Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Following Reaches "The Final Chapter" (For Now)

Article first published as The Following Reaches "The Final Chapter" (For Now) on TheTVKing.

FOX's The Following ends its freshman run this week with "The Final Chapter." Ryan (Kevin Bacon) is lured to a lighthouse by Joe (James Purefoy) for a final showdown. Of course, Claire's (Natalie Zea) life hangs in the balance, and of course, Ryan doesn't take anyone with him to the confrontation, including Mike (Shawn Ashmore). There, the two men have it out with one another once and for all.

I am a bit disappointed with the end of The Following's showdown between Ryan and Joe. I really feel like Ryan should have learned his lesson and trusted a few people. "The Final Chapter"'s plot only makes sense if we believe that Joe knows Ryan so well that he can predict his every move. And maybe he does. But, as a viewer who has watched all fifteen installments thus far, I feel like Ryan should have learned to out-think Joe, at least on some level, and brought along back up.

The climax where Ryan kills Joe, sort of, in an exploding building also feels a bit contrived. The moment we don't positively see Joe catch on fire or blow up is the one where fans of the genre will absolutely know, deep down, that no matter how it looks, Joe has survived. How he would think far enough ahead to plant a body there, or could fake dental records after a body is discovered, is stretching believability. But Joe has got to live on.

With those complaints out of the way, though, I must say that the hour is mostly excellent. I really like how we get to see bits of Ryan's soul. We understand how he and Mike can torture Alex (Charlie Semine), as Parker's (Annie Parisse) life hangs in the balance, and even why the other FBI agents can look away. When Ryan coldly murders Alex, one worries about Ryan's stability, but Alex's death is deserved, and Ryan doesn't put him in the coffin, which would be poetic justice, but not at all hero-like.

Despite Ryan's flaws, he is the hero. Joe casts him as such, and the moral compass Ryan displays backs that up. He crosses some legal lines, to be sure, but his motives are always pure, and his goals are noble. He doesn't unnecessary cause anyone harm, even the bad guys, as he kills Alex quickly once he's used all Alex knows to try to save the day, rather than continue to mess with him.

I'm sad that Ryan and Mike are too late to save Parker. I really like her, and like many of The Following's character, she dies too soon. However, part of the draw of the series is its unpredictability, and the way people can perish without warning. It appropriately builds suspense when it should, and as regrettable as it is to lose Parisse from the cast, and as false as it may feel to have them find her just barely too late, it is a shock that she is dead, and an example of surprising and engaging storytelling.

I do hope Mike and Ryan can work out their friendship. Ryan shuts Mike out a bit because, as close as they've grown, Ryan is a loner. He trusts Mike more than he trusts most people, but Mike still doesn't get to come to the light house because Ryan feels he must take on the burden himself. I don't think Ryan would have shot Mike in the foot to get him not to follow, though Mike must think it's a possibility, so I hope that isn't what keeps them from working together again.

The final moments of "The Final Chapter," in which Molly (Jennifer Ferrin) attacks Ryan, are a great cliffhanger. This installment makes pretty clear, whether Joe is dead or not, there are still threats out there, such as Molly and Emma (Valorie Curry). Some may have been brought out by Joe, but some of the threats Ryan will eventually face, as the show has been renewed for season two (and stands a good chance of living longer), won't be Joe-centric. This is a series about a man fighting evil, and evil will always exist, no matter how often it is stopped.

Now, does The Following go a bit too far, having too many people being stabbed and surviving, then bouncing back to their jobs too quickly? Yes, that can certainly be argued. But some grade-A acting and tight plot work keeps the flow going and the series enticing. I really like The Following, and look forward to its return.

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