'The Following' TV Review: A Different Kind Of Guilty Pleasure
The Following, FOX’s newest thriller/drama staring Kevin Bacon may just be my guilty pleasure. I’ve never been a fan of the term "guilty pleasure" because no matter how trashy I refuse to feel guilty for enjoying it. But The Following isn't one of those shows that's so bad it's good, it's one of those shows that's so damn creepy and disturbing that it makes me question my sanity for enjoying it. This feeling, of course, is pretty much the point; as ‘followers’ of the show, the audience simultaneously becomes ‘followers’ of a mass murderer. The show balances time between the cult and the FBI agents trying to stop it, making sure no character is completely unlikable.
This week’s episode, "The Curse," explored this dynamic through the relationship between FBI agent Ryan Hardy (Bacon) and serial killer Joe Carroll (James Purefoy). It also began the set up for what is sure to be a crazy season finale.
First, the episode marked the return of Agent Mike Weston, who had previously been captured and beaten into a coma by insane cult members. Played by the irresistible Shawn Ashmore (aka Iceman), Mike is, admittedly, my favorite character on the show, and it was nice to see a different side of his character. Mike was introduced as a brilliant, young, doo-gooder, but this week he was breaking all the rules, using ‘Ryan Hardy approved’ techniques of breaking-and-entering instead.
Meanwhile, Joe’s obsession with Hardy led to frustration when he discovered he still didn’t understand what made Hardy tick. They interacted multiple times in the episode, and, while watching the two men come face to face is fun, it does get repetitive. This is mostly due to Joe’s almost unbearably expository dialogue. In this episode, their conversation ended with Carroll telling Hardy that they are similar: ‘It is through death that we both live.’ It is as if the writers are trying so hard to make Carroll a poetic genius, they end up making him Captain Obvious.
The cult of ‘Carrollism’ is falling apart, and this episode did a great job in setting up the rest of the season concerning their fate. Joe’s second in command, Roderick (Warren Kole) is equal parts cold-blooded killer and power hungry madman, and he is quickly unraveling under Joe’s new rule. Odds are, he’s dead by the end of the season—he has already jeopardized the safety of the cult’s secret compound and acted without Joe’s permission. Roderick may be able to redeem himself in next week’s episode, when he infiltrates the FBI as his role as Sherriff (the episode ended with him being introduced to Ryan Hardy!).
Things are certainly about to come to a head now that Roderick is an active double agent. Another double agent, Molly (Jennifer Ferrin), a cult member who had been planted years ago to become Hardy’s next-door-neighbor turned girlfriend, is also infiltrating Hardys life, putting him at risk both professionally and personally—suggesting that Carroll is closing in on his final plans for Hardy. The audience, however, is still in the dark on the nature of these plans. Only Carroll’s ex-wife, Claire (Natalie Zea), knows what he has in store for the detective.
Claire, now imprisoned in the compound with her young son, was left alone in Carroll’s study and read the manuscript for his new novel—of which Hardy is the hero. Claire, who, up until now, has been a bit one-note, really came alive in this week’s episode. Not only was she proactive, she asserted her power within the cult by almost strangling Emma Hill (Valorie Curry), who previously used her position as Claire’s live-in nanny to kidnap her son. It’s exciting to see Claire transition from being a victim to being a fighter, and even more fun to see her play mind games with the cult members.
With only three episodes left in the season, the question remains: As the confrontations between Carroll and Hardy become increasingly repetitive and the two sides approach a collision, how will The Following sustain the plausible threat of Joe Carroll and his cult following?
My theory is that, when Joe Carroll finally falls, cult member Jacob Wells (Nico Tortorella) will become the new villain. The rising star of the cult—and my personal favorite—is more dedicated than ever to Carroll after having killed for the first time a few episodes ago. Recently, he has taken more responsibility in the cult, acting as Claire’s bodyguard and going on a mission with Carroll himself. Seeing Jacob change has added a great element of suspense to the show because of his potential for both good and evil. He could easily become Ryan Hardy’s next nemesis, but he could also double cross Joe and become an FBI informant. Either way, I cannot wait to see how the rest of the season unfolds.
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