Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Following

The Following
Episode 5: The Siege
By: Carlos Uribe

The Following is a show about an FBI Agent who must track down and find a cult of serial killers. I will no longer be covering this weekly.

Spoilers Ahoy!

I don't care.

When Joey tried to escape the farm, I didn't care because I knew he wouldn't succeed. When Ryan Hardy and the cop found the farm, I didn't care because these are not characters. When the episode ended with the cliff-hanger where Ryan is captured by the serial killer cult, I didn't care because it's all so meaningless. This show doesn't have a theme. It's not trying to say anything about society or explore how we view the world. It's not trying to make me question my morals or be an in-depth character study. It's just presenting violence for the sake of it. There are many critics out there who claim that after Newton, they don't find enjoyment in the Following anymore. I don't think these critics are right because I don't think media is to blame for the psychotic breakdown of individuals. Shootings are tragic but the solution isn't in censoring the media or hiding yourself from violence. There isn't a single case where the movies and television show is to actually blame. I don't have a problem with violence in the media but that doesn't mean that's what I want. Do I like shows where there's gun fights, explosions, and the struggle over life? Yes. The Vampire Diaries is a violent show and it's enjoyable due to the content. Here's the thing: the violence in The Vampire Diaries is used to up the stakes, draw out emotions, and it has a point. People don't just die because it would be “cool” but because the show is trying to explore who the vampires are. The plot has themes and the fully developed characters are explored partly through their violent life. I don't enjoy the violence in the Following. I don't have a problem with it because of the violence that has always existed in our society but is now getting media attention but because it has no purpose. Kevin Williamson said he knew this show would be controversial from the beginning. He might very well be right but he failed to actually create a show around the controversial bits. As the plot moves along, I found myself wondering when it's going to end so I can move on to other television shows.

Who is Ryan Hardy? He's a drunk whose obsessed with work and has been surrounded by death his whole life. This is supposed to make him a flawed individual but the vices don't really come into play. What he reminds me is of a procedural protagonist whose great at his job but struggles with inner demons. There are many of these kind of protagonists out there-there's Patrick Jane on the The Mentalist, the cop from The Glades, Dr. Gregory House from House, Sherlock Holmes from Elementary, and the main character from Lie to Me. There's a lot others but these are the characters that come to mind. They are valuable to the team but they can be a trouble to their employers and tend to be self-destructive in some form. Ryan is a similar character but there's a huge difference. All of those examples I gave (except for maybe The Glades) are fully-formed three-dimensional characters and the series that revolve around them are basically character studies about them. House isn't just a medical drama but a show that explores who Dr. House is. Same with The Mentalist, Elementary, and Lie to Me. Those shows worked because it truly built a series out of a troubled individual. In the Following, a two-dimensional flat individual was put into the show to try and increase the tension. It didn't work. I don't care about Ryan Hardy. The only reason this character doesn't completely bomb is because Kevin Bacon plays him.

What is the cult? It's a cult of people who are messed up and like to kill. The reasons for why their psychopaths isn't completely explored. What's the trauma that made them who they are? Or are they born this way? The show really isn't interested in these questions. They simply are who they are and that's it. Joe Carroll is the strongest character this show has but he's barely used. It's partly because he's in prison. It doesn't allow him to really interact with most characters but that's a significant weakness. It basically means that the villain of the show is taken out of the action. That harms his credibility to the audience especially since we're finally seeing how he's giving them directions. That still doesn't put him in direct control over their actions as he has to do his best to get the information he needs. Since the characters aren't very forthcoming with him, leaving him out of the loop leaves him as a weak enemy. The show needs to find a way to put him in more direct control over the group so that he can influence the action in a much more straightforward way. Of course, this doesn't matter since the show isn't exploring anything thematically. It hasn't even tried to find it's own voice as it has moved on as it seems to think just being about serial killers is enough to hook viewers in. It's not because I find myself not caring about anything.

One of the harshest criticisms you can give a writer isn't that it contains weak dialogue, a nonsensical plot, or that you didn't like it. It is that you simply didn't care. A writer is supposed to create a world that sucks in the viewer. A world where the audience cares what happens to it and the people in it. You can have a show with weak dialogue but find yourself caring about it if other elements are strong enough. You can have a nonsensical plot (like Zero Hour) but still be enjoyable and drawing the viewer into the mystery. You can state you didn't like it because you didn't connect with the story but at least the possibility that it's technically good is present. To state that you don't care is to state that not only did you not connect with the story but that you found it has no redeeming qualities. I'm a big fan of Kevin Williamson. I think the Scream movies (all of them) are great dissertations of horror movies, the Vampire Diaries is a classic supernatural genre show, and Dawsons' Creek was a strong teen drama. I gave this show a chance because I'm a fan of Kevin Williamson and I will remain so-but I will not be a fan of the Following. I might watch a few more episodes but I won't review any of them. Why?

I don't care.

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