The Following Season 1 Review “The Siege”

One of the many wonderful things about the world of television is the possibility for story tweaks midstream. Many network shows are shot as they are airing, which allows the creative team to constantly monitor progress and make changes where necessary. By now, most TV fans are aware of Vince Gilligan’s decision to let Jesse Pinkman live past the originally planned nine episodes. With possible changes always looming, fans of flawed, but intriguing, television shows can be patient enough to wait and see what changes the writers plan to make to the original plan. Occasionally, shows make really positive changes that allow them to make the leap. It’s too early to declare The Following made the leap tonight, but the direction of tonight’s episode was markedly better than anything we’ve seen to this point.

There were many problems with the first four episodes of the season, but one of the major ones was that the audience was getting bludgeoned to death by the show’s exposition (and not in a way that Poe would have appreciated). In this case, the exposition for the show is important, but the lack of action to go along with the exposition made a show about serial killers the one thing it should be impossible be: boring. Not even the worst ménage à trois in television history could spice up the farmhouse that was rapidly starting to resemble Herschel’s Farm from The Walking Dead. Finally, in episode five, the show decided to push the pace. There have been eye gougings, fires started, and magnets (Magnets!) used in the name of murder in the first four weeks, but none of it provided any forward thrust to our central story. With Joey Matthews finally starting the wheels in motion (he’s presumably as bored as we are), it felt moderately exhilarating to watch Ryan Hardy and his dead-as-soon-as-you-see-him new buddy try to make a move on our gang of three.

In addition to the action at the farmhouse, it was admittedly encouraging to see the two people spoken to via Carroll’s message. These men don’t look like the same goons who sat around Emma’s old house pledging the Carroll Murder Fraternity. These two guys looked more like operatives. Though Hardy puts one of them down, you get the feeling that the other guy doesn’t seem like he’s going to go as easy. Frankly, it makes me think more of Carroll’s “genius” to know he’s not entrusting his master plan to a bunch of weirdos who stab each other for funsies and take showers with their clothes on.

Though the show should be applauded (a golf clap) for finally ratcheting up the action central to our story, the show’s continued paint-by-numbers approach to the thriller genre is fairly maddening for a show with such high-minded ideals. The contrivances and dumb decisions made throughout an episode remain too many to count, but our hat’s off to Claire Matthews this week for getting in a car with a man tied to her serial killer husband. She got into the car despite the fact she was told there was a lead on her son’s location, and she had to ditch her FBI detail. At this point, I would proffer the theory that she is in league with her husband, but no show would really be that stupid. Right? RIGHT?

It’s still not the most exciting hour of programming on television currently, but there were some positives to take away from this week’s episode. Whether or not the show has the requisite storytelling chops to capitalize on it is another issue entirely.