As a medium of story telling, television has a luxury that motion pictures do not share: Time. Unlike films that tend to be no longer than three hours out of fear of the audience having their backsides go numb, television shows, in the hour format, tend to have 13 to 14 episodes, or hours, to tell their tale. Having this opportunity means that television shows should have more of an emphasis on character and character development. With so much time to spare, a show can build lively, layered and complex characters in ways that motion pictures cannot. TV shows can also give individual characters satisfying arcs, stories that do not serve as the main focus or plot, but add to the big picture.
This is what I love about television, the emphasis on character, but this is what The Following fails most at. Content to shock and awe with abundant gore, The Following relies more heavily on their kills and thrills than they do on their characters. Using the horrendous flashback format that the writers continue to embrace, despite it wearing thin on many viewers’ patience, The Following likes to pretend that they are giving their audience more insight into the pasts of their main characters, but these flashbacks consistently prove to be unnecessary, only further solidifying facts that have already previously been presented in dialogue or could have been inferred using regular common sense.
For instance, this week’s flashbacks focus on the romantic history of Ryan Hardy. When Hardy rescues Claire from an ambush on her hotel with ease (we’ll get to that later, don’t you worry), Hardy guides Claire to the secluded home of former agent and buddy Tyson, portrayed by David Zayas of Dexter fame. It’s interesting that a member of the Dexter cast would join this show after we’ve made comparisons between the two shows’ violent and morally grey antiheroes, and concluded that Dexter does a better job of presenting disturbing material alongside quirk and charm. Anyway, while Tyson and Hardy wrack their brains trying to protect against an ensuing attack, Claire prods Tyson for information about he and Hardy’s friendship and Hardy’s dating history. First, there comes a flashback of Tyson and Hardy just hanging out, and Tyson tells Hardy he shouldn’t write his Carroll book. I guess the moment adds some context to their relationship, but do we really need the flashback to say, “Oh, look, they used to hang out! Now I REALLY can believe that they are friends!” Then we move on to the relationship drama.
Tyson quickly tells Claire that there were others, but none more serious than her. To coincide with the ridiculous timing of Claire’s personal questions (Is this really the best time? Is this really what she would be worried about? Not her son? No? Oh, ok then), the show cuts to an even more ridiculous flashback of Hardy on a date at Tyson’s home. It’s quick, sure, but do we really need to see it? I guess in this case we do, because the girl in the flashback, Molly, ends up as a follower. Why is this significant? Who knows, maybe we will find out, but you can never be too sure on this show. After the flashback cut, Hardy and Claire have a conversation about why they shouldn’t be together, with Claire steadfastly fighting for Hardy to return as her lover. It’s a real shot at trying to pin down the complicated relationship between these two, but once again, the timing feels absolutely wrong. There are ex-army operatives coming to kidnap you!
About the ex-army operatives…if these guys are so scary and impressive, why does Hardy best them at the hotel so easily? The mere thought of these dangerous followers coming for Claire has everyone in the FBI about to crap their pants, but not Hardy (even though he should be scared, he fails 90% of the time). When the gunmen come to the room, how does Hardy trick them? He goes out the backdoor. Creative stuff. Then, when he’s confronted in the parking lot by a follower who grabs ahold of Claire, Hardy just says, “You wont shoot her,” then pops some rounds in his chest and simply drives away. For army operatives, this kidnap attempt seemed pretty amateur, despite the Uzis and bulletproof vests. Later, when they return at Tyson’s cabin, they really don’t have to be all that great, because Claire simply just walks right to their car and voluntarily goes with them. To have the whole episode be about protecting Claire from being kidnapped, just to have her willingly go with her kidnappers, it just feels like a “what’s the point?” moment.
Speaking of “what’s the point?,” Jacob is back this week living it up at the Hotel Carroll-fornia. We find him lying in bed when he sees Paul coming out of the bathroom, urging him to wake up. Wait, I thought Paul was dead…? Yeah, he is, Jacob is just seeing dead people. As if we need more television character’s envisioning their dead lovers (*cough cough* Walking Dead *cough*), Jacob spends the entire episode wigging out, seeing Paul everywhere accompanied by some violent images of a dead Emma. Obviously Jacob is still scorned by being abandoned by his supposed girl friend, and crazy pants Emma doesn’t make matters better by claiming she loves Jacob while having affairs with Joe, like some insane contestant on the Bachelorette. By the end of the episode Ghost Paul convinces Jacob that, hey, maybe he should kill Emma. Then, crazy-eyed Jacob proceeds to walk right up to Emma and basically tell her: “Hey, I’m probably going to kill you, heads up.” No doubt she won’t see it coming! He’s a cunning one.
With only five episodes left, and with Joe Carroll currently having his family in captivity, the show will most definitely be moving into some sort of endgame here shortly. Don’t get too excited though, if it’s anything like the rest of the series, prepare to be disappointed.