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Monday, March 9, 2015

"New" THE FOLLOWING

Article originally written for Seat42F.



Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) is back as THE FOLLOWING returns this week on FOX. It’s been some time since season two ended, of course, and almost all of the characters seem to be in good places in their lives, relatively happy. What that means is that chaos is about to hit again, more murders will be committed, and the question as to who will survive is raised week after week.

As the season premiere, “New Blood,” begins, Ryan is happily seeing Gwen (Zuleikha Robinson, Homeland, Lost). Ryan doesn’t have the best track record with women, and so he’s taking things slow with Gwen, but the question remains: is she secretly evil? On almost any other series, this wouldn’t even be a consideration, but on THE FOLLOWING, there’s probably at least a fifty/fifty chance of it, with the other option being that she’ll soon become a victim. Though how cool would it be if neither occurs?

As mentioned, things start out peacefully enough, but that doesn’t last long, and the body count rises quite significantly in the first hour alone. The main perpetrator this time around is not Joe Carroll, who is on Death Row, less than a month away from execution (what are the chances he’ll actually die?). Instead, the new cult leader is Mark (Sam Underwood), whose mother, twin brother, and adopted sister were killed by our heroes last year. Mark is not mentally stable and he is bent on revenge, a dastardly combination.

Ryan is soon drawn in to stop Mark, which makes sense, given Mark is purposely targeting Ryan, Max (Jessica Stroup), and Mike (Shawn Ashmore) with his games, the three that have wronged him, in his eyes. These three lied about some of the deaths they committed last year, and Mark wants the truth exposed. Will they be able to stop him before the truth comes out?

Ryan isn’t the only one in a different place in “New Blood.” Max and Mike have also followed their paths forward, and while I won’t spoil what that means, I will say flashbacks in the season premiere help fill in the gaps to get them to their current place. THE FOLLOWING is a very serial story, and while the action may take place months or years apart, hence the time jumps during hiatus, the writers do a pretty good job connecting the dots so viewers are not lost. These leaps also make logical sense to the plot.

A lot happens in “New Blood,” both fresh and following up from previously. A major character gets married. Another contemplates a big step in his relationship. Exes come back together and see how the other is doing. Mistakes are brought back up. Most importantly, though, is that THE FOLLOWING gives its characters time to dwell on past wrongs in order to see how they influence moving forward.

Early in the first episode back, Ryan is reminded of the collateral damage left in his wake. It may not be his intention to kill anyone, but even those cult members who die along the way have families and loved ones who care about them. If Ryan captures the bad guy but lives are lost in the process, is that worth it? Should he have done something differently? Is he too careless about others in his pursuit of justice? These fascinating questions are raised in “New Blood,” and that dramatically raises the quality of the episode.

THE FOLLOWING is by and large an action mystery, and it does that well. More interesting to me is that it is taking the steps to address the emotional toll on the characters. Ryan Hardy is not made of steel like 24’s Jack Bauer. Self-examination is part and parcel of who he is, and the fact that the show is re-focusing on that is exciting. I hope there will be plenty of time for it to continue as the season unfolds.

THE FOLLOWING airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on FOX.

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