Plot: Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) has been taken in by the warm embrace of Lily Gray (Connie Nielsen). While Joe wonders what Lily’s real motives are, Emma (Valerie Curry) questions their safety. Max Hardy (Jessica Stroup) is also hot pursuit of Giselle (Camille De Pazzis). Can Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) catch up to them before it’s too late?
Last night’s episode of The Following was titled “Reflection.” All things considered, that’s a very accurate way to describe what transpired. Everything that happened resulted in characters reflecting on recent events and wondering if the path they’re on is truly best. This was especially prevalent for Ryan, who faced the all too serious possibility of his niece dying. It was repeatedly stated in the past that they’re the only Hardy’s left but it took a truly life threatening moment for Ryan to realize he really could lose someone else he holds dear. The reflecting continued on with characters like Joe, who wondered if he can be controlled, and Lily, who questioned the worth of keeping Emma alive. But it wasn’t the reflecting going on within the episode that was the most prevalent. It happened to the viewer who couldn’t help but reflect on the first season of this show and wonder how it became this bumbled mess the second time around.
The failures of law enforcement have become a huge theme throughout this series, but last night was something else entirely. Both Max and Ryan completely messed up last night and spent the majority of the episode trying to rectify their mistakes. Initially, we start off with Max following Giselle on the train, a product of her failure to catch her in Grand Central. It’s all going smoothly at the onset with our heroes catching Giselle and getting some valuable answers. Yet in the most disappointingly predictable fashion, Giselle breaks lose and knocks Max out after a quick fist fight! Keep in mind Ryan ran off to follow a lead on his own. I’m not asking for Max to be a freaking super cop, but what does it say about a New York detective when she can’t stop a random young woman from breaking her thumb to slide out of handcuffs? We’ve now gone a few episodes deep into the second season. Why are the followers still being underestimated? Why does Max just suck?
Ryan of course screws everything up too at the factory. Once he arrives, Luke (Sam Underwood) and “expendable character #1” come to meet Giselle. This leads to a quick gun fight where “expendable character #1” is shot in the knee and Luke is held at gun point. What does Ryan do with this golden opportunity? He does what he always has, tells them to drop their weapons and surrender. And you know what happens? Luke breaks free, “expendable character #1” dies (such is the life of an unnamed killer), and Ryan is forced to run. It’s just baffling that the writers want to make Ryan into some vigilante who doesn’t follow the rules and yet still wants to follow basic arrest procedure. This all made sense in the first season when he was with the FBI, but now that he’s alone there’s absolutely no point. He should be using this freedom to stop using techniques that have constantly failed. You’d think by now he would have learned and adopted a shoot first policy, but nope.
At least Ryan’s story ended relatively well. After another brief stand off in a house, Giselle is killed by Ryan. This results in Luke breaking down on the floor and vowing revenge. I’m not one to be happy to see a character die, but when it’s villains like this who are plain terrible, it’s only fitting. Yet to do so, Ryan puts the life of an innocent woman in danger. What a good guy! That poor woman, Becca was her name, never got any closure. Does that mean she was killed by Luke? If so, great job Ryan. You have, once again, ruined the life of someone completely innocent. So while this ending was “okay,” all things considered, it was still flecked with crap.
The plot focused around Joe really was a lot worse. It starts off with the most promising of premises: Lily adores Joe and wants to treat him like a king. This pairing actually has some potential to be a truly exciting addition within this show. Lily is basically everything Claire (Natalie Zea) was last year except she actually condones what Joe does. It’s like the Bonnie & Clyde of serial killers! Joe turning himself into Joe Suave, a definite upgrade from Country Joe, was an appropriate start to this as well.
But then everything just spirals out of control like a plane that spontaneously lost an entire wing. This all starts when the mopey zoo lion herself, Emma, popped back in and continued to be a black hole of scowling emotion. Also, she’s blonde now! Who does she think she is? Nymphadora Tonks? Then for the remainder of the episode, Mark starts shamelessly flirting with Emma and even wants her to draw him like one of her French girls. Why do the writers feel the need to shoe horn in some hacked up romance here? No one cares about Emma and people have since stopped caring about Mark. Yet as if to make these characters even more annoying, Mark shows that he has some phobia with being touched. Phobias are nothing to laugh at but this is such an unnecessary addition. In fact, unnecessary is probably a theme for these characters now as apparently Luke has some obvious jealousy towards his adopted mother’s love for Joe. Why? Why is any of this happening? I legitimately liked the twin dynamic when Mark/Luke were introduced. Now? Not so much considering they’ve done nothing together since they were discovered.
The last five minutes were just a bundle of absurdity. After Joe kills this random woman, whom Lily locked in a cage in this killing/writing room built exclusively for Joe (torture porn, basically), the two have sex while Joe is covered in blood. This then kicks off a montage of Emma finishing her drawing of Mark, but it’s actually Joe for who the fuck cares why, Luke driving with a dead Giselle which is practically normal, Ryan hugging Max which was sweet, and Mike Weston (Shawn Ashmore) seeing a picture of Mandy (Tiffany Boone) and Joe with a beard (Country Joe rides again!). Oh yeah! Remember Mandy? She was gone the entire episode and apparently no one gives a shit.
People loved The Following last year because it was an exciting drama where the envelope was continuously pushed. Yet now it’s devolved to the point where the writers are probably throwing darts at an idea board. Our heroes are as incapable as they were before and now the antagonists are even more ridiculous. The writers are spending too much time on trying to make the bad people more interesting and not enough to give us a reason to root for our heroes. When I watched last season, I found myself shocked, disgusted, and scared at what I saw. All that Poe imagery was terrifying. Now I find myself uninterested with what I’m seeing and just generally annoyed. How is this better?