The Following: Welcome Home

Nick Harley gives us the low-down on the show's eighth episode.

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What is worse, tonight’s episode of The Following or knowing that another season looms on the horizon? Both give me an equally splitting headache. I try to read regular reviews of the show and it seems like most critics align with my view; that it’s all complete crap. So how has The Following become the ratings powerhouse that Fox was banking on? There’s no way that everyone hate-watches the program the same way I do. It baffles me every time I hear that someone watches the show on a week-to-week basis. What am I missing that they see? How can anyone willingly tune into this every week? As the show progresses, it continues to show more and more of the same problems; terrible dialogue, pointless flashbacks, unmemorable cast members and ridiculous suspensions of disbelief. For a show that is supposed to be an intriguing thriller, The Following mines more unintentional laughs than shudders. I mean, how do they not expect me to giggle every time Ryan Hardy hits another roadblock or is surprised from behind? It’s all moving past the point of ridiculousness and heading towards comic fantasy. What is the appeal in watching the great failings of Kevin Bacon and Co.? It’s like watching Wyle E. Coyote plummet off a cliff endlessly, expecting a different result each time.

            This week, at Carroll Manor (that’s what we will be calling Joe and his cult’s estate) Joe is reunited with two important people in his life. First up is his son, Joey. In a scene where Joe tries to convince his little bloodline prisoner that he isn’t so bad, but in fact a “cool, fun guy,” (great writing there) Joey just stares blankly. Joe Carroll may be touted as the most charming serial killer of all-time, like Charles Manson doing a Robert Downey Jr. impression, but it does seem that he has no effect on his boy. With that failed encounter, Carroll goes outside to be greeted by Roderick, the up until this point, faceless collaborator in all of Carroll’s big schemes. Roderick is an easy going sheriff in a small town and he and Carroll, of course, have some past that, of course, is vaguely detailed in clumsy flashbacks because, of course, this is The Following, after all. Well, Roderick’s big master plan is to go after each of Hardy’s F.B.I. buddies one by one, first up being Agent Weston. Weston is sent home for hacking email and is quickly and predictably surprised in his room by Carroll’s cronies and taken to some decrepit location for questioning/torture. How many abandones buildings and hidden kill rooms are there in New York? Apparently a lot, because there is a new one featured every week.

            The worst scene of the night unsurprisingly features the talentless Emma and a drunk Carroll. I thought with Carroll’s escape, maybe James Purefoy would be given more screen time and therefore more of a chance to save the squandering show, but this was just wishful thinking. Purefoy hams it up while being drunk, portraying intoxication like bad high school theater. Lifeless Emma tries to seduce Carroll but he resists. Later, Carroll, for reasons unbeknownst to me, kills robotic Charlie with little explanation, but then is hot and bothered enough to succumb to Emma’s temptations. Through it all, I sat with a look of pure disgust. It rarely ever leaves my face during The Following.

            Kevin Bacon is even starting to become a problem on the show. Once the only saving grace, Bacon is starting to be brought down by the show’s disastrous writing. In interactions with his F.B.I. superiors, Hardy is written as sarcastic and snarky. Bacon plays the role with more sass and eye rolls than necessary. No one in their right mind would act as cocky and swaggering after failing as many times as Hardy has. At this point, playing a badass quipster while interrogating prisoners just seems inappropriate, off-base, and bizarre. At least Hardy is done calling the shots. In a realistic turn, the F.B.I. sends in someone higher up (why the top F.B.I. agent isn’t on the case is beyond me) to take over the investigation. Agent Nick Donovan swoops in to take over the case and move Ryan Hardy back into a consulting role. Obviously this isn’t going to keep Hardy from the bulk of the action, but at least Hardy doesn’t keep failing upwards.

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            This episode was one of the dullest to date. Besides Weston’s capture and eventual rescue, not much happens. Carroll doesn’t reveal any new portion of his plan, Claire, Paul and Jacob remain virtually unseen for the entire episode, and even the hunt for Joey seems to be on the backburner. The show has reached their half way point so now is traditionally the time where a show like The Following will burn off some filler episodes and this outing definitely feels like one of those. This means that we can expect the next few episodes to be more horrible and pointless than usual. Oh joy. As the cast continues to grow, with more and more additions to Carroll’s ever expanding crew and as Hardy and the F.B.I. continue to fail spectacularly, The Following becomes more of a failed experiment every week. The fact that someone would continue watching the show at this point in the season is baffling, let alone the thought that a viewer would follow the show into its second season. That’s torture that not even Joe Carroll and his cult could dream up.