The Following: The Messenger review
It often feels like one step forward and two steps back with The Following. This one is the latter. Here's Dan's review...
This Following review contains spoilers!
“The Messenger” begins with Mike’s father’s funeral, with somber Max and Ryan in attendance. The earlier rift between Mike and Ryan has all but disappeared as the writers have slowly made them more and more similar since the premiere. Though they’re inching forward like two slugs trekking through molasses, Max and Mike have the chemistry that could make them a really intriguing couple…not that couples have too great a history on The Following.
Micah introduces Joe, Mandy, and Emma to the cult. We see that Emma survived Micah’s wrist-cutting sacrificial ritual. However, the very definition of the word “sacrifice” is the giving up of something permanently, or at least very long-term. It isn’t much of a “sacrifice” if Emma survives, is it? As I’ll explain, this ritual aligns with the modus operandi of Micah’s cult, but I felt a bit cheated when Emma strolled on-screen (I would’ve missed Curry, though, and I’m glad she survived).
Emma is truly scared this episode, and can we blame her? But we are under the impression that Emma is a bloodthirsty, sociopathic, brutal murderer. By portraying her as a wounded fawn, jittery and afraid, are the writers trying to reveal her true self, or trying to show us (in a bit of overkill) just how strange these people are? If it’s the latter, it’s unnecessary; we the normal people don’t think the road to salvation is through sin-cleansing blood consumption in the effort to get to “The Ninth Planet” behind Neptune.
I do think that Micah and Julia’s cult is much more believable than Joe’s ever was, though. Micah enlists Joe’s help because he wants to start killing, almost right after Julia tells Joe, “Micah is our leader, but I run things.” The writers are definitely loading up the cannons for something big. There are so many characters with a bone to pick with someone that at any moment, the plot could tumble into avalanche mode.
Speaking of bones to pick, the director of the FBI shows up at Mike’s house for his father’s funeral reception and tells Ryan that he not only believes that Joe is alive, but he wants to fund Ryan’s efforts to catch Joe “off the books.” Just last week, Agent Mendez told Ryan that he was facing federal charges, but the director hadn’t brought him in yet because he wanted to “minimalize fallout.” Well, which is it? Nothing has changed in terms of Joe’s status. Why would he suddenly change his mind so drastically? It still annoys me that seemingly no one in the FBI has an issue with obstruction of justice in international murder cases.
Also, I know every show needs advertising revenue to survive, but I have one thing to ask the creators of The Following: please…stop…the Windows operating system plugs. Every single episode, a character turns on a phone, or a computer, or a tablet, and the unmistakable Windows display takes center stage. There has to be another, less exploitative way to do it that’s not so noticeable.
In other news, journalist Carrie Cooke (Sprague Grayden, Paranormal Activity 2) who wrote The Havenport Tragedy accosts Ryan, and we glean that she took advantage of his drunken stupor eleven months prior to gain information about Joe Carroll for said book. She believes that Joe is alive as well, and she’s—unfortunately—yet another pawn that could bring the whole plot tumbling down, vowing to not rest until all is said and done.
Ryan discovers a former camp counselor of Joe’s who happens to be a doctor. He thinks that Doctor Strauss (Gregg Henry, Scandal) could be the link to finding Joe, and that Strauss likely helped Joe recover after the lighthouse incident. All hell breaks loose when Ryan knocks on his front door. Strauss, although ably acted by Henry, is really just a blend of Michael C. Hall’s Dexter and Sir Ben Kingsley’s Dr. Cawley from Shutter Island. Though Julia senses that Joe can’t be trusted, Micah’s allegiance wavers, and he plans…well, something devious for his cult. It’s interesting to see the bumbling, lunatic Micah pulled in opposite directions.
Some weeks, I think: “Hey, this show isn’t too bad. I’ll keep tuning in.” Other weeks—like this one—I throw up my hands helplessly, without a clue what to make of it. The plot seems to be shifting in an entirely different direction, even from the Lily story earlier this season. It’s not that it isn’t vexing, but week after week, there are fewer questions answered than there are raised.