This review contains spoilers.
3.2 Boxed In
This season of The Following has been promised to be a kinder, gentler Following. Can a show like this really be kinder and gentler when stabbings, mayhem, torture, and anguish are still an integral part in what makes it work? Well, yes and no. There are still people being stabbed and shot, people are still being tortured and murdered, and folks seem to get kidnapped every few hours. The mantra is Ryan Hardy lies, people die, and the second episode of The Following takes that to heart in spectacular fashion.
There’s a plan in place, and that plan involves a recently purchased electric chair. Apparently you can just buy those after the state executioner decommissions them, and all you need is a giant scary bald sociopath to bring it back to life. However, just because you have the chair, that doesn’t mean you get to use it. For the first time in The Following‘s career, the FBI does some actual police work and doesn’t just get to the scene of the crime a moment too late, but right on time to disrupt the plot and nearly catch the fugitive Mark and his crepe hair beard.
While near-misses with the villain are something of a Following hallmark, the FBI has never seemed this competent. Perhaps Ryan Hardy and company are making the New York office better, or perhaps all the dead weight has been murdered by now and replaced with stone-cold veteran officers who know what they’re doing. Either way, it’s a nice little action scene, but it means that Mark, Daisy, and Kyle have to turn to plan B: Neil (Glenn Fleshler). Why is Neil plan B? Well, he makes Daisy and Kyle nervous, which means that he’s something of a next level murderer with a real artistic streak, and it’s the unfortunate Agent Jeffrey Clarke (the underrated Felix Solis) who is going to learn just what this flesh artist is capable of, if Ryan doesn’t confess his crimes to the nation.
Back to the earlier question about brutality. After a brief escape—and a kiss from a pipe for his troubles—Clarke is recaptured and strapped down to a table. That’s when Neil shows just why he’s so scary to the other killers. He details a plan so brutal, so unpleasant, that I can’t believe that The Following is able to get away with it. Step one, paralyze the victim. Step two, dislocate all joints and pile the person into a little square pile inside a lovely metal box. Fortunately, they can’t very well show that on television, but director Rob Seidenglanz shoots around it in a very visually appealing way. Previously, the FBI got to Clarke’s house just in time to keep his wife Anna (Joy Osmanski) from smothering to death via plastic bag. Not this time. When Ryan and Mike come to Clarke’s rescue, they find a mostly-empty room with a stainless steel box inside. There’s a bright red trickle of blood coming from the corner of the box, and Clarke’s FBI badge is on top of it. Too little, too late.
It’s a bit of a sucker punch from writer Barry O’Brien, but the visual really works, and they set it up pretty well by establishing that the FBI was getting better at this last minute rescue sort of stuff only to have the rug yanked away at the last moment, despite Clarke’s confession that Ryan covered up Lily Gray’s execution. The big secret is out, but it clearly didn’t save poor Agent Clarke’s life, judging from the stunned, horrified reactions from, well, everyone in the FBI. But it’s not graphic, it’s restrained.
In fact, restraint seems to be the watchword for this season of The Following thus far. After all, we’re two episodes in and no Joe Carroll. They’re building anticipation, and everyone knows at some point Ryan and Joe are going to be in the same room at the same time, but the fake-out involving Dr. Strauss (Clark Gregg) was a clever idea that worked well, and it’s only heightening the anticipation for Joe’s return.
It seems like a good tactic to me. That’s what we want, so it makes sense to make the audience wait for that big moment. We want blood and pointless violence, so the show is making it count when it happens (and they’re making great use of the television commercial breaks, to boot). Will the restraint make for a better show? Crazier things have happened, and will happen.
Read Ron’s review of the previous episode, New Blood, here.
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