And there you have it. Another year and another season of The Following, which–despite a massive decrease in viewership numbers–is still something Fox wants to keep around for at least another year. “Forgive” doesn’t do anything to fix the the overall issues that the series has. In fact, the season finale even botches its ending in a way that removes some of the mindless entertainment that made the first season finale…well, mindlessly entertaining. Almost. Instead of having that predictable twist that put two major characters in danger, “Forgive” shows us a nightmare that Ryan has and then cuts to a scene where Mark hitches a ride with an unknown ally. It’s not the first time I’ve had a problem with how The Following uses cliffhangers, but this one is especially dumb because it expects us to care about anything. Mark and Luke have not been interesting villains in the slightest. So, Joe being in jail and Mark being the main antagonist left standing just isn’t enough of a draw. The only thing I can see viewers being curious enough to come back to is finding out who is helping Mark. And knowing The Following, it might as well be Ryan Hardy, because why the heck not (it’s certainly not Ryan, but I can see it being one of the season’s protagonists, unless Williamson wants to build up some new Big Bad)?
But, whatever. Why spend so much time complaining? Let’s celebrate. Let’s celebrate Mike kissing Max. “Finally,” she says. Yeah, finally. Finally, we get this really heartfelt payoff for a season’s worth of material that had us on the edges of our seats wondering if these two characters could put aside all the awful things that have happened (like Mike killing people in cold blood) and just be happy and in love. Hooray! There is hope in the world of The Following! Let’s celebrate Ryan’s sobriety! Yeah! When asked if he wants a drink, he says no, almost getting Claire killed (again) in the process. Then he gets his bourbon baptism (it’s actually not bourbon, but I’ll take a cue from The Following and not care about accuracy, because alliteration is cool). Let’s celebrate all the great sleep Ryan gets to have now that this is all over. As he rests his head on his pillow, let’s celebrate all those people he has murdered in the past fifteen episodes. Sleep well, Ryan.
Let’s celebrate Joe Carroll. What a legend. Forget the big, public event in the church. This guy sacrificed all the joy he could have had by killing Mike and Ryan, because he still loves Claire. Isn’t that lovely? I’m glad the episode went in this direction, because I think the writing is being really consistent when it allows Ryan and Joe to team up to defeat another foe. It makes sense that Ryan would give Joe this opportunity, and it really makes sense that Joe would take it. Let’s celebrate putting aside differences for the greater good. And let’s also not forget to celebrate how putting aside those differences allows for everyone to live happily ever after. I can’t wait to see season three of The Following, in which Claire and Ryan are faced with the monumental task of having to coach Joey’s baseball team. Then, when everything seems okay and their road to the playoffs is all but cemented, Joe Carroll and the Edgar Allan Poes show up on the field and slaughter them because their pitcher is dressed in a raven suit and no one is paying attention to the ball. Finally, let’s celebrate Natalie Zea, who is getting great work in great TV series. Maybe next year, all her scenes can be via Skype.
In all seriousness, other than having Kevin Bacon on the bill, I don’t know why The Following is a thing that is going to exist in 2015. Even on the broadcast networks, there are serial killer shows that are infinitely better (Hannibal, first and foremost). There’s nothing particularly fun about the series, and that problem is made worse when Bacon and James Purefoy don’t get to spend more time together on-screen. For all its glaring faults, “Forgive” still manages to let both of those actors have fun together. This might actually be a problem with building a brand. Fox’s sitcom line-up makes perfect sense, and most of the shows manage to complement one another. The dramas are a mess, though, and I don’t think The Following is something that could or should be building around. Having just cancelled Almost Human (and with Rake‘s fate likely to be similar), Sleepy Hollow makes the most sense as a central pillar for the new regime. That is a series that can balance the ridiculousness with the fun and avoids being utterly dark and pessimistic like The Following. It doesn’t have the same star power, which, on the broadcast networks, actually makes a difference. But there’s more of a forward-thinking purpose behind keeping something like Sleepy Hollow around, whereas I don’t see much of a point in letting The Following run its course other than being in business with a very good actor in Kevin Bacon. This is the same network that cancelled Firefly, though, so anything is possible. Even Joe breaking out of jail again. In the first episode of next season. Place your bets.
[Photo via Sarah Shatz/FOX]