“Freedom” is actually almost what the The Following can do at its best (which still isn’t enough to make it a worthwhile series). The episode revolves almost entirely around one event–Lily Gray breaking her son out of the hospital–that is so familiar to the procedural genre that “Freedom” could almost be part of another, better show. We get a few terrible interactions at Corbin, unfortunately, but the episode is otherwise centered around the hospital job. Even the bloody sequence after the opening credits, in which Gray’s men kill and wound a bunch of innocent people at a bakery, helps to set up the events rather than function as superfluous acts of violence, which is what most of The Following is.
For anyone who has seen any episodes of the series, the drama is somewhat sucked out of “Freedom” because we know that the police and FBI in this series are too incompetent to prevent something like this from happening. Law enforcement loses in this series. That’s the name of the game. If that isn’t enough, the end result for Evil Twin B is in the title of the episode. Yet, there are enough layers and steps in the hospital sequence that it almost works as a central source of tension in the episode. At first, it looks like the cops might have got a step ahead after a scared receptionist tells them she overheard some of Gray’s men talk about escaping in an ambulance. They approach said ambulance only to have the driver try to escape and then come out gun blazing just to get shot down. Of course, Gray’s men weren’t in there. If it’s a predictable trick, it’s still one that gives the episode some merit by making the sting just a little more complicated for both sides. The end result is rather dumb, with Evil Twin B escaping from Ryan and somehow getting out unseen (after a convenient exchange of dialog in which he learns about what the actual plan is). I would have been willing to ignore that, though, had “Freedom” just been about Lily Gray.
Instead, we get a bunch more Joe at Corbin, which is no longer even tangentially interesting because of how foreign it is. It’s all tiresome, unintentionally funny and borderline offensive. For a series that obviously doesn’t care about offending sensibilities, that isn’t surprising. But Emma being a female character who manipulates a male character through sex for a different male character that is her superior and whom she wants to impress, this has gender criticism written all over it. The little that I’ve read about The Following from other critics who have done the thankless job of keeping up with a series that has no right to be on the air suggests that people have enjoyed Valorie Curry in this role. While I think she’s been one of the stronger presences from the perspective of only the performance, Emma is a terrible character. That’s not just to say she’s a bad person who murders people. She’s horribly drawn and utterly contradictory. This sexploitation only demeans her further and makes The Following look worse because of it. The weird part is that she also gets the best lines in “Freedom,” probing Joe about just what the heck they’re even doing anymore. I’ve had that question for eleven episodes now. What is Joe’s game plan? What’s the point? The explanation he gives is vague and not satisfying, saying something about Poe not being the answer like last year. This year, it’s about some kind of religious journey that is muddled by all things Corbin-related. In any case, Joe only exists to kill people, right? Otherwise, he would go back into hiding and live out his life in some other country. So, I guess what I’m looking for is some impetus for the killing, which gets lost in how confusing Joe’s ambitions and opinions are.
Mandy has the right idea by getting as far away from him as possible, choosing to join up with Lily Gray instead. At least she has a clear purpose and target. And, better yet, it’s a two-way street there with Weston wanting revenge for Gray killing his father. Joe is so out there right now that it’s almost impossible to have any kind of stakes in that part of the story. Claire shows up at Ryan’s place at the end of the episode, and all I see is an almost transparent picture of something The Following used to be before it splintered into different shards of nonsense rather than just the one block of nonsense. Are we going to spend an episode in which Ryan is going to struggle with his feelings for Reporter Girlfriend and Claire? Great. Can’t wait.
[Photo via Sarah Shatz/FOX]