The Following finale, “Forgive,” begins with Joe shooting Preston Tanner, a character rendered completely needless by a father who has committed suicide, which negated the whole purpose of this subplot.
While Joe keeps Mike at gunpoint, Ryan calls Claire and Luke picks up. Twins Mark and Luke take Claire to a mansion that their mother owned. The writers don’t care to explain how the twins found Claire. Not addressing this—seeing as Claire and Joe are the only two people alive who would understand the reference—makes it difficult to even care what happens. A glaring plot hole (one which a finale hinges on) shouldn’t stay unaddressed as a season comes to a close, with no reasoning for the lack of resolution.
Why should viewers care about Claire, at this point? Ryan was dating Carrie (a relationship which vanished as quietly as any TV romance in memory), Joey was off-screen in witness protection all season, and Joe ordered a hit on Claire last season. Claire being brought back this season was pointless. As I said before, Claire was worth more to The Following dead than alive. Her survival is an unnecessary and groan-inducing complication.
Inside the church, Ryan disarms the bombs and tells Max that the FBI can enter. Predictably, the only phones that appear this episode are Windows phones. I’ve never seen such shameless advertising plugs written into the very plot of the show. It probably doesn’t bother viewers, but the media studies student in me always groans.
The fact that the FBI is watching the “Live-Streaming” video being filmed by Joe’s follower inside the church—which we’ve already established is “Live-Streaming” to nowhere—cowering in an armored truck outside, is laughable. Even the most basic elements of logic are ignored in The Following.
When Ryan reveals himself to Joe, he tells Joe that Claire is being held hostage by the twins. Ryan hopes that they will save Claire together, which is ludicrous when you think about it. Joe, Ryan, and Mike leave through a secret back exit as the FBI breaks in and slaughters Joe’s followers—a whole group of characters who were essentially just pawns for the writers to move around.
Ryan, though he no longer works for the FBI (and a few episodes ago had federal charges against him, which have disappeared by season’s end, of course), has access to an FBI cruiser. Mike and Max follow, minutes behind, in their own. As Joe rides in the backseat, he tells Ryan how he wants his name to live on forever. It’s a shameless rip off of Se7en’s best scene: Kevin Spacey’s character, through the wires of the police cruiser, telling Brad Pitt’s and Morgan Freeman’s characters that after his biblical murders are finished, his name will live on in infamy. The best part about The Following’s scene is that the movie it alludes to is awesome.
Ryan’s cruiser is rammed by a follower of Joe’s. Joe takes the follower’s gun, aims at Ryan, but shoots the follower instead. This scene is proof that the writers will throw whatever they feel will surprise viewers into the plot. In a well-written show, these sorts of blindsiding, plot-twist moments are brush strokes in a larger, series-spanning portrait. In The Following, the writers just splash paint on a canvas.
Ryan and Joe arrive at the mansion together. As Joe and Ryan walk into the twins’ research room, Luke asserts that they’ve planned every detail of the season’s events, minutes before gassing Ryan, Mike, and Claire. So, they planned for Luke to get shot and beaten nearly to death by Mike? They planned for their Mom to die? They somehow knew that Claire had survived and had been biding her time in Witness Protection for a year? In a series high on ridiculousness and low on believability, and in a season loaded with plot holes and unintentionally hilarious writing, this—above all else—was the worst of all.
Ryan, Joe, and Claire wake up bound to chairs. When Luke tells Joe that Emma was killed by Claire, Joe looks at Claire as if he can’t believe why she would have done such a thing. Knowing all of the things Emma did to Claire, Joe’s lack of comprehension over why Claire would kill Emma seems crazy, even for him. Meanwhile, Max and Ryan show up at the mansion as the twins torture Ryan, Joe, and Claire. The way that Sam Underwood is filmed in this scene is a redeeming factor of “Forgive”; the quick cuts at deft camera angles are impressive, and Underwood gives his finest unhinged performance.
Joe tells the twins, in a scene with Bacon at his best, how Ryan hunted down and killed his father’s murderer. The twins then respect Ryan. They admit to let him go seconds before Mike and Max fill the room with gunfire. Joe breaks free with a knife he commandeered, Mark runs out of the room, Luke gets shot yet again, and lives (of course), and Claire escapes. Mike and Max are accurate enough to miss Ryan, but are such terrible shots that they only land one bullet, a non-fatal shoulder wound on the apparently superhuman Luke.
Wounded, Luke takes Claire downstairs into a secret passageway. Claire, who was weak and verging on collapse a scene earlier, suddenly rallies and kicks Luke off his feet. Did Claire, a former English professor, become such an accomplished fighter in her year of Witness Protection that she can now thwart world-renowned killers such as Emma and Luke with ease?
Mike catches Mark and tells him that he killed the twins’ mother and not Ryan, as they previously thought. When Luke approaches Mike, Max shoots and finally kills Luke. If Luke somehow survives, I give up on TV dramas altogether.
Joe accosts Claire, staying around—when he should be escaping—to smell his ex-wife, whom he ordered a hit on a year ago. Ryan intervenes, beating Joe into submission. Mike, Max, and Ryan all have guns aimed at Joe, but no one shoots. Instead, Ryan asks Max to call the FBI to take Joe to prison. Sure. After disobeying the FBI at every turn, after Joe has broken out of jail twice, Ryan finally can kill Joe, and he instead leaves Joe’s fate to the faulty prison system of The Following? While Season 2 was originally about Ryan moving on, that theme was undermined by episode two; after all that’s happened, Ryan suddenly moving on, and inexplicably trusting the FBI to keep Joe in chains makes no logical sense.
Joe heads back to prison, telling Ryan to visit him. Ryan says that he won’t and plans to make a new life for himself. Mark escapes with the corpse of his brother, getting into a car at the end of the episode, with an off-screen driver.
Claire assures Ryan that he did the right thing by sending Joe to prison, even though only episodes ago she said that Joe needed to die before she’d ever feel safe again. Claire then rejects Ryan’s romantic advance. In Claire’s final moments this season, we see how truly useless her character was in Season 2. If she’s okay with Joe being imprisoned and alive, she doesn’t want Ryan back, and she feels her son is safe with Joe in prison again, then why didn’t she stay in Witness Protection? Her beliefs here reveal that her character lacks credible motivation, undoing those exact (already) loose-threaded ones she had earlier this season.
Mike and Max finally kiss. At this pace, they’ll be married by the 22nd century.
Ryan arrives home to an empty house and has a dream where Mark puts Luke’s bloody corpse in his bed. Ryan wakes up, realizing he’s okay. Seeing as Mark escaped, Ryan should have an entire fleet of security at his apartment—given how, at the end of Season 1, Ryan and Claire were stabbed upon arriving home. Then again, we obviously need a set-up for Season 3’s enemy.
There it is, folks. Season 2, in the books. For me, The Following is a show that has undone all of its original promise. It’s unfortunate to see the talents of Bacon, Ashmore, Purefoy, Underwood, and Stroup squandered on this semi-soap opera. Seeing the direction they’re headed for in Season 3, I’m not even sure I’ll watch it.
Edgar Allan Poe, the mad poet whom Carroll was originally inspired by, famously said, “Believe only half of what you see and nothing that you hear.” Unfortunately, in regards to The Following, not even those proportions will do.