This review contains spoilers.
3.14 Dead Or Alive & 3.15 The Reckoning
It’s amazing to think of where The Following would have ended up going in its fourth season, but it looks as though it won’t get the chance. Since the Lilly Gray season, I’ve had a vague idea in which Ryan Hardy becomes a killer, determined to hunt down the other killers. Of course the show manages to spring that on the viewing audience at the end of the third season, when it’s already buried in some creepy basement under a serial killer’s house. Still, it makes for a thrilling final episode, and even knowing that it’s done (barring a reprieve from Netflix or Hulu, which I doubt will happen), the final moments of The Following on Fox offer a thrilling vision of what was supposed to be the future.
But first, let’s claw through the last two episodes of the season, shall we? The season has been a bit back-loaded in terms of its craziness and violence, and the last two episodes—burned off once again by Fox in an effort to run through the series and replace it with some Top Chef or American Idol—really turn the dial up to 11 to send Kevin Bacon and company off into the sunset with a bang. Or, more accurately, multiple bangs, from multiple people getting gunned down by anyone and everyone. Ryan kills people, Theo kills people, Daisy kills people, the mysterious Eliza has her thugs kill people, Max kills people… the bodies pile up like cord wood in the final two hours of The Following, which is fitting considering the show tried to stem its tide of violence until the very end. May as well go all out, both in terms of plot twists and in terms of dead anonymous people.
Joe Carroll is dead. Mark Gray and the rest of his family are dead. Theo is hounded and hunted at every turn, his bag of technological tricks no longer enough to keep him anonymous. Eliza has the power to sink Theo back into the mud, but she wants something: Ryan Hardy alive. Her anonymous benefactors want the FBI’s most dangerous rogue agent alive (possibly to play some sort of version of The Most Dangerous Game with him), which is exactly the opposite of what Theo wants. Now there’s a conundrum for Theo: revenge for Penny or a chance to keep killing? Theo has a choice to make, and either way, he won’t be happy with the results. Neither will Ryan, since either option ends with him dead.
The last two hours of The Following are dizzying; killers turn on killers, FBI agents turn on FBI agents, moles are ferreted out and buried multiple times, and everything that can happen in a dense dark forest or crowded basement happens. They’re the Ur-episodes of The Following, and they’re great. There are multiple callbacks to the first season, from the mole in the FBI to the finale that sends Ryan and Theo toppling over a railing into an icy river. There are callbacks to season two, since there are entire organizations dedicated to killing, plus a promise of a secret man-on-the-run murder spree, except performed by Ryan this time, not Joe. Marcos Siega does a bang-up job in the final hour keeping everything moving at a good clip, and he makes the most out of The Following‘s traditions while not letting the scenes get too dark or too cluttered. That’s good, because if the story was visually confusing, the twisty script from Brett Mahoney and Alexi Hawley would probably get lost. As it is, it’s a lot to keep track of, but in a fun way.
I think the smartest thing this finale of The Following did was leave it open-ended, but definitive. Ryan Hardy, after a long limp through the hospital, is believed to be dead, and that means he’s able to get his revenge without endangering his family. However, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have one last choice to make. Dressed in a hoodie to disguise his face, Ryan watches Mike and Max comfort Gwen and promise to team up to raise little Ryan Hardy Jr. when the time comes. After all, Ryan is dead, or so they think. He can reveal himself and blow his mission, or continue to keep out of sight and continue to remain “dead” in the eyes of the world. Family and the risk of killers, or no family and the hunt for said same killers?
To someone like Ryan Hardy, particularly after what he’s said this episode, that’s not really a choice. Not having him around makes everyone more likely not to be stabbed to death, and maybe one day he’ll kill enough super-wealthy serial killers to come home himself. Probably not, but a man can dream of things not Joe Carroll, right? Money or no money, nothing is going to stop Ryan Hardy in his pursuit of justice at any cost. Hoodie firmly in place, Ryan Hardy stalks out of the hospital in slow-motion, loses his limp like Verbal Kint, and readies himself for the next challenge: finding a network willing to bankroll The Following in exchange for syndication rights.
US Correspondent Ron Hogan won’t be getting his Ryan Hardy: Serial Killer season, but we’re also spared another season of Mike and Max drama. You win some, you lose some. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.
Follow our Twitter feed for faster news and bad jokes right here. And be our Facebook chum here.