Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Following

The Following
Episode 2: Chapter Two
By: Carlos Uribe

The Following is a show about an FBI Agent who must track down and find a cult of serial killers.

Spoilers Ahoy!

I think a huge problem with the show could be summed up with that final scene. A scene where the man in the Edgar Allen Poe mask set a random person on fire. It's supposed to be a cool scene that provides incentive to watch the next episode immediately. There should be no problem with this, right? It's just that the scene right before it was pretty much the perfect one to end the episode on. It would have provided the show with a great ending based on character rather than plot. Ryan Hardy intensely watching Claire sleep was not only a great character keep but it got me more excited to see where the show could potentially go. An excitement that was ironically hurt by that cliff-hanger. Why? It might have been a cool scene but it didn't have any meaning. It just happened. The scene before it was at least based on an action that meant something to the characters but the show chose to end on a cool but senseless action. The cliff-hanger of the previous episode had worked because the kidnapping of the kid carried stakes and direct consequences to the main characters. It had more meaning and it fit more naturally into the episode than the ending of this episode. It sort-of feels like it was added on with no consideration to what had happened before. This is a show that is so plot-heavy that it often comes at expense of character.

The good news is that this show has at least started to rectify that problem of character. There are numerous scenes that attempt to develop the relationship between Claire and Ryan. One of the best flashbacks is when they talk about their first kiss. It's a scene that manages to work because it feels real. The characters are allowed to have an actual human connection. This is so important to note because it's the first time where the characters feel like they're actual human beings rather than constructs in the writer's imagination. The flashback might have been brief but it did more to show the connection that the two had than anything before it. Everything else has been so carefully constructed that it was a nice relief to see a scene where it seemed like the characters were comfortable with each other. The show has also started to develop Joe Carroll's followers through their own flashbacks. It's nice that the show was willing to slow down the pace just enough in order to start telling us who these people are rather than just going through the plot. It's nowhere to the level that it needs to be in order for the drama to really take hold because most of the characters remain two-dimensional. The police characters largely exist for exposition and even Claire still remains relatively two-dimensional. It's steps in the right direction but it's a long journey.

The actual plot was somewhat successful in creating tension. The problem is that very little of consequence actually happened. There were cool violent moments that were supposed to catch the viewer offguard but they happened to characters we barely knew or didn't even meet. The tension of the main plot was hurt simply because of two reasons. The first is that it becomes evident early in the episode that Joey is going to remain kidnapped until at least the next episode. That his disappearance sort-falls into the wayside at moments of the episode only add to that feeling. It's difficult to keep the tension alive for something that becomes quite obvious that the it's going to take a while to resolve. Making matters more difficult is that the kid isn't in any imminent danger. There is a hint that one of the fake gay couples (the one not dating the babysitter) might snap the kid's neck but that's just it: a hint. It's difficult to keep the desire to see Joey rescued be kept alive when he gets to live in a nice house without any fear. He doesn't even realize he's been kidnapped. The second reason the tension is undermined is because the show decides to put Claire's life in danger.

There is a good reason to put her in danger because Joe is hoping to rehabilitate Ryan's reputation by having him rescue her. This would be no problem if the show didn't try to play that she might actually be in danger. The show tries it's best but I was never convinced she was actually going to die. There's a difference between killing a main character in the pilot and doing the same in the next episode. It might have made sense when it comes to the plot but the show should have realized that viewers would have been ahead of it. The pilot had at least introduced the idea that everybody might die but this idea will be undermined if the show abuses it to put the characters in false mortal danger. This whole plot also served to distract from the investigation into the kid's kidnapping which played into undermining the tension in two different ways.

Chapter Two is an episode that isn't completely bad but it still suffers a lot of problems from the pilot. It's at least taking the right steps when it comes to characters but it has yet to find it's theme or message. The violence remains like it's added on because it's cool rather than to actually contribute to the plot. I'm still a bit hooked but the show is now in danger of losing my interest. Here's hoping the third episode is able to be big enough of an improvement to make me want to find out what happens next immediately.

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