I think it is now painfully clear that The Following was out of ideas weeks ago. At this point, all it can resort to is being very, very unpleasant. This was a serialized television program, and it was all about Joe’s big plans for some crazy denouement, hyped for weeks and weeks among his followers. No such plan materialized. All that happened was things we’d known would happen for weeks. Joe kidnapped Claire and Ryan, intending to kill one in front of the other to mock Ryan’s “death curse.” Yes, Joe was dispatched, which was the one plot element I was still guessing about. But the final twist of Molly stabbing Ryan and Claire? Not that surprising, considering she mentioned her desire to do that several episodes ago.
This was a painfully slow, plot-light, disappointingly un-epic finale for a show that reached much sillier heights earlier in the year. It was clear we were in trouble when the first half of the episode concentrated on everyone trying to find Debra, who had been buried alive in a coffin by Joe’s nasty acolytes. This was a hacky ripoff of a plot we’ve seen a thousand times, from CSI to Buried to The Vanishing (spoiler alert).
It was milked for all the available pathos, but really, there was very little to go around. I like the Debra character and Annie Parisse’s performance just fine (she’s the least of this show’s problems), but I wasn’t invested enough to really care if she lived or died. I guess I admire the show’s chutzpah in killing her off, but after that long phone call, it would have been a real cop-out to let her live. Plus, this is The Following. It’s a miserable sack of shit show. Ryan exacts his pathetic revenge by shooting one of the acolytes in the face; it’s another in a series of disappointing, dark-for-darkness’-sake moments (the torture of the same acolyte was another).
This whole episode was just the writers admitting they were out of ideas. That torture scene was a prime example, cribbed from the pages of a dozen other shows with no real specific grounding in character. Later on, Claire is taken to a lighthouse by Joe (she decries his Poe allusions, hacky as ever), and there’s some other random prisoner there. Who is this guy? Is some twist on the way? No, he’s just a prop for Joe to murder, another grisly moment that supposedly underlines that he’s responsible for his own crimes, not anybody else. Was that really something that was in doubt?
Joe’s rants were impossible to tolerate. For some reason, he’s suddenly fascinated with when Claire had him figured out and when she fell in love with Ryan. Who cares? What does it even have to do with Joe’s dumb book? Where’s the poetic violence? Where’s the ironic murdering? Where’s the Poe? We all know that Joe’s a serial killer, that Claire doesn’t love him anymore, and that she slept with Ryan. Talk about old news.
Then Ryan shows up, having given himself up to Emma because Joe’s book (contained in Debra’s coffin) says he has to go to Joe alone. That did at least make for one amusing scene where Mike, adorably, thinks he’s going to go Joe-hunting with Ryan. This whole season, he hasn’t gotten that Ryan doesn’t even want him playing second banana, but he keeps trying to insinuate himself in there. You’re not gonna be part of the final battle, buddy. Maybe in season two (congrats for surviving, by the way).
Joe’s interactions with Ryan are even less interesting, at least until he starts to mess with Claire and Ryan tries to convince him that killing her is the most predictable route, at least from a fiction standpoint. “No one’s gonna see it coming!” Wise Joe knows Ryan’s just trying to get his goat and says the whole book is about Ryan’s death curse. “It is by far the MOST INTERESTING THING ABOUT YOU!” That’s perhaps a little much, but sure, it’s not like Ryan has a lot else going for him.
Still, Ryan manages to get Joe to deviate from the plan a little bit (maybe) by hitting him where it hurts: his favorite author. “I’m so bored with you and Edgar Allen Poe. What a trumped-up piece of nothing talent he was.” Sick burn, brother. So there’s a little chase, and Joe ends up in one of those huts that’s filled with explosive barrels, and he goes up in flames, in a poorly-staged sequence that is very unfortunately ADRed. It’s pretty obvious that Purefoy’s placid face is not making those demented screams.
So Joe is dead. Huzzah! I’d like to extend my formal congratulations to Joe Purefoy and to Parisse, and anyone else who’s free of this stupid show, which will be back next year. Natalie Zea might not make it either—Molly’s back-stab attack at the end of the episode really didn’t look good for her. I assume season two will focus on Emma and whatever rampage she decides to go on as the surviving cultist, or maybe it’ll just feature a new case and an even more broken-down, even more miserably death-cursed Ryan. In that sense, Joe has achieved his goals, but since he’s not around to gloat about them, I don’t know that I can really chalk this up as a victory.
That’s the problem with this dumb episode. There’s no sense of closure! Nothing really gets wrapped up, even as characters are killed off. The misery is just perpetuated, forever and ever, at least as long as Fox renews this show. Still, I can’t get enough of it. It’s been great to munch on bacon bits with you guys all year, and I can’t wait for the madness to begin again in 2014.
- Let’s all watch Tremors which has the opposite vibe compared to this dark evil show.
- Joe defends his ending. “I find it fitting.” “Or predictable.” “IT’S A MOTIF, CLAIRE.”
- “You’re not gonna shoot me, Ryan.” “I’ll shoot you in the leg!” Ryan & Mike sitting in a tree.
- God, what even happened in this episode? What a bore this was! All the insanity I hoped for was dearly missing.