This week’s aptly titled episode of The Following is oftentimes exactly what I wish this serialized television convention of viewer discretion would let me do. When I committed to writing weekly “recaps” (it may be a leap at this point to even call them that) back in January, I was optimistic that this journey would deliver me engrossing entertainment and a quality drama series on network television. Seven weeks in, The Following is a bit of a chore, a necessary evil that I have committed to (at least for season 1, more on that in a bit), and a mixed bag of potential success and writing room narrative drivel. At its best, The Following is a 2013 lesser-version of an average episode of 24 that through sharp pacing, main character grumbling angst, some computer literate savvy assistance (Mike Weston fills in as a less ironic and more personable Chloe), and “where is this all leading” intrigue provides a fairly watchable program. At its worst, The Following is a challenging experience, soaked in horrific dialogue, the silliest of character relationships, unmotivated and off-putting gratuitous displays of violence, and a premise that when put under the plausibility diagnostic test fails every time.
Most weeks in which pages of the script had the setting as “the farmhouse” and dialogue from characters like “Jacob” or “Paul” or “Emma” were of this latter, worst case iteration of The Following. This week’s “Let Me Go” episode was thankfully devoid of Jacob and Paul (at least Joey was concerned about their well-being, Emma/Denise was unfortunately still around for the festivities) and was at least moving the narrative forward in some game changing kind of ways, albeit mostly through the implausible lens that has been the filter we have come to expect and dread. Yesterday, Fox announced that The Following had been renewed for a second season (New Girl, Raising Hope, and the “you are not doing anything better on Tuesday night at 9:30 so please join in on the fun” The Mindy Project also were picked up) and after careful consideration, I see this as potentially good news. My hope is that now the writing team led by Kevin Williamson will be able to consider the show more as a Joe Carroll long con and less a series of irritating new follower outbreaks. It has the airtime to go somewhere, so let’s see where it can take us.
In brief summary of the key plot developments of “Let Me Go” with the farmhouse in our collective (sigh of relief) rear view mirrors, Emma/Denise brings Joey to an auto mechanic, pseudo-follower named Bo who seems to be angry about a lot of things. On a trip to the little boy’s room, Joey discovers Dana, a young woman locked up in a cage. Meanwhile in FBI land, through some Olivia Warren attorney dialogue to the warden about torts and 8th Amendment rights (clearly, real lawyers were not consulted on authenticity), Joe Carroll is granted a transfer to a prison in Georgia because he was mistreated by Ryan Hardy and the FBI. (Quick tangent that I wish The Following went on: wouldn’t it have been great if the prison transfer was curtailed when Joe Carroll’s U.S. Marshall bus ended up somewhere outside of Woodbury in the fictional world of The Walking Dead? Joe Carroll, please meet the Governor! Or better yet, I would love to see Denise/Emma have a showdown with a field of walkers! Kevin Williamson, make this happen). Through some careful detective tactics known as “common sense,” Hardy and sidekick Mike Weston (becoming a more integral and appreciated member of the good guy team) figure out that the warden has been coerced into the Carroll transfer because it turns out that the caged woman in Bo’s shop is actually his daughter (ooh, I didn’t see that one coming). Naturally, the prison transfer is a rouse, Joe Carroll escapes in the trunk of Olivia Warren’s car, he then strangles her and puts on a suit (in the opposite order), and arrives at a building showcasing a sterile cafeteria environment for professionals. Ryan Hardy is just one step behind and after a dogged, guns ablaze in a public building pursuit, has a little confrontation with free man Joe Carroll on the stairwell leading up to the roof. This leads to this speech from Joe: “We have only just concluded the first part of our novel, yes, Ryan. For nine, long years I have sat in my prison cell outlining this entire story in my mind. I meticulously planned all of it, with a little help from my friends. That’s a Beatles reference, by the way…There is so much more to come, Ryan. I’ll be in touch.” Carroll leaves Ryan with his lackey, Ryan shoots the lackey in the leg, and hustles to the roof, but it is too late: Carroll is airborne in his getaway helicopter (Hardy decides to shoot bullets at it anyway). In the episode’s denouement, the FBI team finds Dana alive but Joey’s abduction party has escaped. As she goes into protective (not even Hardy will no where) custody, Claire Matthews is particularly displeased with the FBI performance in finding her son. Ryan may have to start bringing out more of his inner Jack Bauer (i.e. stretching the rules even more). In the final scene that seems to set in motion the second part of the Joe Carroll novel, the Carroll rescue party (welcome to the team, knife-wielding Louise) arrives at a late night gathering at some secluded fraternity-like house where he is met by Denise/Emma, Charlie, a band of new follower extras, and Joey, who was hoping to see Mom, but Dad will have to suffice.
In the true spirit of optimism, now that The Following has a second season mandate, I am hopeful that it will be able to carve out a more engaging narrative strand. Despite my general difficulties with the premise (especially that Joe Carroll could be considered this awe-inspiring figure), I am game for the developments in “Let Me Go” and could not be happier that we are out of the farmhouse. At the very least, The Following is a place where (“really?!!,” as in ” Really with Seth Myers”) Beatles references occur in the middle of important speeches, so there’s always that.
David J. Bloom can be reached on twitter @davidbloom7 and writes about pop culture and the NBA for Bishop and Company.