This review contains spoilers.
Three episodes into The Following, and we’ve yet to see Joe Carroll. Sure, he’s been talked about, and the events behind last season’s Lily/Joe shenanigans have been the subject of many discussions and a Congressional hearing, but they’re taking their time introducing Joe back into the world. It’s coming, and I believe he’s behind all of what’s happening thus far, but it remains to be seen just what role Joe is going to play and just how this is all going to end up with him escaping police custody to resume his killing spree. For now, let’s concern ourselves with the killers we have, not the killer we’re waiting on.
The foremost murderer we have at this point is Neil, the mammoth craftsman who likes to mash people into little metal cubes. It’s important to note that he’s the person that our other killers all seem to be afraid of, and as we find out this episode, that’s with good reason. Not only is he skilled, he’s also efficient when he has to be, and after a little research and a game of good cop/psychotic cops, he’s on the lam from the Hardy gang.
That’s one of the things this show does well. When criminals run, it typically ends up being watchable action television (helmed this week by Gary Love). Sure, they lean pretty heavily on the trope of rundown industrial complex shrouded in shadows and full of creepy dangling plastic, but there are a lot of fun car chases, shootings, and the like in the process. You never really know how a Following chase will end. The bad guy might get away, or he might be shot. Will he make it to a car and lead Ryan Hardy on a car chase? Unsurprisingly, Neil’s love of his father proves to be his downfall, but not before there’s a pretty fun car chase and a scene in which Mike follows a giant beeping dot via smart phone screen.
While our agents are chasing leads, Mark gets an opportunity to have his side of the story heard. Of course, being Mark, the way he does that is to kill the sound guy and steal a remote truck from the parking garage near FBI headquarters, where a couple of intrepid newshounds were just participating in a Ryan Hardy press conference where, once again, he denies any wrong-doing in the Lily Gray case. Cue another Mark/Luke freakout, and another very fun performance from Sam Underwood. He’s really great at playing crazy, and he handles Mark’s mood shifts very well, couching them in such a way that it makes Mark’s own followers nervous to be around him while simultaneously plotting with the mysterious Julianna (Anna Wood) to do… again, I’m not sure yet.
That’s not a fault on writer Brynn Malone at all. The episode is fine; I liked that Kevin Bacon is getting to act a little more this year, and I like that the show has resisted, thus far, to put Mike and Max together—though that’s going to happen at some point. I also like that Ryan actually wants to keep Gwen around, rather than pushing her away like he has every other woman in his life. Ditto Mike avoiding Clarke’s memorial service. He misses the Kevin Bacon justice monologue, but it’s for an actual character-driven reason: guilt.
The Following leans heavily on emotional repercussions to fill time between killings, and while Ryan is on the mend and Mike is shutting down, Max is the one actively struggling with her own actions, which is plan to see on her face when she helps the other two kill an armed and dangerous Neil. There’s some hesitancy on her face, and while she’s promised not to betray the other two, she’s also tired of secrets. Again, she’s gained distance from Mike, and she’s clearly trying to have a life outside of the Followers, short though it may well end up being thanks to her powerful, stabby enemies. It’s strange to see these characters struggling to deal with their actions; it doesn’t seem like a common thread on most procedural shows aside from the occasional Very Special Episode.
Still, as fun as Mark is, we need Joe. I have a feeling he’s the person behind the plotting against Mark Gray, and I’m sure it’s all being put into play to get him out of jail and working alongside Ryan Hardy in some sort of Silence of the Lambs scenario. There are worse things that could happen, to be sure. Even if the show follows a predictable path, it’s going to be bloody and violent, and that’s about all I want out of a show like this.
Read Ron’s review of the previous episode, Boxed In, here.
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