The Following: Freedom Review

After a run of a few good episodes in a row, “Freedom” falls short of the newly-raised bar of the current season...

**This review contains spoilers**

With only four weeks left until The Following’s finale, viewers have to have hoped for a little more this week, given the way the plot has accelerated recently. Also, the overt “small detail” ridiculousness of The Following returns. I try to ignore these little things that probably don’t bother the average viewer, but they throw off my experience of the show.

However, upward and onward we go.

Freedom” begins with a blissfully happy Ryan and Carrie Cooke, tangled up in the sheets. For me, their relationship is one of convenience; I just don’t feel any chemistry between Kevin Bacon and Sprague Grayden. It could be just me, but I find their lack of dynamic to be alienating. I found Carrie to be rather annoying from the start, but that could be because (in the back of my mind, knowing this show) I didn’t believe Claire had really died.

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Claire continues to argue with the FBI, wanting to reveal herself to Ryan, while saying, “My son isn’t safe.” I understand that anyone in her position would say this; her bonkers ex-husband has done plenty to traumatize her for life, and then some, so I can buy that she’s always going to fear losing Joey. However, as I mentioned in a previous review, Joe hasn’t actually tried to get Joey back, nor do I believe he’s even mentioned him since Season 1. Joe wanting to get his son back was a huge part of Season 1, so I find the fact that he hasn’t tried to or even discussed getting Joey back a bit unbelievable. Claire’s worrying about Joey in witness protection—while believable on some level, due to the FBI’s unreliability in the world of The Following—feels more as if it’s for the audience than the characters on screen: the writers might as well be saying, “Hey people, remember that Joe Carroll has a son! We wrote him out of the plot for now, but a threat on his life means he can always come back in!”

In a show that is known in my house as “stabby”—yet another public killing orchestrated this week, as well as Ryan killing yet again—I don’t have any room to worry about a character, child or not, that hasn’t been on-screen in a year.

Emma and Joe are having disagreements over Mandy; Emma realizes that Joe is protecting her and tells him to stop coddling her. Mandy, hearing this, runs away, calling Mark from the car she’s hitched a ride with. She says that she found his number in the classifieds, which seems totally legitimate. I mean, there is no record of Mark’s existence anywhere in the world, no fingerprints on record, he’s completely eluded the FBI in terms of birth certificate, social security number, etc. but his phone number can be found by a teenage runaway in the classifieds.

Joe diverts Emma’s attention from Mandy’s possible loose cannon-ness, asking her to “convince” Robert (Shane McRae) that Joe’s preaching is for real. Emma seems to be becoming annoyed with Joe’s stalling—he is studying an evangelical leader played by Tom Cavanaugh in one scene, trying to become a more legitimate religious motivator—while she wants to formulate a plan. Emma’s “convincing” amounts to her hooking up with Robert, which seems like a good idea, taking into consideration Emma’s sterling romantic history. Joe admits that “Poe [is] never going to be the answer” and that attracting followers who are devout religiously will yield more effective results.

In other news, Lily Gray hires a team of hit men to break Luke out of the hospital (I want to reiterate that my mother finds this show to be “stabby” and “Freedom” is definitely not short on “stabbiness.”) Ryan catches Luke, but Ryan gets ambushed at gun point. Luke admonishes the quality of the help by saying, “These guys are hired killers”; he wants to clarify just how good these guys are. As Luke and the hit man (gun pressed against Ryan) try to escape, Ryan tells them there’s a three mile perimeter set up, and they’ll never get out. Ryan distracts the hit man, hits him, shoots and kills him, while Luke limp-runs to safety, clad in a baseball cap. There are so many problems here. One: why don’t they just kill Ryan here? They don’t need him anymore, given the disintegration of Lily and Joe’s relationship, so what do they stand to gain by letting him live? Two: how good can the hired help really be if he gets distracted by a simple question Ryan poses enough to be unarmed and killed in a matter of seconds? Three: the law enforcement officers of The Following are the absolute worst at routine work; Luke not only evades their “three mile perimeter” by donning a baseball hat, but he does it while half-limping away.

I understand that the average viewer is probably not bothered by these things, but these are details that kill me, make me uncomfortable to be watching, even. When you’re being pulled out of the environment of a show, and questioning the real-world reality of inane plot details, that’s a major issue in my book.

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The show ends with a bang, Claire appearing on Ryan’s doorstep. Unfortunately it’s a huge plot point that’s buried by the rest of the episode’s mediocrity. “Freedom” may serve as a pin to be knocked down by the finale, but everyone knows how boring watching the pins being set up can be. Let’s hope for a better one next week.

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2.5 out of 5