The Following rebounded with last week’s “Flesh & Blood” after two straight weeks of series-low viewer totals, which means that the dedicated are still tuning in.
For a show that used to pull in seven million viewers a week, though, only cracking four million once this season means there’s blood in the water. With no fourth season renewal, and the show being produced by Outer Banks Entertainment and Warner Brothers instead of by Fox itself (like Sleepy Hollow is), this could be the show’s final season.
This would be unfortunate because, though it’s been a slow transition, the show has its first legitimately frightening villain since first season’s Joe Carroll and Theo. (Sorry, Connie Nielsen and Sam Underwood. Lily, Mark and Luke Gray are a mere whisper in comparison to the thunderous roar that is Theo.) I hope this season comes to a satisfying end. That being said, let’s discuss “Kill The Messenger.”
When “Kill The Messenger” began with Ryan having another buddy cop dream wherein (again) Joe is his kill teacher, I groaned. The tactic has been overdone and annoying for weeks as it is. Whether or not Joe is nearing the execution date, these dreams aren’t clever ways to show Ryan’s progression or regression. They’re tricks to exploit the emotions of viewers, and lowbrow tricks at that.
Theo breaks into the offices of Strauss’ lawyer, the deceased Juliana Barnes, and cuts open all of the furniture to find a pocket notebook loaded with numbers. It appears to be coded information Strauss kept safe. Theo absconds to a house in New Jersey, a whole different identity actually, to further mess with Ryan and wreak havoc—and, seemingly, to recruit a student.
Tom and Mike have more awkward tension. Why must this continue? Why wouldn’t Tom confront Mike? The payoff can’t possibly be worth drawing it out for this long. Erin (played by Monique Curnen, best known as Agent Ramirez in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy) tells Mike that Mark had a laptop that wasn’t found at the crime scene. It seems, unfortunately, that Curnen’s only lines are plot-thickening and purely informational. She delivers information to characters that the writers, seemingly, aren’t savvy enough to work in organically.
The team talks about Theo’s aliases—he creates personas simply to kill, and stages them as murder-suicides—and realize that Sam Lewis was Theo’s one identity he had never killed in. Ryan also realizes that, when he was arrested earlier, it was because Theo had hacked into his personal information: he reported Ryan’s car as stolen, bought a motorboat in Utah with Ryan’s credit card, had surveillance on Ryan’s phone and manipulated the traffic lights around Ryan so he, Mike, and Max get into an accident.
Daisy turns up again as a cocktail waitress in a strip club. I’m glad Ruth Kearney is back. A lot of viewers didn’t like the Daisy-Kyle storyline, but I think Kearney has a nice charisma to her, and her return is welcomed.
As the court appointed attorney reads Joe the progression of the final 24 hours, Joe sees her newspaper with Theo’s face on it and recognizes Theo instantly. Theo was in Joe’s class at Winslow University and, after a lecture, Theo asked intriguing questions about Poe that rose Joe’s suspicions. It seems that in the present day, this flashback makes sense to Joe now. Joe’s final request is for his attorney to tell Ryan that Joe has information about Theo.
Daisy goes to a customer’s beach house, and when he gets too aggressive kissing her, Daisy stabs him. As she collects herself, Mark breaks through the glass from outside and chases her down, still limping from Mike’s gunshot wound. When Mark catches her, he says that he’s no longer Mark—that Mark drowned, and that now he’s Luke. After all of that, Daisy saves herself from death by tempting Luke with knowledge of how to get to Mike.
Of all of The Following’s ridiculousness throughout the seasons, this sequence might take the cake. The fact that Mark finds Daisy is ludicrous. I’m baffled as to what the writers were thinking. Did they think they could mush characters with unfinished business together and viewers would buy it, sans explanation?
For Mark, adopting the mentality of cold-blooded Luke, to not kill Daisy when she says she knows how to get to Mike is insane. Mark tracked Daisy across states, on essentially one leg! Even with the complete lack of logic that these scenes were written with, it’s clear that Mark-cum-Luke doesn’t need anyone’s help when it comes to tracking someone down. He has no reason to show Daisy mercy, here. It’s the nadir of unintentional comedy for The Following, one which made me irate. Here, I actually paused the show and took a lap around my house to cool down.
I like having Ruth Kearney back, and Sam Underwood is great playing deranged, but the ping-pong nature of the writers playing with Mark and Luke (“So who is he going to be this week, guys? No one knows? Alright, we’ll wing it.”) has been laughable. It’s a shame to see Underwood’s performances wasted.
Theo and his student are working to break Joe out of prison. Theo hacks into the prison’s security system, and the student ends up guarding Joe’s cell. Theo talks with Joe vicariously through the guard. Theo asks Joe for help—specifically, a code that Strauss used to keep information hidden. Joe kills the guard. Ryan visits Joe in prison, and nearly kills him when he mentions Gwen. James Purefoy is fantastic, as always, in the short time he has on screen here, and you know The Following is gearing up for a legendary Joe Carroll swan song.
When Max and Mike trace the laptop to the FBI building, Tom destroys the laptop before they can get a full read. I’m so glad this subplot is getting drawn out, the laptop and the infidelity. Someone confront someone already.
Ryan tearfully tells Gwen—who’d been breaking away earlier in the episode—that she’s the most important person in his life as she realizes she’s pregnant. It seems we can put to bed the suspicion that Gwen has ulterior motives, which is a relief.
Joe, lying in his cell bed, fashions the sunglasses he stole off the guard into a weapon. The scenes from next week seem to allude that Joe escapes his execution, which would be the new low point of implausibility for the show. I love Joe Carroll, he’s an outstanding character, really. But they must say goodbye.
“Kill The Messenger” is really just so-so, for me. The whole sequence with Mark/Luke catching Daisy still has me riled up. We’re nine episodes into a fifteen episode season, yet it feels like viewers are being led into a backloaded finale.
“Bear with us, the finale is going to be awesome,” should never be a method for a show like The Following, but it seems like—with the plot’s tone and the character development decisions—that’s what’s happening. I would start saying my goodbyes to Ryan, Joe and Co. The original novelty of the show has long faded, they haven’t been renewed yet, ratings and viewers are way down, and Fox isn’t a producer of the show. When The Following was successful, it was worth the hassle. It isn’t any longer.