The Following: 105 “The Siege” Review
Reviewed by James Wynne
After starting so well, just what has happened to The Following? Whilst being more entertaining at its core than “Mad Love, this week’s, “The Siege”, is littered with the same frustrating issues.
Chief among these issues is the seeming stupidity of certain characters. The biggest offender in this regard is Claire Matthews. She is confronted by Carroll’s lawyer, Olivia (Renee Elise Goldsberry), telling her that the FBI are no closer to finding her son (despite Ryan, a man she apparently trusts more than anyone else, telling her otherwise), and that if she wants him back safe, she is to head to an arranged location all on her lonesome – what about that doesn’t spell ‘trap’ to anyone with at least a modicum of common sense.
It’s odd that she would so readily disregard Ryan’s assurances to the contrary, and instead heed the words of a woman who is closely affiliated with the man responsible for Joey’s abduction in the first place (also bearing in mind Carroll’s infamous powers of persuasion that have enabled him to amass his cult of followers). In fact, that she doesn’t connect the dots of her being summoned in secret just as the FBI confirms the general whereabouts of her son is frankly ludicrous. In addition to this, Claire decides against divulging the details of her meeting to the Bureau (as per Olivia’s requests to come alone). Of course, that makes sense. I mean, why wouldn’t you want the FBI clued in to where you might be going? She still could have gone it alone, but with the FBI made aware of what she was doing, and perhaps able to bestow a tracking device on her person that would enable a quick rescue, and detainment of her captors, should she run in to some serious trouble. As it is, her capture will most likely be the central focus for the next few instalments.
What’s even more strange is that the FBI themselves don’t seem too curious about what Claire and Olivia were discussing. It seems drastically imperceptive of them to not be in the least bit suspicious of a secret exchange between Carroll’s lawyer and Carroll’s ex-wife. Although, this is the same FBI that subsequently falls for the clichéd ‘I need to go to the toilet’ ruse, and is promptly given the slip – so at least the episode is consistent with their complete ineptitude.
Elsewhere, Olivia is revealed to be acting under duress and on Carroll’s behalf. This is due to a previous instance in which she failed to do as he requested and was left minus two fingers as a result (with the promise of more of the same should she act against his wishes again). While it’s made clear that a dangerous blend of fear and ambition is clouding her judgement (somewhat rationalising her decision to do as he says), it remains a tad implausible that she would refrain from turning to the building full of FBI agents to keep her safe, and instead elect to do Carroll’s bidding.
Olivia factors in to things primarily as the one who instigates the next phase of Carroll’s plans, and she does so through the now obligatory quoting of Edgar Allen Poe’s works (in this case: “The Red Masque of Death”). Again, the writers seem to be under the illusion that the viewers are as imperceptive as The Following’s characters, and feel the need to confirm that this is Poe being quoted for the umpteenth time; a la Mike Weston (“It’s Poe.”). You know, for a second, I thought it might have been Dr. Seuss.
Also, doesn’t anyone watch the cameras in that interrogation room? Whilst the dialogue between Olivia and Carroll gives no explicit details, it’s still pretty clear that she is being coerced, and yet the FBI show no interest in the pair’s meeting, despite it being of obvious, potential interest to their operations. It’s one in a long line of ridiculous oversights that seems to be this [hopefully] inaccurate interpretation of the FBI’s forte.
To tell the truth, the only character that appears to possess even a degree of intelligence is the threesome’s current abductee, Joey. While he too has a total ‘duh’ moment after escaping from his captors and then taking all of ten seconds to be convinced that they’re trustworthy again, despite him hearing Emma cite that he is being lied to mere moments beforehand, his resourceful escape from imprisonment is the single greatest display of intellect in an episode stock full of forehead-slapping stupidity.
Alas, his seeming rescue is cut brutally short when the two occupants of a nearby farmhouse reveal worrisome knowledge of Joey’s ‘missing’ status, which could compromise Emma and co.’s mission. Cue: Paul standing behind them seconds later, brandishing a garden hoe. Like “Chapter 2”, “The Siege” seems somewhat averse to its own violence and pulls us away from things before it even gets started.
While The Following seems intent on utilising all of the classic clichés and tropes of the horror genre, it doesn’t fully embrace the actual horror and just run with it. We’re at least treated to the end result of two bludgeoned and bloodied bodies, but it’s almost as if there is a fear that the violence will undermine everything else the episode is trying to do. It’s like the series is trying to be both intelligent, character-driven drama, and classic ‘he’s behind you’ horror (without the horror), and as a result is stuck somewhere in the middle; unidentifiable and ultimately failing in both respects.
With all this; the Law Enforcement Officer so unqualified to be so that he gets taken down ‘mano a mano’, despite having a gun pointed directly at the assailant (why did he fetch a firearm from the car’s boot, yet turn up without one?); the FBI’s complete lack of diligence in sending just Ryan and Mike to the farmhouse (the former ending up held at gunpoint as a result) and the persistence of nonsensical twists and turns over a cohesive narrative begs the question: was that pilot episode a mere flash in the pan?