I have to give The Following some amount of credit for this one. For a series that utilizes pointless cliffhangers to try to cover up lazy writing–and, to be sure, “Silence” does end on a pointless cliffhanger that tries to cover up lazy writing–it handles the Claire-Emma sequence with some amount of confidence. As soon as Emma goes through the window, viewers are justified in predicting this to be an end-of-John-Carpenter’s-Halloween situation. After all, the “biggest” death that has occurred so far (Claire’s) has been reversed in a lame way. So, why not let there be an empty place where Emma’s body should be once Claire makes it downstairs? The Following, however, decides to semi-commit to a decision, which opts for a higher amount of tension and drama by letting there be a few more seconds of fighting before Claire impales Emma, killing her. There is a long-ish shot of Emma’s corpse. Lifeless. Then a commercial break. Then more of Emma’s corpse. So…if The Following somehow finds a way of going back on this…so help me…
In one sense, it’s strange that Emma is the one who goes out here, one episode before the season finale. The Following uses red herrings and twists so often that any kind of pay-offs we get are usually relegated to moments way beyond their expiration dates. But most people–or me, at least–would have figured Emma was a long-term investment for this series. It makes sense that it comes down to Emma versus Claire, since one is obsessed with Joe so much that she can’t imagine him having had feelings for anyone else (Joe is a master manipulator of Emma in this episode when he expresses his love, acting like he’s going to cry, only to show the camera a completely distant expression). Yet, since we’ve only had Claire in part of this season, and there hasn’t been much in terms of building up her and Emma as opposing forces, it just seems premature (although, I do like that we get a reminder of what Emma and Claire shared before the events of The Following and at the beginning of its first season). Strange, too, to be losing one of the more consistent performers in Valorie Curry even if Emma, as a character, had become completely tiresome. All that said, The Following did something that surprised me in a positive way, which is the first time I can remember feeling anything close to that with this series. So, kudos.
The rest of “Silence” is a whole bunch of the same nonsense that The Following usually identifies itself as; though, it’s at least a tighter version of it. People make dumb decisions (Claire foremost among them), but that’s to be expected. We see scenes that ought to elicit a reaction from us and don’t (Tanner seeing the video of his son murdering someone else), but that’s to be expected. What is less expected is how “Silence” forces its central characters into a situation that they shouldn’t be able to escape from in next week’s finale. I could be a complete idiot for thinking that The Following isn’t going to find a cheap way out of killing Mike or Joe next week, but this cliffhanger–unlike most of the others–gets a very slight bump upwards for there not being an overtly obvious way of diluting its effect next week. We hear a gun going off before cutting to black. Something is in motion. And, to be painfully honesty, I have the smallest amount of morbid curiosity about what that thing is.
I still don’t know how next week is supposed to either wrap this story up permanently or set the stage for an improved third season (as a reminder, The Following has been renewed despite the best efforts of the concept of sanity and its place within the human mind). We have the Evil Twins at-large, now with Claire and without Lily. So, what’s supposed to happen there? Do they somehow wind up at the church where the rest of our characters are, seeking revenge on either Joe or Mike for the events that led to Lily’s murder? Or do they carry Claire off to start their own cult that Ryan can spend next year chasing down. One of the Twins isn’t too happy about Emma being dead, so I can’t imagine keeping Claire very long before the impulse to kill her becomes too strong.
And then there are the two love interests for Mike and Ryan, Max and Reporter Woman (she might have been mentioned in this episode, but The Following has handled her so poorly that I don’t feel compelled to look up her in name in a matter of clicks). What happens with these pairings? If Mike dies, does Max become a regular character? If he doesn’t, does she find a way to put all this murder behind her and love him anyway? Do we care? Will Ryan spend the next season torn between what could happen with Claire if given the chance and Reporter Woman or any other woman who might pop up, drawn to someone so alluring…and who is a cold-blooded murder? Again, do we care? Or do you just want to see a bloodbath next week? Because that’s what I want. I want every single person in the episode to be a given a gun and just go for it. Don’t let the episode end until there’s only one person in that room left standing. Then, as that person walks out back into the city, covered in blood and wielding a pistol at bystanders, the episode can just finish, cutting to the title card. There’s a cliffhanger for you.
[Photo via Sarah Shatz/FOX]