Here’s what I can say I enjoyed about The Following this week: I’m sure happy that French lady died! She was creepy, and annoying, a terrible reductive stereotype of a sexy European villain, a category this show is already fully stocked with in Connie Nielsen’s character. She did ridiculous things like dislocate her thumb to get out of handcuffs, she contributed nothing except sultry glowering, and Ryan stabbed her good. I hate all of the new characters so, so, much, but I hated her the most, and now she’s gone.
Here’s what I didn’t like about this week’s episode of The Following:
Ryan is the most useless revenge-seeker. This is the second season. He’s no longer employed by the FBI, no longer constrained by any rules, and because the love of his life is dead along with everyone else in his family, there really should be nothing keeping him from sacrificing the last of his humanity on the altar of vengeance. Joe Carroll the unkillable man needs to die, and Ryan is the crazy fucker to do it. Last year, soaked in booze and despair, he seemed right on the brink. This year, he’s… become fairly rational. His wit is dry and frequently deployed. He seems a little sick of Joe’s new faux followers, whose shtick is hardly different from the old ones.
And worst of all, he has someone new to protect, the marginally useful Max, who grounds him and makes him a more sane person. What good is that!? Why would I want to watch Ryan walk around being NORMAL? He’s supposed to be a goddamn renegade! Now, I know I’m complaining about this in an episode where Ryan killed two people in cold blood, burst into an innocent woman’s house and terrorized her just to get some rubbing alcohol for his wounds or whatever. But still. He’s distressingly level-headed and methodical. This does not make for fun television.
Especially since this is Kevin Williamson we’re dealing with here. The guy wrote Scream 2. He knows the rules about sequels—everything has to be bigger, crazier, more deadly. That’s clearly the intention with Joe’s new serial killer buddies. Last time around, Joe was the crazy one, and his followers, while homicidal, were obviously damaged folks just looking for a family to take them in. Look at Emma—she’s no pleasure killer. She’s just a very, very sad lonely girl with a deeply disturbing crush.
This time around, Joe’s the one who comes off looking like an amateur. Lily the art dealer is treating Joe like a piece to be curated. She’s built him a torture chamber with a medical table he can strap victims to. There’s a drugged co-ed in a cage just waiting to be killed. At first Joe (rationally) realizes he’s being controlled, but he can’t resist it (maybe it’s just too weird to walk away from), and after killing the girl, he takes Lily in the boudoir with his bloody hands. What her big play is remains to be seen—it can’t just be sexual fascination with a serial killer. But it’s obvious who has the upper hand here.
By the way: barf, barf, a thousand times barf to the poor woman locked in a cage waiting to die. I know it feels redundant and silly to complain about how objectionable The Following is two seasons in. But it really is. It’s trading on the most common, stereotypical images of abuse and torture porn, dipping into the shallowest wells of true-crime television and crappy horror movies. Its laziness is disgusting because it suggests ease and lack of stakes. Who even cares if Joe chalks up another co-ed murder. It’s about as common on this show as someone ruefully sipping a drink and looking into the middle distance.
Also part of Kevin Williamson’s escalation: the evil twins. Except, as things go on, we’re figuring out that there’s a good twin and a bad twin. Good twin has floppy hair and is kinda sweet. He has a crush on Emma, and wants to make out with her, but screams like a maniac every time she touches him. “It’s an important distinction!” he yells, but she’s obviously not that invested, accidentally painting Joe when she tries a portrait of him.
Evil twin has slicked-back hair and cares only for death. His interest in Joe seems nominal. He’s kinda scary because of his utter amorality, but he’s also completely uninteresting because the writers forgot to include a character to go with everything else. He kills people mercilessly. Great. Why shouldn’t I just be waiting for Ryan to burst in on everyone and shoot wildly?
Because it’s never going to happen. The long game of this season is clear: Joe will embrace, but ultimately rebel against his new friends. If he doesn’t go to prison and help Ryan from there, he’ll do it some other way, before another cliffhanger denouement. This is the final, and possibly worst charge against The Following, one I should be making every week. It’s. Boring. It’s so boring. Everything is predictable, nothing has an ounce of originality to it, and watching it fills me with despair.
- Joe meets the twins. “Twins. Interesting.” Has Joe never seen twins before?
- Emma abandons the pink hair, which… yeah. Good call, girl.
- At one point Ryan fools evil twin and his henchman by literally playing dead. This is stupid.