Plot: Claire Matthews (Natalie Zea) has revealed herself to Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon). Ryan is confused but happy to have Claire back in his life again. Their emotional reunion is cut short though when Carrie Cooke (Sprague Grayden) is attacked and given an ultimatum by Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) himself.
It really goes without saying that most television programs follow their own basic formula. Medical dramas usually end with the patient getting better at the very last second and most cop shows end with the real criminal being revealed. While some of the magic is lost when you know everything will be okay in the end, writers like to change their formula enough times to keep the viewers on the edge. There’s a surprise illness that doctors couldn’t catch in time or the criminal caught was simply a decoy. This all helps prevent these programs from getting stale. Unfortunately, it looks like The Following never got this message. From start to finish, “Betrayal” unfolded in an incredibly predictable manner with not nearly enough twists to keep the viewer wondering what will happen next.
You all know what my biggest gripe is with this show right? How inept our heroes are? “Betrayal” basically put that problem front and center. This week’s episode saw Joe plotting to kill the son of a televangelist named Kingston Tanner (Thomas Cavanagh). Kingston believes Joe is the Anti-Christ and that it’s his duty to stop wayward souls from joining this famous psychopath. Joe, despite calling religion extremely hypocritical, takes cues from the Bible to get revenge on Kingston by attacking his son Preston (Carter Jenkins). Ryan naturally catches wind of this plot and decides to travel to Preston with Mike Weston (Shawn Ashmore). As any sensible person could have predicted, their plan fails, Preston is kidnapped, and Ryan follows the murder group to Korban. Sure, you can make the case that successfully reaching Joe’s location is actually a win, and the same can be said about saving that entire fraternity, but the mission was to save Preston. Something tells me that careful planning could have resolved both issues.
It completely baffles me how these characters can both fail so often and make every stupid decision possible. This goes beyond learning from past mistakes too. It apparently doesn’t matter if Ryan is venturing into an area alone or has an entire SWAT team at his disposal. The killers get away about 99% of the time, and the other 1% can probably be chalked up to dumb luck by this point. Last night was a mixture of both, but it’s probably because this season is coming to an end. What gives? Why does this show apparently have such an aversion to our characters being successful at what they do the majority of the time? All things considered, the only person who’s really good at what he does is Joe, and he’s the one we actually want to lose. What kind of crazy world is this that any serial killer can outsmart every single member of long enforcement every time? Also, Ryan following the murder group is exactly like Max (Jessica Stroup) following Giselle (Camille De Pazzis). Wash, rinse, repeat right?
Claire’s return essentially changed nothing too. Every appearance with her this season has been played out as some major event. “Oh man Claire is alive! She’s going to rock Ryan’s world!” Instead of any of that “rocking” going on, Claire spent the entire episode locked in Ryan’s apartment. Remind anyone else of Season 1? The entire episode could have unfolded with or without Claire. Ryan figured out that Joe was going after Preston without Claire’s help and he likely would have found the kid’s address without her involvement. In fact, Claire was the one who encouraged Ryan to not tell the authorities about Preston. While I’m sure (hoping) that Claire will get revamped in upcoming episodes, right now it feels like her return was premature.
Back at the beginning of this season, I viewed Mandy (Tiffany Boone) as a character with promise. Her imitative youth could have made her one of Joe’s most dangerous followers. Yet once Joe officially returned to the world as a whole, the writers turned Mandy into the most annoying, jealousy-ridden character. She would disappear for entire episodes only to come back as if none of that mattered. Then she chooses to run away from the warm and murderous embrace of Joe to the warm and even more murderous embrace of Lily (Connie Nielsen). So can you really blame me for not caring about her death at all? Her inability to learn that spending time with serial killers is a bad idea brought her stupidity to unfathomable levels. Who could have ever thought that spending time with sociopathic murderers when you’re clearly not ready would backfire? If you’re scared of one crazy killer, run to the goddamn police, not another crazy killer.
Joe’s desire to start a holy war against Kingston feels wholly unnecessary too. Joe is already busy convincing his new group to kill in his name. Why is it necessary to bring in another character as a very high profile target? When you really look at it, this “holy war” is nothing more than an excuse to explain why Joe is doing all of these things. Last year it was Edgar Allan Poe, this year it’s religion. What’s coming in Season 3? Boredom? Considering how people in this show get killed with such reckless abandon for the dumbest reasons, it would surprise me if next year revolves around murders that happen “just because.” I see no point in getting involved with any member of the Tanner family. They’re likely only in this show as an excuse to further the body count without actually killing off the main characters. Plus, why do we need a new character to actually bother Joe? Why can’t it be Ryan, the man we’ve been rooting for since day one? Better yet, Claire!
“Betrayal” ended with Claire revealing herself to Carrie and Ryan inside the gates of Korban. While you’d think this would lead to an exciting finale, there are actually three more episodes left. This basically means that all those shots of black law enforcement vehicles supposedly driving to Korban and Claire pledging to get revenge in next week’s teaser likely only exist to excite. It’s too soon for Joe to get captured again. While Korban may fall next week, you can bet that Joe will find some way to escape and the hunt will continue for two more episodes. Honestly, I really hope I’m wrong with that though. There’s nothing I dislike more than already knowing how something will end. I want to be surprised and shocked! Not bored and uninterested like I was with “Betrayal.”