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The Following: 102 “Chapter 2″ Review

following-102

Reviewed by James Wynne

Well, after last week’s stellar opening to the series, it’s a shame that, though Chapter Two manages to perform at the same level on certain occasions (it’s the numerous interrogation scenes that prove to be its biggest saving grace), there are such apparent issues right off the bat.

Starting with the opening sequence, we see Jordy Raines (the prison guard whose assistance ensured Carroll’s short-lived escape from imprisonment) making full use of his authoritative attire to gain the trust of a young girl, and entry to her sorority household. It’s odd that this scene was even picked up from last week’s concluding moments, as it didn’t need to be…at all. In hindsight, its ominous indication of things to come was better left to the imagination.

I understand that a girl belonging to this sort of environment might be more naïve and trusting than usual in these circumstances, but Raines’ deception was obvious the minute he stepped past the threshold. It wasn’t as if even the slightest attempt was made to mask his malicious intent (with him rocking his creepiest smile upon entering the building), and barring a couple of unnerved glances in his direction, the girl showed no response to this. It was a situation made even worse when he reveals an unsettling foreknowledge of a vacant room’s usual occupant, as well as making an immediate move for his tools stashed on the window sill of this room, and the girl, though now showing signs of slight fear, allows him to go about his business without providing any form of resistance – she doesn’t scream; shout or do anything to alert the other girls asleep in the building. It’s arguable that she might be frozen with fear at this point, but it still seems somewhat contrived in an effort to permit his heinous act a slow, dramatic build up – an act that isn’t even shown in the end, further compounding the feeling that none of it needed to be.

It’s revealed later on that his intention was to kill all of the inhabitants – all nine – but he was unable to contain them once the screams from one alerted the rest. It’s strange that he was aiming to bag the lot, yet allowed his first victim ample amounts of time to start causing a raucous while he saw to arranging his tools – that she didn’t, was an uncomfortable coincidence. Once again; the dramatic purposes behind this scenes formulation are more than evident in its execution. He managed to get three of them in the end – though, did not have the time to see to all of them as he might have wanted (I should stop with the puns), as he was forced to flee from the scene of the crime.

Raines turns up one last time, and it transpires that he is instrumental in ensuring the development of a new plot twist. He confronts Ryan, proposing an ultimatum with Claire’s life hanging in the balance: he insists that Ryan kill him, or she will be killed. It seems somewhat strange to me that he infiltrated an FBI secured household with relative ease (dropping down from the attic all Hitman-style), yet makes the biggest mistake of exposing his entire body to Ryan – someone who has been trained with a firearm to incapacitate, instead of kill. It becomes clear that the nature of his slight fumble is down to a basic ineptitude – or as Carroll puts it; he’s a halfwit. It begs the question, though, if Carroll was aware of this, then for what reason did he entrust him with such a delicate task, one that required at least a modicum of intelligence to pull off as he desired it to be? He didn’t anticipate Raines’ failure to make sure one of them bit the bullet, as is proven through his subtle wince of surprise upon learning that both Raines and Claire remain alive, which seems strange given how emphasised his intellectual and strategic prowess has been up until this point. It’s suggested that he has legions of followers at his disposal, so I think it’s ridiculous that someone more able wasn’t selected for this mission.

Meanwhile, Claire’s son is still missing and caught in the midst of a psychotic love triangle (some more on that further down). I loved Natalie’s acting in response to her son’s abduction – at the conclusion of last week’s instalment; it was frantic panic in the initial aftermath, but in this episode I was a bit surprised that she seemed so unperturbed by it all. It came across as a slight misstep at first; given the miniscule amount of time that had passed since his disappearance, I couldn’t escape the feeling that Claire’s calm outward demeanour was a bit inhuman and unrealistic for a woman in her situation. It can be rationalised by the fact that she is well aware of her ex-husband’s involvement in it all (perhaps assured that he wouldn’t go so far as to kill his own flesh and blood) and so chooses to keep a calm and level head. This is proven to be the case when Carroll’s demands to see her are met and his antagonising words break through her façade, prompting her to start attacking him there and then. Natalie managed the bottled rage well enough that it feels real and you sympathise with what she’s going through at this point. It was a stellar scene for both of them, with all of their interactions full of scintillating tension and a genuine sense of there being a complicated past between these two characters, and an awareness of each other that stems from this.

Elsewhere, Emma Hill (Valorie Curry) proves to be, far and away, the stand-out of Joey’s abductees. Like Carroll, there are subtle, but definite, flashes of malice behind the eyes and a charisma, not dissimilar to his own, that proves to be her defining attribute as the one entrusted with being in charge of this operation. She’s not given a massive amount of time to develop as a believable inclusion of his cult, but she still manages it with ease (in fairness, who could blame her for killing that irritating mother of hers?) – far better than Sara’s neighbours, at least, who I have a hard time believing would be capable of hurting anyone, let alone murdering a small child. Still, there’s more than enough time for these characters to be developed, and their back stories to be divulged, as the situation surrounding Claire’s son evolves. It is great to see that the grounding and humanising of Joe Carroll extends to his protégés also, and the clichéd approach to evil doers continues to be avoided so well.

The episode also excelled with the introduction of Debra Parker (Annie Parisse), who supersedes the uninteresting Jennifer Mason (Jeananne Goossen) as a much more intriguing addition to the team of protagonists. It’s great that the writers have begun to build a bit of a mysterious situation around her straight off the bat (a definite benefit of the cult aspect of this series is that anyone and everyone warrant a degree of suspicion).

Best Scene: Claire Matthews and Joe Carroll in the interrogation room.

I’ve complimented this scene enough as it is, but like last week’s electric confrontation between Ryan and Carroll, it hits all the right notes. It also finalises with Carroll’s foreboding, vicious stares in Claire’s direction as she exits the room – superb stuff.

Verdict: 6/10

I found a tremendous amount to like about this episode, but there’s no doubting it lacked the polish and finesse of the series’ first outing. It went overboard at times with its theatrical indulgences, as well as some heavy-handed and far too deliberate explanations of how all things were leading back to Carroll’s, and his followers’, worship of Poe (we get it!). It did feel, at times, like the fourth wall was being broken and the characters were whacking me over the head with a mallet just to get it across. It wasn’t all bad, though, and what’s important here is that when it wasn’t bad, it was often brilliant.

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