Watching The Following, you can’t help but feel sorry for Kevin Bacon. As Ryan Hardy, Bacon is giving a more than decent performance as a former FBI agent brought back into the fold after a serial killer he brought to justice escapes, kills again, and then has a series of his ‘followers’ carry out crimes for him. It’s not Bacon’s fault that the writing is so clichéd and predictable (although that said, I assume he read at least one script before signing on and thought ‘This is dynamite!’), or that Joe Carroll’s (for it is he, played by James Purefoy, that is the villain of the piece) plan isn’t really going anywhere, and he’s doing solid work with weak material.
And so it is that in the fifth (and fifth consecutive bad) episode of The Following that Bacon again gives a decent performance, but what he’s doing, and what’s happening elsewhere in the episode, doesn’t really do anything to push the show forward in a convincing, or more importantly, interesting, way. The FBI are starting to close in on Joey’s location, which means that Paul, Jacob and Emma are running out of time to make their next move (whatever that’s supposed to be), although they’ve just spent the night together in bed (who knows what Joey thought of the noises they were making), so it doesn’t seem like they are too worried about what happens next.
They do of course have an unlucky grocery store assistant tied up in the basement too, and Paul is still having trouble trying to convince Jacob to kill for the first time and get rid of her for him. After Joey manages to find a phone and contact his mother, Hardy and Mike Weston are able to narrow down his location, and they are able to further pinpoint his location after Joey temporarily escapes and is taken in by a man whose wife recognises Joey from television. For a moment it seemed like they might be on Team Carroll, but after Emma arrives and takes Joey away, Paul comes back to say ‘thank you’, although his method of thanking them is somewhat unconventional, as he decides to do rather unpleasant things to them with a knife.
It’s a move that doesn’t make a lot of sense; the couple have already contacted the police, and surely it would make more sense for Paul, Jacob and Emma to just leave the house and take Joey somewhere else. But this is The Following, so it’s a stretch to hope for the writing to suddenly get better and have the characters in it make better decisions.
While Hardy and Weston are attempting to find Joey, Joe Carroll meets with a lawyer who previously represented him while he was trying to appeal against his sentence. She’s reluctant to help him as she knows what he’s really capable of (in a flashback, of which there are mercifully only a couple, we see that one of Joe’s ‘friends’ has visited her before, resulting in the removal of a couple of her fingers), but he gets her to read out a statement (which is actually a poem of Poe’s, naturally), which is a way of triggering new (to the viewer) followers into action. With the rescue of Joey seemingly imminent, the new plan is apparently to take Claire (Joe’s ex-wife, Hardy’s ex-lover, Joey’s current mother) instead, and so the lawyer visits her with a message from Joe, telling her to go to a location alone if she wants to see Joey again.
When she then tells the FBI man assigned to watch her that she wants to ‘go out for lunch with a friend’ he’s suspicious about what’s really going on, although he still needs to call Parker to make sure he should go with her. She does actually meet a friend for lunch, but manages to get away from the FBI (rather too easily) to go where she’s been told. Back at the house, a local officer is killed by a man, Hank, who has arrived to move Joey and the others, but Hardy manages to kill him. He gets into the house, but when he’s trying to convince Joey to come with him, Paul arrives and points a gun to his head.
So the episode ends with Claire about to be in danger, Joey still kidnapped, and now Ryan is apparently in danger too. But, like with last week’s episode, I’m not waiting for next week’s episode with bated breath to find out if Ryan will be killed or not, because he’s Kevin Bacon! Ryan Hardy is not going to be killed off any time soon, so it seems inevitable that next week’s episode will feature Hardy escaping or regaining the upper hand, and probably with Emma, Paul and Jacob dead, in custody, or on the run. What the show really doesn’t need is to have Joey safe and Claire in the hands of new Carroll followers, because then it would just be repeating itself.
And the last thing The Following needs is to get stuck in a loop. This is another boring and pointlessly violent episode, and it needs more than a good performance from Bacon to keep interest levels up. The Following is going nowhere fast, and there are no signs that things will get better.