This review contains spoilers.
For the bulk of this season of The Following, Ryan Hardy’s been a good guy. A loyal boyfriend, a cooperative employee, a non-drinker who exercises regularly and who doesn’t just start shooting at people for no good reason. Yawn. What’s the fun in watching someone have a relatively stable relationship while fighting against the demons in his head? It’s more fun to watch that hero become an antihero, giving into his demons, drinking secret bathroom vodka, ruining his life with his work, and having conversations with the apparition of his deceased nemesis/obsession. So yeah, Ryan Hardy is off the wagon in a big way, sleeping with waitresses, keeping vodka on the bedside table, and attempting to kill serial killers with machetes.
Suffice to say, the increase in the presence of Joe Carroll has been a boon to the show, and the fact that Joe is dead only makes things that much more fun because as we see this his week, Joe is always there for Ryan, or at least there so he’s not drinking alone. Ryan may be ruining his life once again, but at least he has a permanent buddy to hang out with, even as he leaves every bridge a smoldering, vodka-soaked wreck. Every time Joe pops up in one of Ryan’s fantasies, it’s very funny, and it works very well in terms of Joe being the devil on Joe’s shoulder. It’s probably one of the show’s better developments in the third season.
What hasn’t worked quite so well is the focus on Theo’s attempts to evade the FBI. He seems only tangentially related to Joe and Mark, the two previous seasonal antagonists, via Strauss, who as far as I know had nothing to do with Lily Gray. Maybe he was involved there, too, but still, Theo serves mostly as an antagonist for Ryan to play with while Joe’s gone, and to occasionally threaten Max and Mike, who have problems of their own on the relationship front. Theo also seems like a good way to subtly transition the show into a “monster of the week” type programme while continuing to expand the mythology. In some instances—Oleg (Robert Sedgwick) the death-obsessed mirror-shatterer—it works really well. I like Oleg as an antagonist, and Marcos Siega has a good time with his bizarre underground lair. (Yet again, basements are proven to be the place to kill people.) I like Theo as an idea more than a character, and I’m not terribly interested in his sad childhood or his trips to an Eyes Wide Shut meets Hostel kill party.
Still, even the stuff I was cold on was well-executed. Marcos Siega makes good use of weirdness, and Oleg’s basement and the kill orgy organized by Eliza (Annet Mahendru) makes for an interesting backdrop. The violence is also pretty fun, particularly Oleg’s choice of a machete and the scene in which Ryan takes him down and pummels him before nearly killing him with his own weapon. A further fun wrinkle in Dave Johnson’s script is the fact that, in the interrogation room, Ryan uses Oleg’s fear/hate of mirrors against him by grabbing him by the head and forcing him to look into the mirror (rather than shattering his spine as the show teases). It’s rough stuff, but Ryan works best as a non-traditional sort of police officer, and he gets results done, even if his convictions aren’t exactly clean.
Then again, he did get Joe executed, so there’s that, and he’s the only person getting close enough to Theo to make him panic. Ryan Hardy, drunk or sober, is a spectacular investigator, but he seems so much better at his job—and so much more entertaining—when he’s completely off the rails, drinking vodka in the bathroom and attempted-murdering suspects even after they’re in a position to be arrested. I like the drunk and dangerous Ryan Hardy more than the mature and thoughtful Ryan, even if it’s going to turn Max’s hair gray early, drive away Gwen, and offend Mike.
Read Ron’s review of the previous episode, Evermore, here.
US Correspondent Ron Hogan would be very interested in a version of this show in which Ryan Hardy is the villain and Mike and Max have to stop him before he kills again (and again and again). We’re getting closer and closer to that reality with every chug of Irish coffee. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.
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