Perhaps it’s out of masochistic interest, but against my better judgement, I continued watching FOX’s insufferably stupid and dreary The Following long after TVAngie gave it up. Now that we’ve reached the end of the first season, it’s time to revisit the season as a whole to determine whether she made the right decision to drop the show.
Let’s bitch it out…I’ll be frank: I never thought that The Following was a good show. The first episode felt rocky to me, but I thought that TVAngie was being unduly harsh. By the time she gave up around episode 1×04, I was firmly in agreement with her assessment that the show was terrible. It was at this time that I began actively hate-watching it.
Over the course of the remaining S1 episodes, The Following was reminding me of Smash S1 (my previous favourite show to watch and mock, and the one that ended up as my worst show of 2012). Inept plotting, stock characters, skin-deep motivation, wild theatricality, a visually stunted palate of washed out earth colours and perhaps the stupidest characters that have ever graced a TV screen. Yes, folks, The Following has it all. In spades. Multiplied by infinity.
Over the course of the season, I frequently wondered whether there was any chance for the show to redeem itself and possibly even become good. I found myself intrigued by Agent Parker’s (Annie Parisse) backstory as an escaped cult member…only to find that it played no role in anything. I wondered whether the love triangle between Emma (Valorie Curry), Paul (Adan Canto) and Jacob (Nico Tortorella) would go anywhere (it almost does after Emma abandons the boys and Jacob kills Paul, but then Jacob just turns into a moron and Emma just slits his throat).
Similarly the scenes at the mansion started off well and introduced the series’ most compelling character, Roderick (Warren Cole), but then quickly grew tiresome as the Followers simply milled around, Joe (James Purefoy) drank himself into alcoholic rages and Claire (Natalie Zea) moped around while looking fabulously made up. Apparently in between volunteering to be kidnapped and fretting for your child, there’s plenty of down time to shoot yourself in the face with the make-up gun?
On the good guy side, Hardy (Kevin Bacon) spent the season running around growling, drinking and looking increasingly haggard as the FBI agents around him dropped like flies. As they should considering how useless and stupid they were. Agents got suckered by the dumbest acts, including the particularly memorable scene where a Follower is allowed into the police station to confess and promptly stabs the highest ranking FBI agent in the eye! With a hairpin! The worst scene had to be in 1×14, however, when a town evacuation turns into a ludicrous bloodbath because no one bothered to screen the people coming in, despite the fact that Followers are repeatedly exposed as everyday folk hiding in plain sight.
My biggest complaint of the show isn’t the lack of believability (though that is problematic), but rather its depiction of a completely inept police force. At every junction the Followers outwit, outsmart and outstab the cops, who frequently seem ready to run around with their heads chopped off. At times sidekick Mike Weston (Shawn Ashmore) shows signs of being vaguely intelligent, while Agent Parker – although far too passive and empathetic – is the show’s sole emotional anchor. It seems obvious that this is the reason that Williamson and his team of chimp writers chose to bury her alive and kill her off, although it’s a complete misfire to a) pack this into the finale instead of giving it its own episode and b) build it up so much that it feels like a slap in the face that Parker dies while wet blanket Claire lives.
The simple fact is that the series was poorly written, poorly plotted and often poorly acted. Perhaps because it was developed in a self-contained vaccuum in which the episodes were in the can well before the reviews came in that doomed the show to wallow in its myriad errors. Outside of groaning, laughing at and hurling vulgarities at the screen, however, The Following has been one of this season’s biggest creative misfires.
- We’re all on the same page that Joe Carroll is clearly alive, right? I just want to ensure that no one is confused As IGN points out in their review, his screams sound dubbed over (reports suggest that multiple endings were shot so perhaps this is audio from another version?). Either way, rest assured that Joe and his stupid Poe fixation will be back for S2
- Could the ending be any more of a desperate cop-out? It’s clear the Williamson and co. want to end with a big WTF moment, but instead the kitchen stab-a-thon is completely predictable. Scream taught us to expect one final attack and Molly’s (Jennifer Ferrin) desire to kill Hardy was literally spelled out several episodes ago. My prediction: come S2 Claire will either be dead or in a coma. Ryan will, of course, be fine
- I like Emma’s Emily Thorne-inspired make-over with the dowdy wig and giant glasses in the epilogue. That’s about the only good thing I can say about her, however. No offense to Curry (who struck a good balance between naivety and menacing), but Emma was one of the worst characters on the show. It’s as though the writers could never figure out whether we’re meant to feel for her: should we be terrified of her or laugh at her? Naturally she’s the sole remaining prominent Follower alive at the end of the season because I sooooo want to watch her pout around for another whole season (please note the sarcasm)
- Here’s hoping that in the interim, the writers actually take time to draft an overview of the season and craft compelling characters to navigate more interesting scenarios. Bringing back Joe Carroll – though obvious – would be a cardinal mistake. Much like AMC’s The Killing, this is a series that needs to stick to a single self-contained case each season. Drudging up Carroll, Claire, Emma and the gang for another round will only result in deja-vu storytelling. The thought of watching more idiots in Poe masks, randomly stabbing people and leaving breathy voice messages for Hardy already has me contemplating plucking out my eyes. Good riddance
- Joe (assuaging Ryan they won’t fight): “I have been stabbed by both a knife and a fork.” Ah yes…the only times Claire was allowed any agency all season long. Such fun
- Ryan (to Joe, echoing everyone’s sentiments): “I’m so bored of you and Edgar Allen Poe.”
That’s a wrap on S1. Will you watch the second season of the show? Were you expecting Joe to die? Did you think Molly would be the last attack, or were you expecting Emma? Which storyline left you least satisfied? And what would you propose to “fix” the show (assuming you agree that it’s broken)? Comment away below
The Following has now finished its first season. It returns to FOX sometime in 2014