This review contains spoilers.
1.15 The Final Chapter
I didn’t watch The Killing, but apparently fans of the programme have said that the ending was less than satisfying. Too many loose ends, too much held over for the next season, too little resolution. The Following will not be having that problem, thanks to a satisfying, tense, and really well done final episode for the first season. Fittingly called The Final Chapter, the book is pretty effectively closed on the Joe Carroll saga while still having a cliffhanger leading into the second season.
For a show that has been pretty brainless throughout its run, it opened very strongly and it ended very strongly, suggesting that the initial ‘movie’ from writer/creator Kevin Williamson suffered from the process to extend it to a full season of television. Indeed, the opening was very good and the show kind of struggled to build from there until the past few episodes when the rising action toward the climax began to build. When things in Joe Carroll’s world started falling apart, The Following pulled together. It never quite became as good as I had hoped, or as good as the actors had hoped, but it certainly became something watchable.
That’s particularly true this week. Given that this is the end of the season, there’s no reason for The Following to hold anything back (even though it’s been approved for a second run). To that extent, the show really seemed to increase the pressure, add to the tension (particularly towards the end of the episode), and pile up the bodies like cordwood. There’s a certain brutality that comes out of the show in times of stress, and despite being on network television, it seems to revel in brutality. I believe I’ve figured out how The Following is able to do so many terrible things (especially this week) while not getting crushed by the censors. It shows stabbings and shootings and the like, but the real violence isn’t in the collapsible knife blade or the exploding squibs, it’s in the foley room. The sound effects, as best displayed by Joe stabbing some random boat captain to death in a lighthouse this week, are absolutely stomach-churning when seen alongside the actual killing. The squishy sound design is just brilliant.
If The Following ended with the closing title card on this season, it’d be… pretty satisfying, if weird. However, there’s going to be a second season, and while I have a pretty good idea of what that might be (they kind of hint at it with the end of this episode), I have to say that closing the book on frustrated author and Poe fanatic Joe Carroll might be the best thing for the show in the long run. It gets it closer to the dream version of The Following, which is Ryan Hardy and Mike Weston as a two-man anti-crime squad facing off against a host of anonymous, easy-to-kill-and-torture serial killers led by a shifting cadre of masterminds. Alternately, if that gets boring after what I can only assume will be a successful second season, ratings-wise, you have one agent turn on the other one and jump ship to the bad guys (not such a far off proposition when you consider how much of a loose cannon Ryan Hardy has been all season, what with the randomly breaking fingers and beating information out of suspects like Jack Bauer on a coke bender).
Really, if the show just wants to use its biggest strength and make it solely about Ryan Hardy and his curse, I’m all about that. Shawn Ashmore has been a fine partner for Bacon to play off, and the two work as a pretty good buddy cop pairing of wily veteran and the younger, inexperienced agent willing to learn at his feet. Call them Batman and Robin, except Batman is openly a vigilante and Robin is also crazy and dangerous rather than a pre-teen in tights.
The Following was sold with Joe Carroll being described as brilliant, charismatic, and psychotic, but that sounds a whole lot more like the show’s protagonist than its antagonist.
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