Max would throw a nice curveball into this season (not that a romance between the two seems likely right now).

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The FBI investigates Lily Gray and comes up with some startling facts: she was orphaned at a young age (father killed mother, then committed suicide) and was taken in by a wealthy businessman. When he died, she inherited everything, totaling $1.4 billion. The FBI gleans that one of Lily’s maids died giving birth to twins Mark and Luke, and Lily raised them as her own (they have no official documentation after their births, on record).

It’s not the amount of money that Lily is worth that raises a flag; a billion dollars isn’t such an outlandish number these days. What’s crazy is the FBI just learning the things they do about Lily in this episode. If they’re really just learning this stuff, the writers of The Following are shackling their FBI with the same God-awful type of work they did in the first season. If these revelations are simply for narrative exposition and character development for the audience, then it’s poor writing. Joseph Heller would be all over this Catch-22.

That being said, Connie Nielsen’s work as Lily is marvelous. Her character’s revelation last episode makes her muted performance earlier this season, body language and all, all the more impressive. Lily, the twins, Emma and everyone else run off to a mansion/safe house—with the exception of French hit woman Gisele (a talented Camille De Pazzis finally taking center stage this week, and eating it up) who has a loose end to tie up. Nielsen creates a Charles Manson-like atmosphere with her makeshift “family” living under one roof, but her scenes with Valorie Curry’s Emma this week are great. Emma also reunites with Joe in “Family Affair” and Curry gets the chance to display some real emotion for the first time this season.

Finally, Ryan gets arrested, overstepping his boundary one too many times. Real-world logic intervenes in The Following! Unfortunately, they let him go a scene later, claiming that he’s “more valuable” if they simply tail him. Really? Ryan is more gun-happy than Dick Cheney circa 2006. If the average person pulls a gun out anywhere, let alone in the middle of Manhattan, they’re doing jail time. But somehow, Ryan—a criminal justice professor, mind you, and not an agent—does it all the time and he’s bulletproof? He’s guilty of obstruction of justice at least once an episode, but they let him keep at it…why? How is a teacher allowed to do all of these illegal things, putting a multiple-homicide investigation at risk? Ryan identifies himself to a crowd in Grand Central as a federal agent amid a chase this week; is it to show how delusional he is, or reveal his insatiable desire to catch Joe once and for all? Either way, you wouldn’t let a retired doctor, with a career’s worth of highly publicized trauma on his resume, just walk into an OR, scalpel in hand. So why is this okay for Ryan?

Also, for someone who seems to never be teaching, he can afford a pretty sweet Manhattan apartment.

Watching the teaser trailer for next week’s episode, I perked up. The roller coaster of events set to occur in the next few weeks look dazzling. Unfortunately, that’s when I realized that this is how The Following works: despite the quality of the episodes—good or bad—it’s the simply brilliant trailers that keep me coming back more than anything else. Sure, the overall result is satisfying, but in some ways, I’m beginning to feel tugged along.

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2 out of 5