The Following: 108 “Welcome Home” Review
Reviewed by James Wynne.
“You’re inconsistent and extreme.” – Mike Weston. And so, Ryan Hardy becomes the embodiment of everything that’s wrong with The Following.
This week sees the introduction of Nick Donovan (Mike Colter), who eventually proves to be every bit as incompetent as the woman whose squad he’s been drafted in to oversee. He first appears as a brief glimmer of hope that the writers might be, at last, attempting some realism in their portrayal of FBI operations, and ready to confront the overdue ramifications of Debra, Ryan and Mike’s numerous and costly mishaps, but it’s not long before he is demonstrating identically infuriating levels of ineptitude.
I don’t profess to be an expert on exactly how the real-life Bureau operates, but I would imagine, due to the high level of responsibility on their shoulders, that there is a bit more professionalism than witnessed here. I find it hard to believe that after all our band of idiots has accomplished (is “accomplished” even the right word?), their punishment would consist solely of some douche throwing his weight around to undermine them.
Alas, it’s not long before even this is abandoned and Nick succumbs to Debra’s unique way of operating: that a single agent and former agent, and current liaison, Ryan, will always be enough to follow up on their most concrete leads (i.e. the locations of known killers with militarised capabilities). Unless the duo’s predictable failing this week has severe consequences for them, of which Donovan will be the catalyst, his inclusion seems rather superfluous. It’s all of five minutes before his uncompromising stance on the way they do things is ditched, in favour of having him initially dismiss Ryan’s methodical surmising of where Mike has been taken (it seemed quite solid from where I was sitting), and then committing an abrupt u-turn, and allowing the pair of them, who have caused all the trouble he’s been sent in to prevent in the first place, to swan off alone to the location of their only lead. It seemed he was there purely to occupy Debra’s usual position back at base, as she was working in place of the captured Mike Weston.
I will be surprised if A) he doesn’t wind up taking the fall for Mike Weston’s escaped captors, or B) he isn’t killed off within the next couple of episodes – either way, I expect him to be hurriedly written out as a means to rectify his arbitrary inclusion in, “Welcome Home”.
Meanwhile, the whole basis of Mike Weston’s abduction has an all too familiar whiff of the contrived to it. Mere seconds after we see Carroll and Roderick make an off screen choice of which FBI agent they will be kidnapping and interrogating about Claire’s whereabouts, Mike Weston is called out for hacking Donovan’s e-mails and subsequently sent home.
Apart from being a punishment that does not mirror the severity of Weston’s misdemeanour in the slightest (being sent home is more befitting of an indiscretion on the school playground, frankly), it’s not really explained why Mike felt the need to do this, nor why Ryan asked him to go to such career-compromising lengths. Donovan was already distrustful, and surely the pair of them should know that the systems governing the computers in that building would be monitored extensively enough to detect internal hacking and pinpoint the exact source of it. It was all so obviously done as a means to get Mike away from where Carroll’s followers couldn’t possibly get to him, to somewhere where they could. Bearing in mind that Mike is the only member of the team behind the Carroll investigation who has prior experience in the Protective Custody Division, and so has been made aware of where Claire Matthews is being hidden because of this, the fact that he is made so vulnerable through circumstance is quite a remarkable stroke of luck for the cult. Once again, The Following employs nonsensical plotting to create the circumstances that are needed for the story to progress.
And of course, it’s Debra and Ryan that are sent alone to save Weston – because why send anyone else when a fellow agent’s life may be in peril? Let’s run through a list of all the things Debra and Ryan didn’t do, that trained agents would have, shall we.
– Having seen what could only be the killers’ mode of transport; neither mentioned it, remained near it, attached a tracking device to it, nor slashed the tyres to prevent it being used as an escape.
– Upon having their suspicions confirmed that where they’d arrived was indeed the killers’ location, after seeing an armed man on guard outside the building, they didn’t bother calling for reinforcements or confirm it to those back at base.
– Following his belated rescue of Mike Weston, Ryan doesn’t make an effort to alert Debra that there are convicts fleeing the scene. In fact, there is no communication or coordination between the two of them whatsoever.
This all relies on the ridiculous notion that the FBI would see fit to send the equivalent of just two agents to begin with, so there was never going to be much in the way of logic thereafter, but the appalling lack of it, in even the slightest form, is utterly ridiculous. Are Debra and Ryan perhaps undercover followers of Carroll’s? They seem to be doing an awful lot to, supposedly; unwittingly, aid his cause. At this point, I honestly wouldn’t be at all surprised if such a ludicrous twist was on the horizon.
Speaking of ‘followers’… I still can’t wrap my head around Charlie’s demise. Why did he take the fall? I got the impression that Roderick was orchestrating Weston’s kidnap and torture, so the fact that Charlie stepped up to the slaughter is a tad baffling. Charlie’s suggestion that he wants to ‘mean something’ really doesn’t make sense in the context. He is military trained and appears to have been responsible for the technological aspects of their successes – so how would him dying prove more worthwhile to the cause than him remaining alive and continuing to aid as he has done all this time? Furthermore, what’s Carroll playing at by killing him? What’s happened to his supposed strategic nous? Surely someone as meticulous as he is can see that the benefits of Charlie’s abilities far outweigh his failure to capture Claire Matthews. Still, even if Charlie’s death made no sense, at least we don’t have to endure the constantly furrowed brow and extremely wooden acting of Tom Lipinski anymore.
While the words “inconsistent” and “extreme” are fitting descriptions of the series to date, “predictable” and “contrived” are equally as suitable when referring to “Welcome Home”. Besides David’s (Arian Moayed) clever little cyanide suicide stunt, there’s absolutely nothing of note this week. And to make things worse, the episode ends on a laughably embarrassing sexual montage, as Emma gets it on with Carroll, and Roderick does the same with Louise after a brief strangulation.