Matt Smith reviews episode 13 of The Following season 2…
The producers of The Following seem to have been biding their time. While nowhere near impeccable in their setting up of the end times their religious war has implied, things are coming to a head. Joe Carroll has another master plan that looks like it’ll end with yet another confrontation with Ryan Hardy.
Joe Carroll was always a bit of a reflection of the producers in the way he masterminded everything without ever revealing too much, in the first season in a more obvious way as he literally wrote about what was going to happen, and in this season he’s appearing on TV screens within TV screens to tell both the fictional and real audiences what is going to happen.
As a character, he even seems aware of the tension-sapping rule of protagonists. While the type of show ties itself to violent confrontations and exciting chase sequences, it’s tough feeling any tension when both Hardy and Carroll are invincible due to being main characters. While anyone else can die, without the two who’ve pushed events along the show would be nothing. Unfortunately, it gives some scenes a feeling of inevitable consequence, as Ryan Hardy dispatches yet another acolyte and Carroll makes yet another escape. There’s even the age-old beat where a bad guy holding a gun decides to poke our hero with it instead of keeping him at a distance, thus handily providing him with a weapon.
It’s all very inevitable this week, as Carroll seems intent on collision courses of sorts with both Hardy and pastor Kingston Tanner. His son being kidnapped by Carroll, Tanner responds with a message of his own about the word of God. But how much does Kingston truly believe his message? At times it seems like it might be as much a performance for personal gain as Carroll’s ‘spiritual guidance’. In that way, the show has depth however cynical that sideline is and however horrid that makes Tanner as a character. It’ll be interesting if they actually do anything with it.
He’s the less charismatic of the two leaders, with James Purefoy maintaining a performance that’s a mixture of said charisma along with an anger and intensity that makes you wonder what he’ll do at any given moment. It’s genuinely tension building and delightful to watch at the same time and has always been a highlight of this series throughout. At the other side of the field is Ryan Hardy, given a sunken look by Kevin Bacon that says as much about Hardy as a character as his actions throughout the series. They’re two very different, but equally brilliant performances. While Purefoy gets the more eye-catching role as the brilliant madman, Bacon lets us in on the weight Hardy feels and the vulnerability that comes along with that pressure.
With extraneous characters becoming less important and more expendable, this episode is the beginning of the end. The inevitable religious war seems to be a front for another showdown between Joe Carroll and Ryan Hardy and it’s in the scenes between the two that The Following excels. While the rest may not be worth watching at times, it’s worth sitting through and taking in for the second round between these two characters. It’s a little cliché that they do really need each other to survive, both within their personality constructs and as characters within the show (if one were to die dramatically, the other would be much more likely to follow), their relationship is exciting enough to provide solid entertainment. Especially now they’re back together this week.
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