The Following: Season 1, Episode 4: Mad Love, Review
Nobody likes Mondays. It’s the beginning of the work week, the school week and a return to the humdrum routines we all hate. Having to wake up early, having to leave behind the weekend, it all contributes to help make Mondays the day from hell. For this reviewer, Mondays have just gotten worse. Mondays are now the day where I have to sit through the tepid, morose, dreck that is known as The Following. Folks, this show is an utter downer, the feel-bad television show of the CENTURY. Television is meant to entertain, but The Following is a chore to sit through. The writers think that piling on gore, solemn monologues and dark subject matter makes a hit, following (HA) the lead of ratings powerhouse The Walking Dead. Though I don’t find that program much better, at least The Walking Dead occasionally rewards its viewers with some occasional humor or a small victory, but on The Following all humor is unintentional and the only victories that come are when the final credits roll. Kevin Bacon, a respectable career actor, chose this steaming pile of garbage to be his television project? Really?
Kevin Bacon has been sulking and brooding as best he can and we give him credit for trying. His Agent Ryan Hardy is a tortured alcoholic who sleepwalks through the case of his life. At least Ryan is in the mix more this week, with his sister being captured by last week’s fleeing Carroll minion Maggie. We already understand that Hardy has some demons, he was fatally injured by a sociopath that left him with a heart monitor, he has a terrible alcohol problem and a troubled relationship with the ex-wife of one of his perps. We get it, the guy has problems, but this week, the writers felt they needed to pile a little more baggage on Hardy’s shoulders. In a flashback this week, Hardy reveals to Claire that his mother died of leukemia when he was just 14 years old. Wow, that’s pretty sad. Then we hear that his dad was a former police officer who was in the wrong place at the wrong time and was gunned down in a convenience store robbery. Oh man, I feel for the guy. But the ridiculous cherry on top of this sadness sundae comes when Hardy continues with a comment about his brother.
“My older brother was a New York City firefighter,” Hardy says, avoiding eye contact with Claire.
“Oh God, if you say 9/11,” she begins, horrified.
“Okay, I won’t say it,” Hardy says solemnly.
Jesus! We really needed to go that far?! We needed to bring 9/11 into the Hardy backstory, just to prove that this guy is REALLY tortured, not just kind of tortured? The wounded hero card is laid on so thick it almost makes you laugh at the absurdity and melodrama of it all, but that’s nothing new for this show.
The flashbacks over all are a little less problematic. It is very tiring constantly bouncing around from characters and timelines in a never-ending sequence of short flashbacks, but at least they serve somewhat of a purpose this week, like detailing the breakup of Hardy and Claire or revealing that Jacob never actually killed anyone. We’d prefer no flashbacks at all, since they never really culminate in anything particularly spectacular, but if we’re going to be forcefed these glimpses into the past, we would like them to be at least semi-informative, like tonight’s.
Instead of sticking with the tired cliché of the FBI being one split second behind this week, The Following decides to barrel ahead with their other favorite trope, sending Agent Hardy, unarmed without backup, into danger where he subsequently will be knocked out, subdued, eventually freed. This has happened, what, at least three times? You think the guy would learn to look around a little bit more before entering a dark room where impending danger surely waits. For a guy who is supposed to be an expert, he’s always coming across as pretty sloppy. The tactic is even more frustrating because we know, of course, that Hardy will make it out unscathed. He’s the protagonist. He’s not going to be taken out by a character that we were just introduced to last week.
The trio of minions continues to be nauseatingly terrible this week, anchored by the fact that their de facto leader Emma, is a terrible actress and boring onscreen presence. Every single person she shares a scene with upstages her. This week the followers have to figure out what to do with Megan, the girl Paul just decided to kidnap and bring back to their hiding spot when they are wanted all across the country with their photos on every television newscasts. Inexplicably, the gang decides to make Jacob kill the girl, not Paul, the guy who created the problem. This is convenient because we get to learn that Jacob is a big softy, he’s never killed anyone. For some reason, I just can’t empathize with the guy. Huh? Wonder why. He lets Megan go, but Emma and Paul chase after her and put her back in the basement and hey, they bond in the process. How swell. At the end of the episode, the three embrace in the shower, in a scene that should be a part of some coming of age, grappling with sexuality story, but instead shows up in a network TV show about serial killers. It feels awkward and out of place to say the least. The only good thing that comes from this trio of morons is that the Williamsons dialogue which, for the most part, has been laughably terrible, feels more natural coming from the young adults then it does from the middle aged FBI agents.
Joe Carroll only popped up in one scene this week, which probably hindered the show, but at this point, not much could help. The Following is one of the biggest busts in recent memory. I dread the moment it ruins my next Monday.