Matt Smith reviews the latest episode of The Following…
So you’ve moved out of your old home to a new, bigger, better place. The rent’s got to be a killer, but the neighbour’s are nice. It’s like a real community. You all get on, you’ve got your son there with you, hopefully your wife’ll be arriving soon. And of course your new place gives you the chance to really sit down and get on with your work. I mean, that old place was so hard to focus in, wasn’t it? It’s like you’re just staring at a blank wall, but ultimately you were chained to your desk because of your work.
And thus, having summed up Joe Carroll’s life, I introduce the previously on segment for The Following. They should get me to do it every week. Just me in Joe Carroll’s new house,, dressing gown on, a fire behind me, a giant book on my lap. It’s open, but I never read it, because it’s a prop. It’d be real homely, really nice and comforting. It’d bring in the younger viewers, I think.
Or maybe I’m just losing my touch. Is Joe Carroll losing his? He’s now got access to his son Joey, but can’t get through to him. Is this because his son is so terrified of the stories about his dad that Joe can’t get through to him? Or is it because Joe doesn’t want to treat his son like just another follower? He obviously loves the control and power he wields over his followers, all ganged up living under one happy roof. Seemingly more than the actual killing itself. But what happens when you try to bring your family members, the ones you supposedly love, into the mix?
Ryan Hardy’s having a hard time too. A new leader enters, questioning why Hardy resorted to torture. Is it worth it to get important information? Torturing someone isn’t something that should be too quickly thought over. Should the FBI agents be sat behind desks judging the people they catch? The series constantly looks like it’s going to touch on these bases, but never really follows through (favouring the blood and guts on screen, distracting the viewer with, I admit, fittingly graphic scenes). Commentary on these issues would be a great milestone to reach for the series, but it prefers the more obviously entertaining route out.
‘Who’s a major enough character for there to be tension about, but minor enough that we can possibly get rid of him. Weston? Perfect!’ Going all the way out, Shawn Ashmore’s Mike Weston probably has the toughest time of all this week. Carroll’s tough guys and the show stick him in the middle of the worse fight club I’ve ever seen. Dispensing with all commentary and subtlety, he’s beaten to within an inch of his life. While this would seem to be a heroic moment for the character (taking a beating for his colleague), it’s instead just a mindless, numbing sequence that’s transparently reaching for the lowest common denominator. The ‘rounds’ of fighting they put the character through escalate, the tension supposedly squeezing up with the stakes. But it doesn’t work and is a cold way to try and bring about more primal emotions.
Which is a shame, because the sequence that follows almost silently brings across the ideas of the characters involved. The emotion there is real, advancing character arcs while bringing others to a close. It’s a real mixed episode this week. When it’s left to the half explained, suggested ideas The Following does well in communicating them, the direction working to its advantage. It’s when it so blatantly tries to bring in viewers with brash brutality that things go wrong. I just hope the series, in moving to a new place, hasn’t lost its touch.