Episode Title: "The Siege"
Writer: Rebecca Dameron
Director: Phil Abraham
There was a moment in this week’s episode of “The Following” where Mike Weston (Shawn Ashmore) and a female deputy were going over the grainy security footage of Paul Torres (Adan Canto) that was taken on the night he kidnapped Megan Leeds (Li Jun Li) and I thought “at least the show isn’t doing the ‘CSI’ trick of unrealistically enhancing the footage.”
And then they did.
So it is with “The Following.” It’s one half great drama mixed with some of the most contrived situations and shockingly stupid characters on television. To be sure, there were definitely parts of this episode that were really good. But this was the first time that “The Following” threw me out of the story because the characters were doing things that just didn’t make sense.
Full spoilers are ahead for “The Siege,” so don’t read this review if you aren’t caught up with “The Following” or else Joe Carroll will send someone for your fingers.
In terms of boneheaded moves, no one tops Claire Matthews (Natalie Zea) this week as she basically runs to get herself captured by Carroll’s followers. Holy crap, that was stupid. From a drama standpoint, I understand why the writer is putting Claire in harm’s way. It looks like her son will be freed within the next episode or so and someone needs to be in jeopardy as “The Following” nears the midpoint of the season.
But did Claire really need to so blindly fling herself into danger? We’ve been told time and time again that Claire trusts no one but Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon). Yet when her crazy ex-husband, Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) sends his lawyer, Olivia Warren (Renee Elise Goldsberry) to tell Claire to meet one of his followers alone if she ever wants to see their son again…. well, she wastes little time ditching FBI agent Marshall Turner (John Lafayette) and jumping into the car of Charlie Mead (Tom Lipinski), another one of Carroll’s followers.
That could almost be understood if the FBI had no leads. But her son, Joey Matthews (Kyle Catlett) actually managed to reach her by phone only a few hours before. So that made Claire’s rash actions less believable. The plot demanded that Claire needed to be in Carroll's custody and the script bent over backwards to get her there.
By comparison, Joey came off as sharper than his mother by making his own escape attempt. Joey overhears Emma Hill (Valorie Curry) and Paul admitting that they’ve been lying to him, so he runs off to a neighbor’s farm. But then Joey believes Emma’s lies about the police being out to hurt him and her assurances that he can call Claire from their farm.
Joey is just a kid, so he can be more easily forgiven for being so naive. And when Emma locks him in his room, Joey actually manages to escape again by prying open the door with a skateboard.
One of the better aspects of this week’s episode is that it appears the misadventures of Jacob Wells (Nico Tortorella), Paul and Emma are coming to an end much sooner than expected. Those three characters are actually the most interesting thing about “The Following” and it’s hard to picture the series without them. But it’s reassuring that the series isn’t dragging out their manhunt for a full season. Although, nothing I saw of Charlie convinced me that he’ll make a suitable replacement if any of these characters don’t survive beyond next week’s episode.
After their night of stabbing and sexual debauchery, Paul and Emma are now physically intimate; which weirds the hell out of Jacob, who seems to regret his threesome with them. It appears that Jacob really wants to deny the part of himself that had feelings for Paul and he’s well aware that Paul only wants him. And the only things that Paul has in common with Emma are a love for murder and a devotion to Carroll.
Jacob’s inability to kill their hostage, Megan could almost be seen as the last shred of his humanity that is just barely hanging on. But he’s not a good person. Jacob wants to be a part of the killing and Carroll’s vision… he just can’t do it himself. Paul and Emma are clearly the more dangerous members of the trio, as shown when Emma casually tells Paul to “thank” the elderly couple who found Joey.
Meanwhile, Ryan and Weston practically have to plead to get Special Agent Debra Parker (Annie Parisse) to let them follow up on the lead to find Joey. And soon enough, Ryan is paired with Sheriff Redshirt to search for the farm before they stumble upon the dead bodies of the elderly couple minutes after Paul had dispatched them.
I was hoping that “The Following” would surprise me by letting the Sheriff live, but he died fairly quickly so as to allow Ryan the option of going into the home alone to search for Joey. The cliffhanger is actually really effective, but the show is now boxed into a corner and it can’t convincingly allow Paul, Emma and Jacob to escape this time. They may steal the show, but this is still Bacon’s TV showcase.
One last thing: the angle of Carroll’s lawyer, Olivia as his reluctant messenger may have been necessary, but it wasn’t good TV. While it was refreshing that Olivia wasn’t one of his followers, it was pretty ridiculous for the FBI to allow Carroll to meet with her when he was obviously going to use her to communicate with his cult. This week’s flashback showed why Olivia is scared of Carroll and why she’s following his commands, but it really wasn’t that compelling to watch.
I still believe that “The Following” can at least give us one really solid season of television. The test will be if the series can reinvent itself after Joey and Claire are eventually rescued or meet tragic ends. But “The Following” can’t keep going in circles forever.