The Following: “Freedom”
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The Following: “Freedom”

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I have hit upon the best way to watch The Following: fast-forwarded and on mute. People die, but they do so more quickly, and with minimal brutal shots of knives entering flesh. Inane conversation amongst cult followers is kept to a minimum. But the format still allows for lovely, full-frontal shots of Ryan Hardy’s bamboozled face, which is 90 percent of my enjoyment of the show. (The other 10 percent is in deleting it off of my DVR.) (Ok, there’s at least one percent for Natalie Zea’s eyeliner.)

The first highly necessary moment of pressing play comes eight minutes in, when Ryan and Mike are sitting in Ryan’s crazy palace of obsessing over Joe Carroll and begin to have a conversation about feelings. RYAN: “oh hey, remember how your dad was killed? how is that going” MIKE: (actual quote) “How uncharacteristically optimistic of you, Ryan.” (not actual quote) “also how that girl you bangin’” RYAN: “aargh, women! what are they? who knows! can’t live with them, can’t find them sometimes. what’s going on in their little heads? don’t ask me! I’m not a flipping women psychiatrist!” I’m so glad that Ryan and Mike are making attempts to connect to each other—it makes them both seem, ever so briefly, as though they are humans, instead of malfunctioning FBI robots. Also, what a lovely nod to continuing characterization! Ryan’s dad got murdered like, two months ago, but we’re acting like he’s still bothered by it! And then a few guys in white masks break into an unsuspecting bakery and kill a baker’s dozen of bakery denizens, so back to fast-forward.

Back to the cult. Emma is wearing all red and so is the guy that has a crush on her. Guy that has a crush on her talks to Joe and Joe doesn’t like it and they are making a lot of alpha-male posturing stances at each other. Emma has her disappointed face on. Nice highlights, Emma! It appears that this guy is questioning Joe’s motives, and has decided to act on those motives by asking the legendary serial killer and unstable cult leader himself, in-person, what his motives are. “Do you really believe that,” he asks of Joe’s explanation that the people they are killing are being sent to heaven where they’ll be happier or something. Smart guy, this one. He will be dead within mere minutes.

Hey, that’s an Indian woman! Oh, she’s getting killed by another woman with comparable skin tone! There’s a plot in the works, Watson!

Back to redshirt land. They sleep in bunk beds, which would make anyone angry. Emma corners Idiot Guy Who Questioned Too Much and pretends that he can trust her in order to get information. Hand-holding and boob touching commences. Heartbeat touching? Does Emma believe in her boob, now? And then they kiss. Kind of in a gross way. Bunk-bed sex? Uuuhhhh. Aren’t other people around?

I think The Following thinks that a lot more people are turned on by murdering people than actually are. Like, mostly people are turned on by skimpy clothes and thumpy music and free liquor. People are not turned on by death cults talking about delivering people with kitchen knives. Or I mean, maybe some people are, but like, on Hannibal.

Anyway, now little black girl (I’m sorry, I really do forget her name, and I am not unmuting/pressing play to find out) is wandering around in the cult lodge, which just looks like the main cabin of a YMCA retreat. She finds a computer and looks for a listing in the Baltimore Gazette, which by the way, is not a real paper, and isn’t even a very good name for a fake paper. The listing is for a “Lost Heart-Shaped Bag.” THE BAG IS A METAPHOR. FOR HER HEART. I’m just guessing here. But that’s my guess. She seems to get away with this action.

Now a hospital. Lotta people bleeding at the hospital. It’s got to be all of those cultists killing everyone. You have to wonder why, in the world of The Following, everyone in New York City isn’t wearing Kevlar at all times. Ethnically ambiguous woman is now being a nurse, but probably a fake nurse. She seems really confident in her fake nursing skills. She sends a text to some patients who aren’t really patients. They had fake blood. So coordinated. So impressive. They find some guns in a locker that the other woman had left for them. Oooooh. So impressive. And now, they’re liberating one of the evil French twins. Those murder cults are so impressively coordinated! Color me impressed. Call me a small imprint because I am impressed.

A bunch of people die in the hospital. And now people are wearing gas masks. This does not seem like the most efficient way to take down a hospital just to get rid of one guy. Now Ryan and Mike are here and they are running around the hospital looking very stressed out. A hallway! Some stairs. Yes, yes, this is riveting. The police kill an ambulance driver but it was the wrong ambulance driver. Or I mean, he wasn’t a bad guy. The police are really dumb. Now we’re in the stairs again. Ryan Hardy Angrily Walks Through Deserted Hallways will be the name of my spoken-word beat poetry album.

Ryan snuck around in the hospital sub-sub-sub-basements, where the ice weasels live, and he found the bad guys, but then they broke away obviously. So now he’s in a really interesting supermarket. It’s like, a Latin-American supermarket. It has some legit produce and colors going on. Obviously, the FBI do not catch anyone they need to and everyone escapes or dies and they are back to square one. The FBI is sooo incompetent! Government is so dumb, amirite?

Back in the land of redshirts, Joe is really upset that someone on TV referred to him as the antichrist, presumably because the antichrist is not a character in the works of Edgar Allan Poe. (Joe Carroll has not mentioned Poe in like, six episodes. HAS HE FORGOTTEN?)

Connie Nielsen is reunited with her creepy children. Such a realistic family full of realistic characters!

UNPAUSE because Mike and Ryan are having another conversation about their feelings. Mike is sad about serial killers (I feel you bro) and Ryan says: “After all this is over, you and me? We’re going to go have a life. You know why? Because the universe owes us.” This is the single most important line in the history of The Following, because it both a) steps away from the total nihilism of the show and b) opens up the idea that Ryan and Mike are in love with each other and will get married and have babies.

Tiny black girl calls the twins! Twist!

Ryan sees Claire alive! Double twist! UNPAUSE: Ryan whispers, dumbly, “Claire…” while angry rock music plays in the background. Feelings music for feelings bros.

Stray observations:

  • The antichrist preacher is that guy from Ed?
  • You know, as far as episodes of The Following go, this was pretty okay. The How I Met Your Mother finale annoyed me a lot more.
  • Next week: Inevitable love triangle between Claire and Cassie or Carrie or Connie or whatever her name is! 100 percent chance that one of the ends up dead so that Ryan doesn’t have to choose.

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