This review contains spoilers.
2.6 Fly Away
If I had to make a bet, I would say that on The Following there will not be an unperforated torso by the end of the season. Ryan is nursing a gunshot wound, and yet despite that, he still manages to gut someone with a fold-out tactical knife. Several of Lily’s “International House of Psychos” family members get their torsos mangled this week, some courtesy of Joe, some courtesy of Ryan, and some courtesy of Mike (who was stabbed in the first season, checking him off the gut wound list). You’ve got so many knives and guns and surprisingly sharp fireplace pokers getting rammed into people or waved at people in a threatening manner that it’s kind of difficult to keep track, and I mean that in the best way possible.
The Following was one of the most violent shows on television in its first season, and its second season has merely upped the violence ante to an impressive degree. It’s not enough to have someone get stabbed, they have to be impaled with a fireplace poker and left to slowly bleed to death while being threatened with a gun by Ryan (who promptly leaves the wounded Family member to die in exchange for her cooperation with his investigation, but not before he hops over her prone body in a really funny way). It’s not enough for Mike to shoot Luke (the American Psycho murder twin) a couple of times; Luke has to lurch back to life, fight with Mike, and get his face turned into putty for his troubles by a rageahol-addicted FBI agent who has taken the lesson of Ryan Hardy to heart when it comes to interrogating suspects. Toss in a very impressive Mexican stand-off in which some random innocent person gets his kidneys perforated by Lilly, and you’ve got yourself a top notch episode of The Following.
Given that The Following is a network show, the fact that it is so incredibly, graphically violent is kind of impressive. It’s not like Hershel Gordon Lewis-violent, but it’s bloody just the same. For example, when Mike has Luke down and is pummelling him, you expect a little blood from his nose, but not blood to the degree in which we got it—Luke ended up looking like a bag of raw hamburger while Mike was splattered with blood not his own. Radmila (Rita Markova) doesn’t just have a little blood on her shirt after she gets stabbed, she looks like someone overturned a bucket of red paint on her torso. I’m shocked Fox would let them go there in the first place, let alone revel in the glorious corn syrup. Also, the show isn’t shy about telling the audience that Luke was having sex with Giselle’s corpse before Mark interrupted, which… yeah, yuck city.
It’s a credit to this episode’s writer, Dewayne Darian Jones, that he’s able to keep things moving and keep things necessarily convoluted without being imprenetrable. Alliances forged are broken, the uneasy alliance between Joe and Lily shatters in spectacular fashion (after the sex of course, which proves that Joe has his evil guy priorities straight), with her family being put in direct opposition to Joe and Emma, with Mandy looking as though she’s hanging in the balance between the two forces as a possible free agent. Ditto Mike, who has to choose between the FBI and Ryan once it becomes clear—at least to the conspiracy theorists in The Following‘s universe—that the FBI has been compromised by Carrollers.
There’s also a nasty little strain of wittiness running through the episode. Joe may have come to the realization that he’s not a great writer, but he’d make a great media gadfly judging from his sharp commentary on Lily’s family. The “International House of Psychos” line is enough to prove that, but Joe also has a pretty astute telling of his own failings as a cult leader (though it was a pretty impressive cult) before deciding to call Lily a drama queen (triggering a great drama queen meltdown by Connie Nielsen) and blowing off her Venezuelan murder compound plan for life on the road. The relationship between Mike and the Hardys is one growing more interesting, too, especially when Ryan has to tell Mike to cool off a little bit, offering up a complete reversal from last season and a shared wry look from Mike to Ryan.
The show seemed particularly sharp this week, both in tone and in execution. Director Rob Seidenglanz did a very good job with the action sequences, making the Mexican stand-off between Max and Mike and Lily and Mark appropriately twisty while at the same time making Ryan’s weekly creeping that much more interesting by the shocking surprise attack he suffers on the steps. Clearly he doesn’t shy away from violence, and that kind of straight-forward, in-your-face style works really well with The Following. It’s not a subtle show; this is the sort of programme where the hero and the villain stare at one another through windows before the villain races away in a borrowed sedan.
One of the problems with The Following‘s first season is that the violence didn’t really have any stakes. Joe had an infinite number of Followers, so if Ryan killed one or two or ten, it didn’t really matter becaure there were seemingly hundreds of them. With Lily and her fellow Mansons, as well as the tattered remains of Joe’s cult, every death seems more valuable somehow, presumably because there’s a finite number of assistant assailants. Even with the dumbness of its violence, the show manages to be smart about some things.
Less is more when it comes to followers; more is more when it comes to killing off those followers. When half your group has died and the other half has fled, well… those followers become much more important. Here’s hoping Ryan makes short work of them thanks to his trusty gutting knife.
Read Ron’s review of the previous episode, Reflection, here.
US Correspondent Ron Hogan wishes they would find a new shot of Joe for the FBI to pass around, rather than the shot of bearded Joe. It’s just a reminder of his late, lamented beard. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.
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