This review contains spoilers.
3.4 Home & 3.5 A Hostile Witness
There’s always a bit of an issue when a show does two episodes back to back. Do you try to stretch a night of watching into two reviews, considering the episodes are technically two separate episodes just on the same night? Or do you just combine the two of them and call it a night much like Fox’s programmers did? In a serialized show like The Following, it’s not quite the issue it would be on a show that is more episodic, so combining episode 4 and 5, titled Home and A Hostile Witness respectively, seems like the right thing to do even if that would cover a lot of ground in a single review.
There’s something to be said for making someone wait for something. Instant gratification is great, but a slow burn for something, especially when it’s something you really want. What I’ve wanted from this season of The Following is the return of Joe Carroll. What we haven’t gotten this season has been a lot of that colour that James Purefoy brought to the show as a sort of arch-villain. Arthur Strauss isn’t much of a replacement, and he hasn’t been all that active, either. His trial is the centerpiece of the big conspiracy involving Daisy, Kyle, and Mark/Luke, but as we find out in these two episodes, he’s working through intermediaries to discredit the FBI using Mark as a patsy for his scheme. It’s very clever, very manipulative, and it’s easy to see where Joe learned all his tricks from.
The show thus far has been good, but not as good as it was in Joe’s hands. The second season, having Joe work his way around the country manipulating his way into a cult and whatnot, ended up being very campy, very bloody fun for me, but this season’s gamble of sidelining Joe in exchange for a more competent-ish FBI and more focus on the Hardy family drama and Mark and Mike’s respective quest for revenge on one another/Ryan Hardy/whoever gets in between the two of them. They’re as codependent as Ryan and Joe, and they’re an interesting mirror for the two since, if I remember correctly, Mike was the one who kept Ryan from taking the law into his own hands two years ago.
Still, I think the show needs Joe, though Mark did bring some much-needed black humour to the programme by cracking jokes during a particularly fraught torture sequence involving an iron and Juliana, the mysterious go-between for Arthur and his two students, Daisy and Kyle. It’s one of the few laughs of the season, which is why Joe can’t get introduced fast enough. Say what you want to about the character and how he’s written, but he had a knack for one-liners, either good or bad, and he’s the kind of over-the-top character that the show needs. Of course, they finally get around to reminding us he’s going to come back at the end of tonight’s second episode, but they took their sweet time getting him involved (and, technically, he’s not involved yet).
One thing I can say for the show is that getting a double dose helps the plots flow a little more smoothly. Rather than an episode dominated by Mike and Max being discovered by her boyfriend and an episode dominated by Strauss, we get two episodes that kind of segue smoothly, centering around Daisy and Kyle and their attempts to play both sides while not getting shot too many times by the FBI in the process. I’m still not a fan of the characters—poor Ruth Kearney has a tough task replacing Valorie Curry—but perhaps killing off Kyle and adding to Ryan’s body count will improve things a little bit on that end.
One thing that I think helps the show is the fact that it’s come back around again to a simpler theme. A killer or two on the run, Ryan stripped of his resources and FBI support, working on his own with his little team to track them down… it feels cleaner, it feels more like what I want from The Following than it has in the last few episodes, and I’m hoping that the return of Joe alongside Ryan again will help liven things up a bit more.
It’s not that the show’s been bad; as procedurals go, it’s been pretty good. The acting is good, the writing is acceptable, the action scenes are always pretty good, and as far as television shows go, it’s still one of the nastier things on TV even with the turned-down gore quotient. It’s still capable of some great images, particularly the firehouse murders, but the show had more of a smirk when Joe was around, and that smirk is missed.
Read Ron’s review of the previous episode, Exposed, here.
US Correspondent Ron Hogan almost cheered when he saw the smarmy face of Joe Carroll appear across from Ryan Hardy at the prison, despite knowing it was going to happen before it finally did. Joe, you’ve been missed. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.
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