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Great potential, poor character development

By Stephen Skudlarek
On February 17, 2013


As interesting as "The Following" is, I don't feel that it's been living up to its potential as of late.  It's not as if the past couple of episodes were bad-on the contrary, week three's episode had some seriously shocking moments.  All of the episode have been quite entertaining thus far.  I just feel that this week's installment wasn't as interesting as the rest.  This just adds to some of the concerns I've had with the show already.

I'll start with episode four, entitled "Mad Love."  Without trying to give too much away, I can say that this is definitely more of a character development-centered episode.  The focus this time is on antagonist Joe Carroll's "star trio" of serial killers, the group that kidnapped Carroll's son on his orders.  While I find it interesting that the show is providing back story for some of these serial killers, I have a couple of issues with this.  First, it's only episode four; considering that the viewer really knows next to nothing about protagonist Ryan Hardy or serial killer Carroll, I don't think it's a good call to spend most of an early episode focusing on this trio of killers.  More importantly, I think it was pretty obvious by this focus that at least one of the trio was going to get killed soon.  I guess the writers wanted to get the character development in while they still could.

The audience does get a better look into Hardy's back story this time around, but it just seems rushed. The writers seem to make up for lost time by providing Hardy with a particularly depressing background.  His mother died after a long battle with leukemia when he was a teenager.  His father was murdered while trying to be a good Samaritan during a convenience store holdup.  His brother was a firefighter killed during 9/11.  I'm sorry, but when you add this to the fact that his life was nearly ruined by a run-in with a serial killer, Hardy's life is just not believable.  No one has this much bad luck.  There is no need to cut this many corners to portray the fact that he's a dark, unstable character and an alcoholic.  This point is understandable based on Hardy's history with Carroll alone.  Dealing with the pure evil of a serial killer is enough to make anyone lose it; adding the rest of Hardy's background on top of this just makes him seem less believable.    

This wasn't a bad episode.  There just wasn't anything that really grabbed my attention, like in past episodes.  Episode four just seemed like a transitional one to me.  Its purpose was to provide depth to some of the characters, while pushing the plot along until next week.  I believe that there will be great things to come on "The Following," but I really hope that things change for the better in the coming weeks. 

The writers need to stop telegraphing all of the plot twists.  Just because you're trying to appeal to a wide audience does not mean you need to dumb down your writing.  It's like the writers are afraid that the show, with all of its references to the occult, Edgar Allan Poe and the like, is too deep or cerebral to appeal to a mainstream audience.  So the writers telegraph everything of importance and add pointless action or suspense moments just to keep the audience entertained and ensure that viewers don't miss anything.  

Personally, I feel that these unnecessary action/suspense sequences (like Joe's sister being kidnapped) seem really out of place and detract from the rest of the story.  They could be great for the show if they actually added anything or helped the story flow in some way.  So far though, some of these sequences just seem like pointless throw-ins for sheer entertainment value.  This review probably sounds scathing, but I honestly still really enjoy watching "The Following."  I'm just afraid that it's going to turn into another mindless primetime drama.  Hopefully next week's episode will be of higher quality.  


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