This review contain spoilers.
The Following seems bound and determined to kill everyone they’ve introduced this season, one at a time, throughout the course of an entire season. To the best of my knowledge, a major character (or at least a potential major character) has died in just about every episode. If someone gets a name and a personality, they’re probably going to get killed. (Even if they don’t, they’ll still get killed; just ask this week’s hapless church janitor.)
As The Following inches closer and closer to its season finale, the show has decided to really throw itself into overdrive and bring out all the twists and turns that have been building up. Kingston Tanner, homemade bombs, Claire’s teargas grenade, a church invasion, streaming video, and all kinds of other fun craziness comes together in a big, delicious Following stew served in a big crazy bowl from a waiter wearing a Joe Carroll mask. If you want Mike and Ryan skulking through a church, you got it. If you want Claire skulking through a shuttered inn while Robert and Emma skulk after her, you got it. If you want more Joe speeches, you’re definitely getting them.
Joe’s big plan is unfolding. He’s got 40 or so followers in the wild, accomplishing various things, and while Emma and Robert are off picking up Claire (who has tipped Joe off to her existence and thus gotten herself into serious harm’s way because Emma), Joe and company are looking to bring record online viewers by live-streaming an invasion at a local Catholic Church while bringing along Protestant minister Kingston Tanner and his son Preston for a little lesson in Martyrdom. While Joe and company are setting up explosives and tripwires and whatnot, Ryan and Mike sneak into the church in an attempt to save the lives of Kingston, Preston, and 100 or so other people who just so happen to be trapped in the pews by Joe and the Carrollers.
This is definitely the Joe show this season, and James Purefoy is really eating up Scott Reynolds’s campy dialogue like so much corn. He seems to take particular pleasure in Joe’s crazier dialogue moments, particularly Joe’s confrontation with the Tanners in the middle of the church. It’s deliberately campy, and Purefoy seizes it for all its worth. However, it’s a straighter moment that really got to me this week. Joe tells Emma that she’s his one-and-only, the woman behind the man, and that he’s no longer interested in Claire as anything other than a means to an end regarding Ryan Hardy. Emma hugs him and Joe hugs her back, but while she buys his lines, the expression on Joe’s face suggests that it’s the biggest con Joe’s pulled so far. That’s a really clever moment in the relationship between the two, which has apparently been one-sided all along, and it provides a little bit of sympathy for Emma and a little extra glimmer of evil for Joe (as if he needed it).
Director Steve Shill does a good job with this scene, because it’s a pretty unambiguous expression that gets undercut with a nice little musical cue to make Joe look that much more evil. The more action-oriented scenes, like when the Followers roll into the church in a pack and casually fan out to cover all possible exits, are done really well, and the Claire/Emma/Robert sequence is one of the better ones the show has put on this year, if only because Claire gets to not be the victim for once. Even the inevitable lurching return of the thought-dead killer was handled well, if only because it’s a door firmly closed by the end of the scene. That’s another bonus: there’s a definite death, and it makes up for the cliffhanger at the end of the episode where Shill dusts off the Sopranos ending fade-to-black with an ominous, echoing gunshot.
It seems like there aren’t many taboos that The Following won’t play with, and that’s a credit to the show. It seems to have embraced its crazy B-movie premise fully, and if that means forcing a guy to cut his own throat in front of an altar while Kevin Bacon glowers, so much the better. When everyone’s a murderer and everyone’s a danger to himself and others, you’ve got yourself a recipe for a pretty good show. If you’re willing to kill all those folks off, so much the better. The Following is running through Followers like nobody’s business; fortunately there are still a few left for Kevin Bacon to pick off next week.
US Correspondent Ron Hogan would rate the second season of The Following as better than the first. Even though the second season is yet to be finished, the preview for the next episode looks like it is going to be a corker. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.
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