It’s strange to what extent The Following can contradict itself in the space of just one episode. In one moment, the show might give off the impression that it knows how incompetent its law enforcement officials have been in the past or it might suggest that other characters realize how ridiculous Ryan Hardy is – the female FBI agent tells Ryan that he shouldn’t over-identify with the victims. In another moment, these lessons appear to have not been learned at all. There are details like an agent shooting and killing a cultist for running away. Granted, the cultist in this case is running towards a detonator to blow up the house that the FBI is invading, but the way the camera moves tells the viewer that the agent doesn’t realize this until after shooting the person in cold blood. It’s not just that the FBI is constantly outsmarted by a group of insane people; it’s that they appear to be a force that could be outsmarted by children.
What’s worse is that they aren’t stern enough in any way. Weston may have a soft spot for Ryan and doesn’t want him to get locked up, but Ryan really ought to at this point if the FBI is serious at all about taking action against obstruction. Ryan, after being told not to visit the victim, does just that almost immediately (and with a smirk on his face). He’s not impervious to the law, but – for some reason – he seems to think he is and The Following is letting him. It’s dumb luck that leads him to figure out that the victim he’s empathizing with is actually another cultist, and instead of being disciplined for getting involved in the first place and in spite of strict orders against that, he’s essentially treated as a consulting genius. The victim-turned-cultist tells Ryan that she can see why Joe is so interested in him. The viewer certainly can’t, though. It’s impossible to see why anyone would be interested in someone like Hardy outside of the morbid curiosity of looking at the aftermath of a car crash.
That said, Hardy’s infinitely more compelling than the cultists of The Following. Evil Twin A and Evil Twin B have some Evil Twin spat, but it’s not interesting or noteworthy. That they are indistinguishable as characters still makes it too difficult to care about anything they’re doing, including bringing in Emma into their little group (which is now short one Carlos, because why not?). The relationships here aren’t developed, especially regarding how the young French woman fits in and why she’s needlessly antagonistic to every character is supposed to be on her side. When the subway victim is revealed to be a cultist, she is – just after – also introduced as the Evil Twins’ mother, which…okay? Is that supposed to be a clever twist? The way The Following executes some of its dialog with dramatic pauses makes it seem like it thinks it’s rather smart when in reality it’s anything but that. Given how addicted it is to pulling off these kinds of moments, don’t be surprised if – in a couple seasons – Ryan Hardy is revealed to be one of Joe’s Followers.
At some point, the blonde subway victim (if it wasn’t clear by now, the series is so poor at making these characters look and sound like real people that remembering their names is a puzzle in and of itself) says something about the depiction of violence in a painting – something about violence in its purest form as art. This is the closest The Following has ever been to explaining its take on violence, but it’s so weak and tacked on that it only makes the whole situation worse. If The Following was simply completely unaware that its portrayal of violence is offensive, that is much easier to digest than if it knows that.
Yet, it seems to know very little. It certainly doesn’t know how to use Carrie Preston, who is absolutely wasted here in a way that might even be worse than Natalie Zea’s thankless role last season. But so be it. Joe somehow manages to twist Preston’s character’s daughter’s mind so that she ends up killing her own mother and the whole event and its aftermath, set to a cover of “Stand By Me,” is a stab at reaching that “art” of violence. It falls woefully short, however, and once again veers into comedic territory because of how implausible and unintelligible Joe’s story is at this juncture. Just another week with The Following.
[Photo via David Giesbrecht/FOX]