The Following 2.05 Review: “Reflection”

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“They’re crazy,” Emma tells Joe about Lily and her family. Joe merely nods his head lightly, apparently not even bothering to point out that both he and Emma are, by common interpretation, also crazy. Welcome to The Following, where being self-aware means absolutely nothing.

After a fairly wild conclusion to last week’s episode, the hunt for Gisele goes as one might expect something to go in this series: horribly wrong. It’s too difficult for Ryan and Max to keep her handcuffed, so she winds up escaping. For some reason, she doesn’t bother to kill the unconscious Max, which would certainly help to either slow down Ryan or make him so unstable that he’ll be susceptible to stupid mistakes. Instead, Gisele runs to try and help one half of the Evil Twins Brigade, after which she ends up catching a knife in the gut from Ryan for lying about offing his niece. There hasn’t really been much attention paid to developing Gisele’s character in these early episodes, so it’s not exactly a huge loss, but it’s kind of weird that one of the bigger players in Lily’s scheme is gone this early without even having met Joe.

Ryan’s reaction when returning to the hotel room where he expects to find Max dead is one that reminds us how much he cares about the few people close to him, but it’s also a reminder of one of his many weaknesses that doesn’t make him cut out to be doing this job. He’s hugely prone to impulse decisions and is easily overcome by emotion and personal vendettas. The information he gives to Gisele – that he wants to kill Joe in a pretty gruesome manner – isn’t really an act, we have to assume.

There’s hardly much time to dwell on any of that in “Reflection,” though, which is mostly concerned with the antagonists. One Twin gets paired up with Emma, and the two seem like they might have a meaningful connection until Emma strokes his face and he goes haywire because of his fear of being touched. This pushes Emma away, because she obviously can’t stand people who have problems – they’re all crazy, after all. Yet, the episode leaves that door open and, given that this is The Following, the two should be an inseparable item in a few weeks’ time.

Lily and Joe get the other pairing, in which Lily tries to impress Joe by attempting to understand his darker desires. She leaves him with a prisoner and some tools of torture, which initially repulses Joe. But try as he might, Joe can’t run away from his nature, so he winds up using those tools on the girl before going to Lily for some intimate time, because that’s just what you do if you’re a psychopath. Not much time is spent with Joe and Emma, which makes sense considering how Lily’s power play is to exert her influence over Joe and get close to him, pushing Emma out. That conversation Emma and Joe share, where Emma is skeptical about Lily, still feels too silly to take seriously, as if we’re supposed to believe that Emma and Joe are any different from the people obsessed with Joe. But The Following appears to have a hierarchy of insane people, and the tiers just don’t mix well.

Even less time is spent with Weston and the FBI, who comprise the only semi-logical group of people in this show. Even with footage, they can’t seem to track down Ryan or Max and are left twiddling their thumbs. When The Following is closest to being a more traditional police procedural, it’s at its most palatable. Even if half the time is spent with crazy people being crazy, the other half can ground the series in some kind of familiar take on reality that shows us law enforcement agencies trying to take down killers. However, “Reflection” is so far removed from that idea that it ends up pushing The Following in a direction of a series that’s interested only in crazy people doing crazy things. If that is the show it wants to be, great (but not great). Let them all hang around the house, and we can follow the different love triangles and backstabbings. But if this is ultimately a series about bringing down a dangerous cult, let’s at least see some legitimate attempt at police work.

[Photo via David Giesbrecht/FOX]

Sean Colletti received his MA in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia. He writes television criticism for @Sound on Site and at his personal blog, There is nothing on. His current favorite shows are Mad Men, Louie and Parks and Recreation.
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