The Following season 2 episode 4: Family Affair

The Following messes with TV convention, asks its audience to identify with terrible people, and is all the more fun for it...

This review contains spoilers.

2.4 Family Affair

I wish I could figure out who does the sound design for The Following, because they deserve some special recognition. One of the keys to making any show work is how well it sounds. If you can’t hear the dialogue that’s one thing. In The Following, the dialogue isn’t as important as the violence, and this is a show that knows how to get the most out of the sounds of violence on screen. You can have all the bright red blood and collapsible knives you can find in the props department, and if the sound doesn’t work, then there’s something missing.

More than any other show on network television, The Following knows how to make violence sound horrible. In fact, I’d probably put it just behind The Walking Dead in terms of the show’s ability to communicate terrible things through the magic of the sound stage. That’s high praise considering just how good The Walking Dead can be at its most horrifying and considering The Following is as much police procedural as it is slasher horror television show.

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There were two really stand-out sounds during Family Affair, and not surprisingly they were central to the best plot of the night, the episode’s B plot. Gillian (Camille De Pazzis) has been sent into the city by Lily to eliminate one of the hanging threads of her old life, her gallery partner David (James McCaffery). The first great/horrible noise of the night is the sound made by David after Gillian forces him to the ground and wraps a garrotte around his neck to snuff out his candle. The second comes much later in that plot line, when there’s a brief but impressively violent scuffle between Gillian and Ryan Hardy in which he proves that chivalry might not be dead, but that also doesn’t mean you can’t punch a murderer square in the face and break her nose.

Cue another discussion of a thing I really like about The Following: it’s not a respectful show by any means. You’re expected to care about a bunch of serial killers (and the show has been setting up the idea that Emma and Joe are less… bad than the new crop of Follower wannabes). That’s a tough thing to get audiences to buy into. However, there’s another aspect: Ryan Hardy isn’t so much an antihero as he is a guy who could not care less about those around him. Sure, he cares about his niece, and he must like Mike okay, but other than that? Ryan Hardy is a madman, and the show has a lot of fun with that.

Where else but on The Following are you going to see the hero straight-up punch a woman in the face? Usually during any movie, you’ll see the token female henchman for the heroine to fight, because the good guy doesn’t hit women even when they’re serial killers. I love that this show takes all the usual conventions of television behaviour and arbitrarily decides whether to follow them (the FBI is incompetent) or not follow them (Ryan breaks a girl’s nose; Joe may or may not be a hero this time around; Emma was our major love story in the first season).

The fight scenes are also pretty good, courtesy of director Marcos Siega, and there’s a lot of tension generated by the way Max stalks Gillian (and Gillian stalks David earlier on). There’s not a lot of flash to his style, but it’s effective for the show, and has done a lot to establish the program’s style while not detracting from the general craziness of its violence and writing. Sometimes you just have to get out of the way and let Kevin Bacon make jokes while murdering people.

This week’s script from Brett Mahoney was a pretty solid one as far as The Following goes. There was a neat twist when the woman imperiled by Joe and Mandy turned out to be one of Joe’s apparently numerous Follower implants pretending to live a normal suburban life while just waiting to be activated like a Poe-loving sleeper cell that I didn’t expect; ditto the fact that Ryan actually was taken into custody by the FBI, even if he was eventually let go. Ryan’s typically blasé attitude about his questioning, being tailed, and pretty much everything not directly related to the cult resulted in some very funny lines, particularly when Ryan praises his “secret” FBI followers about the quality of their shoes.

I have to admit that I’m really enjoying this season of The Following, especially since the object of obsession isn’t Poe, but Joe. The more the show messes with convention and tries to make me identify with terrible people, the more I enjoy myself. Maybe I’m liking it for the wrong reasons, but at least I’m enjoying myself. Give me more snark, more blood, and more crazy twists, The Following. Keep feeding me that TV junk food and I’ll keep cleaning my trough and asking for more.

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Read Ron’s review of the previous episode, Trust Me, here.

US Correspondent Ron Hogan hopes that Joe keeps that epic beard all season, if only because Joe Carroll is a good member of the bearded brotherhood. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.

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