The Following: 107 “Let Me Go” Review
Reviewed by James Wynne
Are the writers of The Following even trying anymore? Carroll’s plans in “Let Me Go”, as in all episodes up to this point, seem to be largely dependant on the FBI being completely inept at their jobs. Meticulous planning is one thing, but charting every possible eventuality as he has, and doing so based on the rather outlandish notion that the FBI will make every mistake under the sun, is quite another.
Speaking of these mistakes, did Debra and co. even get so much as a slap on the wrist for their calamitous mishaps at the farmhouse last week? Jennifer Mason had her career with this squad cut brutally short for merely overseeing a violent indiscretion on Ryan’s behalf, but Debra’s orchestration of a rescue mission that could only be described as an utter shambles, and which resulted in the deaths of various members of SWAT and local Law Enforcement, appears to have had no ramifications for her whatsoever. It seems “consistency”, like “realism”, is an alien term to the writers of The Following.
“Let Me Go” focuses primarily on the repercussions of Ryan’s assault on Carroll from way back in “Chapter One” as the instigating factor in the latter’s escape from prison. The whole premise of his breakout is rather preposterous, as it hinges on the unexplained fact that the U.S. Marshalls assisting in his transfer must also have been corrupted in order for the warden and Olivia to be able to get Carroll out of the secure vehicle in the first place. Never mind that doing so would have required far more than the couple of minutes afforded to them between Ryan leaving and the emptied van departing. Also, how in the hell was Carroll moved from a secured exit point to Olivia’s car (which would have presumably been located in either the employee or visitors’ parking area) without a single person clocking them and thus preventing their escape?
I really don’t understand the reasoning behind having Olivia be an unwilling participant in his schemes, either, as opposed to a devotee to his murderous cause. Olivia is afraid of what he and his followers are capable of, but she’s making frequent trips to a prison full to the brim with FBI agents, and doesn’t think requesting protective custody in exchange for information could be of more substantial benefit than aiding in the release of the very same man she’s terrified of? Besides making more sense, if she had been one of Carroll’s devout followers, it would have created a far deeper meaning and purpose behind her demise – with the insinuation being that Carroll prioritises the torment of his adversary far more than he does the lives of his adoring cultists.
As it is, Olivia’s death is of little importance or surprise. But it does at least make for an intriguing scene. There’s a rather disconcerting intimacy and perversion about the way Carroll murders her. After all, killing is an addiction for him and that sadistic need really filters through his contorted facial expressions.
Things have gone off the rails with Carroll elsewhere, though. Apart from the ridiculously scrupulous nature of his plans, it’s become difficult to imagine why anyone would commit themselves to his ideals. Purefoy has lost the dimensions of his initial portrayal – instead electing to strike the same notes over and over again – and the writing team appear to have lost a basic understanding of what is needed to make the character believable. There is no longer an authoritative, intimidatory aura about him, and nor is there that overwhelming charisma. He has become somewhat of a caricature; with all his time on screen spent squinting, maliciously smiling and delivering each and every word in an annoyingly intermittent style.
The biggest problem with The Following, though, is the extremely tawdry writing and perfunctory plotting. It has recently been renewed for a second series and I struggle to imagine it sustaining itself over that time. The stories have already become somewhat monotonous as certain narrative threads have been prolonged way beyond what they should have been (see: Joey’s rescue). While I stated after the first episode that the premise of The Following should have lent it a natural longevity, this does not appear to be the case. The series would have perhaps been better served with a villain-of-the-week premise; a solid focus on a single and unique killer belonging to Carroll’s cult. The closest we got to this was “The Poet’s Fire”, which, while still being flawed, provided an interesting character piece of its pyromaniac antagonist and remains the best the series has been able to offer since the pilot episode.