The most frustrating thing about watching The Following is that there is a decent idea in there somewhere.  Despite all the clichés, terrible writing and weak characters, there is something about it that could make it a good show, if only its creator Kevin Williamson and his writing staff could somehow get their act together and start writing better scripts for it.

If nothing else, the show has at least been progressing through its first three episodes, creating a world for the story to exist in and setting up the long-term plot, but episode 4 is the most boring episode yet, and there’s really no excuse for that in a show that aims to be edgy and thrilling.

The biggest problem with episode 4 is that it the Hardy versus Carroll element of the story is really losing momentum, and given that it’s this part of the show that contains its stars, that is a huge hurdle to over-come.  James Purefoy is only in two scenes (one present day, one flashback), and again the show does nothing to convince you that Joe Carroll is really capable of inspiring people to kill in his name.  So instead of Carroll being the threat to Hardy, it’s left to Maggie to challenge and threaten Hardy, taking his sister hostage and luring him away before she attempts to kill him by err, making his pace-maker not work properly (it’s just like Homeland, only terrible).

Of course, the problem with this is that you never believe that there’s any chance of her succeeding, after all, she’d be killing Kevin Bacon if she killed Ryan Hardy, and why would he sign up for a flagship FOX show only to be killed off after four episodes?  This strand of the story is not helped by a number of flashbacks to expand Ryan’s relationship with his sister and with Joe’s wife Claire.  We see his sister helping him get into his apartment while he’s drunk, and then dishing out advice to him when it comes to his relationship with Claire.  Talking of that relationship, there’s a jaw-dropping scene with Ryan and Claire in bed, where she asks him to tell her about himself.  We find out that his mother died when he was 14, his father, a cop, was killed when trying to break up a fight in a bar, and his brother, a fireman was killed after the 9/11 attacks (Claire says ‘Don’t say 9/11’ when he mentions his brother’s occupation, which is exactly what I was thinking too, but she probably wasn’t thinking it in a ‘Oh come on Kevin Williamson, spare me!’ way).

So as if it wasn’t already apparent that Ryan Hardy is a complicated man with issues (he drinks tooo much, he’s single, he has a pacemaker), he also has family problems, which include the possibility of dying in front of his sister who will then be horribly murdered after he’s died.  Thank goodness then for Mike Weston (Shawn Ashmore) who arrives just in time to take Maggie down and save both Hardys.

And with the Hardy/Carroll part of the show falling flat, it’s left to the increasingly complicated love triangle between Emma, Paul and Jacob to be the most interesting thing about The Following (and that isn’t that interesting).  Angry about Emma and Jacob’s relationship, and the way Emma has placed herself in charge of the operation, Paul went out and got himself a hostage, a girl from a nearby convenience store who now finds herself tied and gagged in the basement.

This obviously represents a problem for them, as even though they’ve introduced Joey to the idea of killing (one of the ideas in the show that I actually like), he’s probably not going to react well to seeing a tied up girl.  Paul tells Emma that Jacob has lied about killing people (he has never killed anyone) so they decide to make him kill the girl.  We see more flashbacks that show him inventing a story about killing someone, and then telling Joe the truth, but he doesn’t kill the girl, instead releasing her, presumably hoping that she was definitely telling the truth when she said she wouldn’t tell anyone (and after she helpfully suggested Jacob could cut her arms and legs to create pools of blood to full Emma and Paul).

Emma spots her attempting to escape, and she and Paul chase her down before returning her to the basement.  For whatever reason, they seem to forgive Jacob for almost blowing everything without much of an argument, and their section of the episode ends with them all getting in the shower together (because why not, apparently).

It’s not like this part of the show is really exciting or compelling, but it’s certainly a lot more interesting than things on the Hardy and Carroll side of the story.  The Following has no momentum at this point, with Hardy and the FBI making very slow progress in their efforts to find Joey and Emma, Paul and Jacob, and those characters waiting at the farmhouse for something to happen, or someone to come to them, before the next stage of  Carroll’s grand plan.

The interesting ideas in The Following aren’t being developed very well, and it’s making the show boring to watch.  Things need to change soon, or Kevin Bacon’s ventures into television won’t last very long.