I don’t get the gripes some people have with The Following. Of course naturally I’m going to like it just because of the serial killers involved (I’m rather fond of Carrol’s character, and Jacob was growing on me until he bitched out and let Hardy have Joe Carrol’s kid, after having been sent to retrieve him) so yes, I’ll admit I’m biased. But honestly… it’s a fucking television show, and one of the better ones on the air right now. That is, unless you pay extra for HBO or Showtime – I don’t though.
Here are three main recurring complaints I see on negative reviews of the show…
- An unrealistically incompetent FBI.
- There are to many cult members.
- A lack of plot progression.
To put it simply, I think these are all bullshit. I don’t see how any of them really fly.
Incompetence of the FBI
When you consider how many years Joe Carrol and his second in command spent planning and building their cult of followers, along with how many people there are out there that would be decent candidates (or so I think), along with the fact that up until Carrol’s initial prison escape they were operating completely unhindered, their ability to anticipate and deal with the repercussions of each new chapter in their book doesn’t seem that far-fetched to me. That includes being able to fuck with, elude, and thwart the efforts of the FBI to a certain degree, especially early on when no one has any conception of the scope of this cult. I don’t see where I have to suspend much disbelief; definitely not enough to where it would distract me from watching and enjoying the show.
That, plus to me the Feds have racked up a few wins since I first developed this contempt for the ‘incompetent good guys’ complaint. It’s not like they’re complete dipshits.
Scope of the Cult
The same kind of goes for the sheer scope of the cults reach and the placement of it’s members. First, remember, they had years to get their shit in order and plan out what they were going to do, how they were going to do it, and part of that was in reaching out and recruiting. Also remember, they weren’t on anybody’s radar at all until the starting of the show, so carried all of this out more or less as they pleased.
Then there’s this type of progression of certain characters to consider: Roderick, small town sheriff and second in command, wasn’t already a well known peace officer when he met Carrol, he was a disturbed university student that killed a few of the fourteen women Joe took credit for when captured, and was a student in one of Joe’s literature classes. Not everyone with convenient placement or position necessarily had to have been in those positions before they became a part of the following.
There’s things like that to consider, but even completely aside from that I still find the sense of everyone being a potential follower and the scope seeming unrealistic in it’s size and reach… is pretty understandable to me. I mean, to me them seeming unrealistically big and far-reaching is, funnily enough, kind of realistic. Why? Because from the start, it first appears like the “cult” is an extremely small group of people. So when more and more people start turning out to be a part of it, there’s this sense that ‘goddamn, anybody could be a follower’ that’s a consequence of the fact that no one, neither FBI nor viewer, had any idea of how sizable the cult might or might not be.
It could be said that it’s a convenient mechanism for the writers to fall back on, but I don’t think they have relied to heavily on that. I mean a key element of the story, the element so crucial to everything that the show is even titled for it, is that Joe Carrol has a following that no one knew about until they started acting on the chapters Carrol had put together and outlined while in prison. To me, one of the perks of that element is you get to use it here and there as a mechanism of forward movement for the story line. Don’t like it? Why did you start watching a show called The Following then? The title should have clued you in early on, not to mention the trailers and behind the scenes snippets that aired before the shows premiere.
A Lack of Plot Progression
That brings me to my next point of contention with enthusiastic critics: the plot, and it not moving forward. The first thing that came to mind was a question: “are you fucking kidding?” I’m not going to summarize each episode that’s aired so far for you, but do feel free to look up a synopsis of each one somewhere. A few blogs out there have been reviewing each episode as it comes, and if all else fails you can always give the article on wikipedia a quick look-over. I’ll grant that it did lag in certain aspects every now and then (I did start to get tired of Claire’s whining about her kid and Hardy’s inability to get him back somewhere around the sixth episode, for example), but not enough to really irritate me.
If you want to talk about a lack of plot progression, let’s talk comparatively. A couple other shows on the air on channels you don’t have to pay extra for are Bones and The Mentalist, both of which I used to like a little. They’ve each been on for a good few seasons and they’re both pretty popular as far as such things go. But Bones hasn’t been anywhere lately except in the case of an antagonist last season that broke up the monotony a little and brought the show back to life a little. But right now? It’s the same shit every week, and it’s a) not as well done as it could be and b) gets boring, repetitive. They writers seem to lean heavily on it being a CSI-type show these days, and use that to put an episode together without any actual story line or plot movement. I mean seriously, what the fuck happened one of the more recent episodes? Christine, daughter of the two main characters, bit a kid at preschool and Bones (the character, not the show itself) got all weird about it. It was a goddamn focal point of that episode. Oh, and they solved a murder.
It’s not so much that I hate the other TV shows either, it’s just that if you want to talk about dragging things out, start talking about the other shows. The next episode of The Following will be on tomorrow; I’m kind of banking on it being another piece of supporting evidence for my perspective (fingers crossed, eh?).
I’ve already gone on about this way more than I thought I would though, so I’m going to leave it at this: I like The Following so far, personally. And I don’t agree with most of the common criticisms that seem to keep popping up, especially when compared to other shows that are on television. I’ll grant that I like Dexter more, but I’m pretty sure you’ve got to pay extra for Showtime, and you don’t for Fox. So comparisons between those shows are a bit unfair in my opinion. Having opted not to pay extra for channels like HBO or Showtime myself, I’ve still got to pay extra to get each season of the shows I like on DVD, so they damn well should be better. That’s it though, that’s all I’ve got to say. Here are a few links to what other people thought of the show, mostly ones I liked but also a few I didn’t much agree with (for contrast)….
- Review: The Following (So Far) on Bloody Popcorn
- Sacrificial Killing on Synchronicity
- Why The Following Just Might Be the Most Insulting Show on TV on Time (Entertainment)
- The Following (2013) on AllAboutTheTele
- I Am No Longer Following “The Following” on Movies & Such With Clayton
- The Following – Everything is Better with Bacon! on Cawreith
- Please Dear TV Gods – Don’t Let The Following Take Itself To Seriously on ChristyAnity
- Also see First Thoughts re This Week’s “The Following” posted afterwards (April 10th)