It’s fitting that “The Following” premiered in January, unlike season one which unleashed itself upon the world in September. September is a time of beauty, when the leaves are at their most colourful, whereas January is fairly grey and miserable to head outside in (if you live in the city). “The Following” is a lot like January. It’s miserable, bleak, grey, and like most New Years resolutions, a failure.
Season one of “The Following” was a terribly cliched and poorly thought out cat-and-mouse game between FBI agent Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) and the serial killer Joe Carroll (James Purefoy), who was inspired by Edgar Allen Poe and led a cult of killers with some serious literary pretensions. We are now one year later, and everyone thinks that Joe Carroll is dead, even though we never actually saw the body. To make sure that there’s the regular amount of gruesome killing there’s now a new cult that’s killing people to get Carroll’s attention, which means Ryan Hardy is back on the case.
“I want no part in this. It’s over for me.”
Much ink was spilled writing about “The Following” last season, specifically about the absurdly high level of violence. There’s no need to rehash it, since this season is essentially the same. The violence is so constant and unvarying that scenes which could be suspenseful, powerful, or creepy (or a mix of all three) come off as routine and boring. Season one was violence for the sake of violence, and season two is no different.
Nearly all of “The Follwing’s” marketing has been pushing how violent it is, and how it is as bloody and mature as any show you would find on a cable network like HBO or Showtime. While it certainly has as much death as something like “True Detective,” it completely lacks the maturity to deal with the violence in a meaningful way. Instead, you just end up feeling like garbage.
“I am inevitable”
Unlike last season, where nearly all of the violence was against women, now equal numbers of men and women are being slaughtered. However, “The Following” still does its best to tie violence and sex together, specifically in a late scene in episode two. Joe Carroll, alive and well somewhere in the South, has grown a beard and is attempting to reform himself. Alas, that doesn’t make for good television, so by episode’s end he has tied a preacher to a chair and stabbed him through the heart. As soon as the knife pierces the preacher’s skin Joe Carroll makes the most ridiculous orgasm face ever, and pants and yells and moans as if he gets off on the killing. The fact that he says “I am inevitable” as he sinks the blade in ties the two together even tighter, because even though pretty much everyone has sex, the writers still seem to think that you can’t have sex without pain.
If there is one thing “The Following” shares with cable shows, it’s that it completely idolized it’s anti-hero, a la “Dexter.” Ryan Hardy is running his own investigation, even though he isn’t part of the FBI anymore, and constantly keeps important things like the address of a crime scene and info about a suspect from the FBI. Characters harp on Ryan all the time for this behaviour, which makes it so much worse when he’s praised as a hero by the people he saves. Now that Ryan isn’t drinking like a fish anymore or being a miserable bastard the writers needed something to show that he’s an anti-hero, one who takes charge and knows what to do, but instead they just turn him into a complete asshole.
“I took risks with your safety. I was reckless.” “You saved my life.”
There was never any real hope that season two of “The Following” would be better than season one. Some of the dumber plot elements have been dropped, only to be replaced by even dumber ones. The violence is still as crass and thoughtless as it was before, and not a single character behaves rationally. Fox can proclaim all they want that “The Following” has enough violence to be on HBO, but even if that were the case, “The Following” would still be total fucking crap.