The Following is back for a shocking third season (shocking in that it has made it this far) and the show is now…a snoozefest?
Let’s bitch it out…
One of the reasons that I have been so disappointed in The Following in the past is because it has a lot of potential. The best seasons of Dexter proved that serial killers can have layers and the murky morals of many of TV’s best anti-heroes demonstrate that you can go dark and maintain both quality and high ratings. So when The Following squanders its potential on paper-thin characters, gory shocks over legitimate suspense and inept plotting, it feels like a major missed opportunity.
In the lead-up to S3, the show has changed showrunners and each new season offers a chance to reboot and course correct, so heading into last night’s debut, I was hopeful that this would finally be the season that The Following got its act together.
And to its credit, it sort of has. ‘New Blood’ slows things down, doesn’t bother trying to shoehorn in unnecessary appearances by Joe Carroll (an unseen James Purefoy) and even makes a bit of an attempt to catch us up on how Hardy (Kevin Bacon), Max (Jessica Stroup) and Mike (Shawn Ashmore) have been doing in the year that has passed between seasons.
As IGN makes clear though, the show is basically an extended slasher flick and at the end of the day, the murders, the cults and the crazy will always take precedence. ‘New Blood’ aptly demonstrates that: as soon as Kyle (Hunter Parrish) and Daisy (Ruth Kearney) – and later Andrew (Michael Irby) – start hacking up innocent bystanders in order to create Hannibal-esque tableaux depicting the events of S2 that we know Hardy, Max and Mike have lied about, the show immediately veers away from any character development and doubles down on familiar investigatory work.
This was never going to change – it’s The Following‘s DNA, after all – but in S3 this is all starting to feel a little rote and mechanical. The villains change (for now Sam Underwood’s Mark is the holdover and the one who has now somehow inspired Followers to do his murderous bidding), but at its core the show is basically just Ryan Hardy, sad FBI agent who can never have a normal life because serial killers like to torture him. While the show never really managed to rise above its central conceit in the early days, at least then it was novel. Halfway through this new episode, I realized that my attention had already begun to drift because it felt like the same old thing. With two relatively formulaic seasons under its belt, The Following could do with a face-lift.Other Observations:
- The opening scenes feel like a weak attempt to do something to provide some depth to Agent Mendez (Valerie Cruz), but the “did we know she was a lesbian?” wedding feels like a super random way to give the character a personal life. And, of course, the moment that (fake) blood is spilled, Cruz is back into business mode as just another peripheral character in an FBI jacket.
- The wedding also introduces the Hardy’s new love interests: Gwen (Zuleikha Robinson) for Hardy and Tom (Gbenga Akinnagbe) for Max. Odds on one of these two being a Follower = 100%. Odds that the other ends up dead = 100%.
- IGN also notes that the show is now using our expectations against us: we expect Andrew to try and kill Hardy at the wedding, but he doesn’t (although he still turns out to be crazy) and we expect the couple to be the killers, not Daisy the fake-prostitute.
- Before the season began, the new showrunners director Marcos Siega and writers Brett Mahoney and Alexi Hawley discussed toning down the violence in order to up the suspense. The show was never going to turn into a G rated romp, but you can see things scaling back in the quick deaths that aren’t nearly as gratuitous as last season. Even the posed bodies aren’t overly graphic.
- With that said, the reduction in violence means that we don’t have anything as frightening as last season opener’s subway attack, which was admittedly gratuitous, but also genuinely frightening.
- At first glance I thought Andrew was played by The Office‘s Oscar Nuñez and it seemed like the strangest casting choice!
- Finally, while it’s unlikely I’ll do a weekly Quick Take review for the show, I am looking forward to Almost Human‘s Michael Ealy, who is slated to appear as this season’s Big Bad. I’ll likely dip back in when he shows up.
Your turn: what are your thoughts on the new season thus far? Did you notice the reduction in violence and gore? Are you intrigued by the new love interests or are they just meat fodder? Happy to see crazy Mark (and his mirror version of Luke) kicking around? Have the new Followers made any kind of impression? Sound off below.
The Following airs Mondays at 9pm EST on FOX. Here’s your preview of next week: