The Following

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.

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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?).

Parting Words

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)….

Endex

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7 comments

  1. This is very nicely written. I was excited to watch The Following when it first started: I like crime type shows and love Edgar Allan Poe. Seemed like the perfect fit for me. But three episodes in, I just couldn’t watch it, but not for any of the reasons you mention here. My problem was, it was just too dark. It was overflowing with that wicked, psychological kind of darkness, and it was drowning in twisted mental violence. It’s just not what *I* personally find entertaining. I like when there’s a clear-cut good wins out over evil all the time aspect, and I suppose eventually that will (or perhaps already has to some degree) happen on the show. But it was just a bit TOO much for me. I used to be a fan of Criminal Minds as well, but it too got to the point where even when good triumphed and they caught the bad guy? It didn’t bring me any satisfaction. He’d done so many horrible things throughout the episode that catching him didn’t seem like a victory. Both shows just left me feeling, well, unpleasantly bad.

    The Following has a fantastic premise though, and the actors are superb, so I was very disappointed that I didn’t like it. But I agree with you completely about these recurring complaints. I think most people who complain about a lack of plot progression are just having trouble paying attention to the story and can’t keep up.

    As a completely unrelated side note, your gravatar pic is fantastic.

    1. Yeah, I get your reasons for not watching it. I myself prefer to look at things like that most of the time, as a matter of personal taste. In my case, my tastes practically destined me to like this show even if it kind of sucked; I usually like Kevin Bacon’s involvement in the movies I’ve see with him in it, and I can’t get enough of serial killers or the baggage that inevitably follows. Haha, it’s just *totally* my kind of thing. // I lost interest in Criminal Minds a while ago, but that aspect of it hadn’t even occurred to me, tbh, but I think that was a contributing factor for me to, plus there’s been a sense of… I don’t know, I suppose you could call it a lethargy that seems to come about in shows that’ve had a nice long run, and some of them bounce back form it better than others.

      And yes, I’d have to agree as far as the complaints on lack of plot progression. To me, a lot of shows like to belabor things, and spell out every little thing. It gets tedious and boring. And so far, I think The Following is managing to avoid falling into that.

      On your sidenote: Thank you 😀 . I have no idea how I originally came across it (it was a while ago, and it wasn’t directly from the source of who made it at the time), but I think the original artist might be on deviant art (seems like I stumbled onto someones gallery that had this image along with a lot of other similar pieces).

  2. Curious to hear your thoughts… How far do you think ‘The Following’ can go with Joe Carroll as the leader? I am unsure if they can last another season with the same basic go-to plot — Carroll’s ‘novel’. So… what’s in store for next season…? Where would you take the show? –BloodyPopcorn

    1. lol On that, I honestly have no idea. I kind of suspect Joe’s going to have to die soon, or they’re going to have to come up with something completely beyond the scope of my own speculations if he stays. I’d kind of like him to survive just because I like the character… but am really not sure if it can maintain much momentum or keep the dynamics of the characters, conflicts, etc fresh without offing him.

      I think it would be a little to predictable if Hardy saved Claire and killed Carrol, but I wouldn’t write it off as a possibility for the season finale… and both Joe *and* his ex-wife dying would be, well, kind of depressing, but that’s probably not something I’d dismiss as a possibility either.

      As far as what I would do… I think I’d at least entertain the notion of centering the second season around the systematic destruction of the cult. I’ve dabbled a little in short/flash fiction, a lot of that being centered around serial killers, but even for me it just seems completely different than anything I might have come up with, so honestly, I’m not sure I would really know what to do with it if it were in my hands. That’s one of the things that probably predisposes me to like the show a little more than I otherwise would, a lot of it still seems like kind of a novel concept for me.

      1. I, too, cannot imagine how the show’s plot can progress if Joe survives. I’ve had the same thought, that Season 2 is going to be all about destroying the rest of the cult. Seems almost innevitable at this point. But I *really* want him to survive. He’s just such an interesting character! There is so much more to tell of Joe’s story. What made him so dark and twisted? Was he born that way? Was his childhood all puppies and sunshine and he was like that anyway, or was it roaches and rot that tainted him? So many unanswered questions! It seems unfair to only tell Ryan’s story but not Joe’s. I could care less about Ryan, frankly. Don’t get me wrong – I have liked a lot of Bacon’s work and he kicked arse in First Class – but his character is just such a fricken’ cliche to me. I want to know about Joe. And I want it to come from him, not from a posthumous cult memorial to their martyr. But then, what happens if he lives into Season 2? He goes back to prison and torments everyone (again) from behind bars? To what end, other than his own amusement? Or, does he get hit in the head and forget everything and shuns his cult and becomes a “good” guy living a relatively cush life in prison while Ryan comes unglued at the injustice of it all and acts out? (Face it, it’s Kevin Williamson – the same guys who brings us Vampire Diaries. It’s possible.) And if they *do* kill him off, who’s going to take the reins of the cult? I’d have liked Roderick or Jacob in the lead but, unless (by some shark jumping miracle) one or both aren’t really dead, that won’t happen. And if it’s Emma, which seems almost a given, I’m going to quit watching unless they write some depth into her current whiney-lost-girl-with-a-daddy-complex ways.

        And I don’t know what I’d do, either, other than tell more of Joe’s story.

        What I do know is that this is the first show since Alias that has me caring enough about it to write about it. 🙂

  3. Very well written defense of The Following. And while I do think you may be oversimplifying some of the criticisms raised against it (whether by me or others), I will admit that I do find myself acquiescing to your well-made points.

    And I completely agree it is still one of the best shows on TV right now.

    1. Haha, I won’t disagree I might have oversimplified. But I don’t know that I had much to disagree with in what you wrote, especially in ‘Please Dear TV Gods – Don’t Let The Following Take Itself To Seriously’. I looked at my review as sort of outright bypassing many of the points you raised, ’cause I do see a lot of ways the whole thing could start to suck really fast and snuff itself out.

      There’s also definitely one thing I probably didn’t get across to well in the above post, I don’t love the show, or each episode, unconditionally by any means. Like the three “eye-rolls” in your other post, I agree with two out of three of them – Claire warming up to Joe’s 2nd in command was kind of funny to me, and I tend to credit things like that with simple human stupidity sometimes, so didn’t really roll my eyes so much as smile out of amusement 🙂 .

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