The Following Season 1 Advance Review “Whips and Regret”

Those of you that have followed my coverage of The Following (pun absolutely intended) are aware I’m not a big fan. The show has some interesting aspects which can be quite engaging, and Kevin Bacon provides the amount of gravitas you expect out of someone of his caliber. Unfortunately, the show really comes apart at the seams thanks to dumb decision-making, a below average antagonist (sorry, James), and a desire to wallow in the mind of a serial killer. However, those things are only a part of the show’s worst offense: it’s boring. Watching Ryan Hardy chase the Serial Killer of the Week while Joe Carroll sits in his cozy mansion wasn’t what most viewers signed up for. Most weeks, the show struggles to make it through an entire episode without one genuinely head-slapping incident.

I’m sad to report that tonight’s episode will not improve upon the show’s reputation. Hardy (after a pep talk from Joe) and Agent Parker follow a lead which takes them into the inner workings of an “undercover” shop. The shop is the show’s latest attempt to shock the viewer that yet again falls way short of the mark. The contents of the shop are of such little consequence, it will be obvious that the show was simply trying to be weird. It’s the move of a show that knows its narrative isn’t interesting enough to sustain it.

To the show’s credit, the investigation after leaving the “undercover” shop takes a pretty harrowing turn. The show makes classic use of faulty microphones, dark alleys, and sneak attacks to make the end result seem much more satisfying. Fans of thriller films will enjoy the climactic scene.

Meanwhile, some people at the Phi Stabba Stabba fraternity house are beginning to grow impatient. Joe Carroll has claimed to have a master plan, but no one knows what it is or when he intends to begin. One thing is for sure, some of those people are about to run out of vacation days. Also, I imagine some genuine concern must arise over all the mail that’s piling up. While these concerns aren’t immediately addressed, the first seeds of discontent are sewn in the cult. In a show where the bad guy always seems to win, it was good to see Carroll experience some bumps in the road.

In addition to having difficulty with his people, Joe’s dinner date with Claire probably doesn’t produce the outcome he was hoping for. Watching Carroll attempt to regain the affections of his wife is weird television. The fact that he continues to try to “woo” her make him seem far more delusional than the show has made him seem previously. At no point does the show make him seem crazy, but his pursuit of Claire makes him seem more like Hannibal Lecter (in a bad way) and less like Dexter Morgan. What they are attempting to do with the Carroll family unit is beyond me.

Save for one harrowing excursion at the tail end of the episode, “Whips and Regret” is everything we’ve come to understand about The Following. While the ratings have taken a hit over the course of the season, the show remains a reasonable hit for Fox. How that has come to pass is truly beyond my understanding.

Let’s agree to meet back here after tonight’s episode. See you then.