The Following: “Mad Love” 
C-

The Following: “Mad Love” 

C-

The Following

“Mad Love” 

Season 1, Episode 4

I want to precede this review by once again stating that I love Kevin Bacon. I think he’s just the best and I even think he’s doing an okay job on this show even—if the material he’s given is lacking. But good gravy: Is Agent Ryan Hardy the stupidest character in the history of television? I think he just might be. After spending last week’s episode huffing vodka fumes in the background, Ryan is front-and-center this week as we learned all about his family and saw its only surviving member kidnapped by the nasty Maggie, still reeling from the death of her Poe-loving husband.

For some reason, The Following insists on sticking to its flashback format, which is rapidly outliving its usefulness, especially on Ryan’s end. I think that after this episode, we understand everything we need to understand about his character. He’s got a drinking problem—if “vodka breath” wasn’t enough of a hint for you last week, this week we see his sister helping a drunk Ryan into bed in flashback and telling him he’s a drunk piece of shit with a heart condition. That’s the whole flashback. Ryan’s still a drunk piece of shit with a heart condition, but that scene had to be set in 2005 in his creepy New York dungeon apartment.

He’s got a sister—initially I thought the girl in the flashback was some ingénue, but no, it’s Jenny, a Brooklyn chef with a level head on her shoulders. The two of them have been through quite a lot, as we see Ryan tell Claire (in another flashback). Mom died when he was 14. Dad, a street cop, led an unremarkable career until he wandered into the wrong corner store at the wrong time and “tried to be a hero,” which is a fairly sarcastic way for Ryan to talk about his dad doing what he’s paid to do. Then, there was a brother, a firefighter. “Oh God, if you say 9/11,” Claire interjects. “Okay, I won’t say it,” Ryan replies.

One can’t help but laugh. The show is going to comical lengths to emphasize Ryan’s general misery and cursedness. Then, pretty much in the same breath, it’s winking at how ridiculous it’s being. That’s ballsy, and anything to inject a little levity is good by me, but come on. Did he really need a brother who died in 9/11? Even if Ryan had a cheerful happy family of piemakers, I’d still believe that he’s a miserable drunken dude who’s obsessed with a serial killer. As he does with every other plotline, Kevin Williamson is laying it on as thick as possible in case we don’t get it. We get it, Kevin. Ryan’s a real misery guts.

So, as Ryan’s remembers introducing Claire to his sister a few years ago and then talking through their breakup with her, Jenny gets kidnapped by Maggie, who’s all mad because Ryan shot her husband. Joe (who doesn’t get much screen time this week) is just delighted to hear about all the drama and cheerfully informs the feds that Maggie is a serial killer who got away with six murders in Arkansas. Yeah, turns out Maggie’s quite the mastermind, smart enough to get to Jenny’s restaurant, tie her up, and prepare an elaborate trap for Ryan that involves taping small boxes making “electromagnetic fields” to his chest to shut down his pacemaker. Ryan protests that Joe doesn’t want him dead, but she says she’s just finishing Joe’s work by shutting down his “heart gizmo” and letting him succumb to Joe’s stab wounds.

This whole thing isn’t too suspenseful because we know Ryan’s going to survive, he’s the lead character. Jenny could die, I suppose, but since Ryan’s the focus of the scene and we’ve just met her, it doesn’t seem like a present threat. Plus, we know how the whole thing is going to go because Mike tagged along with Ryan and was told to lay in wait and burst in if anything went wrong. Which he did, and Maggie gets shot, and everyone’s okay. Ryan’s told to make an appointment with his cardiologist, but that’s the extent of it. The whole thing feels like a waste of time, especially since Maggie was built up as such an evil creature.

I hate to admit it, but the threesome killer farm cult is the better storyline this week. There’s one nice twist: turns out Paul is less steamed about the whole Jacob and Emma thing, and really just can’t stand that Jacob hasn’t ever killed anyone despite professing otherwise. Yeah, in 2009, Jacob told everyone a whole elaborate story about his first kill that included the detail “That was the first time that I realized how heavy bodies are when they're dead,” which just reminded me of Steve Carrell saying breasts felt like “bags of sand” in The 40-Year-Old Virgin.

Now, the whole love triangle is still a problem. But Emma and Paul are working on that, inviting Jacob into the shower with them at the end of the episode (he’s possibly also killed their poor captive at this point—it’s ambiguous). Otherwise, Emma’s pretty mad that Jacob’s such a poseur and agrees with Paul that he should off the kidnapped girl. First, Jacob lets her go, but Emma and Paul recover her. Needless to say the whole thing is very creepy and gross and at one point Jacob rubs a knife all over this girl’s face while telling her to shut up, which no one needs to see.

With Ryan’s side of things becoming so ploddingly stupid, however, it’s hard not to be more entranced by these junior killers. At least there’s romantic drama and some suspense about their young captive, Joey, who’s beginning to realize things are pretty fishy on the murder farm. I know things are going somewhere with this plotline. With Ryan and Joe? I really have no idea how Williamson and his team can ever make that interesting.

Bacon bits:

  • Glower of the week again involves the lucky Shawn Ashmore, who really gets the brunt of hate from Ryan. Ryan’s about two seconds into explaining his family history when Ryan just puts himself to sleep in the car. One day he’ll get the message—nobody cares about your boring family!
  • Quote of the week? Or the best quote not referencing 9/11? I think it’s Ryan’s dismissal of his sister’s attempts to heal his weary spirit. She says, “nothing changes if nothing changes,” which even for this show is trite. “What is that, a slogan from one of your little GROUPS?” Bacon snarls. Delicious!
  • This week’s Kevin Bacon feature to check out is 2005’s Loverboy, the only film he’s ever directed! Plus, my roommate’s professor wrote the book it’s based on, so you gotta check it out.
  • This week’s best recipe involving bacon? This delicious bacon-chive potato salad. Serve it on the Fourth of July! 
  • By the way, #baconbits has become such an overwhelming phenomenon, I am doing away with regular old stray observations on these reviews. Who needs ’em?

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