The Following: 114-115 (Finale) Review
Reviewed by James Wynne.
‘Meh’ all but sums up how I feel about “The End is Near” and “The Final Chapter”. Whilst the story spanning both episodes is at least climactic, it’s still beset with the same problems that I’ve been complaining about since “Mad Love”.
In my last two reviews, I harped on about the characterisation of Carroll’s cult being at odds with the serial killer label they’ve been given. In these final two episodes, the writing came the closest it has in a long while to rectifying that problem. Case in point is the delightfully manic Aimee (Meredith Hagner); mad-eyed, singsong, and about as unhinged as unhinged gets. Her provocative to and fro with Ryan in the interrogation room (quite why he’s conducting interviews alone, again, I’ve no idea – he still isn’t even an agent), following her frenzied slaughter of an innocent news reporter, is wonderfully pantomime and full of charge. Kevin Bacon, having been given little else but duff lines for so long, does a brilliant job of conveying his character’s violent temptations gradually boiling over as Aimee antagonises him about Claire, so much so that his eventual attack is not at all a surprise; it was visible in his eyes from the start. Meanwhile, the conjoined circle and harmonic chanting of Carroll’s group at the start of “The End is Near” might’ve seemed clichéd to an extent, but it’s the sort of thing one pictures psycho cults doing with their free time (not running underground militant boot camps), and it went a fair way to reaffirming them as the raving, murderous zealots they’re supposed to be.
There’s still a problem with the writers’ lack of clarity on exactly why it is so many people are fanatically devoted to Carroll. Aside from the brief flashback scenes of Carroll meeting his various protégés in prison – in which they always already know one another – it’s never really been made clear what it is about him that’s persuasive enough to have attracted the sheer amount of followers he has. I don’t believe that simply reciting Poe from time to time, and adopting the literal meaning behind his poetic words, would really be enough to amass these people. But there doesn’t seem to be anything else to it. Even the internet recruitment video he set up during his incarceration didn’t consist of anything worthy of the religious devotion Carroll’s followers have for him. It, too, merely recited selections of Poe’s writing, as well as including some pretentious verbiage to note the macabre meaning behind it all.
Perhaps the lack of validity on this front wouldn’t be such an issue if Carroll was at all believable as someone capable of inspiring so many people to follow him and his ideals. As this series has progressed, he has become less and less the man he was in the beginning. From “Chapter 1” through to “The Poet’s Fire”, Carroll’s demeanour was charismatic and authoritative; he seemed to fit the part of a peerless killer well enough to justify his acolytes adoration of him. While his novel ideas were intricate and meticulous to the extreme (often laughable extremes), it nonetheless gave the impression of someone fully in control; a formidable and calculating adversary. Fast forward to Carroll now (everything from “Mad Love” onwards), and we have a feeble little voyeur desperate for both Ryan’s attention, and recognition of his seemingly nonexistent writing talents. The fact that his death comes about as a result of him rising to Ryan’s infantile goading is also somewhat pathetic. To say nothing of the horrendous dubbed audio of Carroll screaming as he burns, while James Purefoy sits there in the flames, expressionless.
At the conclusion of “The End is Near”, the end was indeed near for one Debra Parker. Despite Marshall Turner’s assurance that all the exits of the community hall were secured, two of Carroll’s minions managed to slip out with Debra in tow (against her will, I hasten to add). It seems the FBI secure exits about as well as they form perimeters!
As a cliff-hanger, Debra’s burial alive was about as ineffective as her resulting death. The reason being that it’s nigh on impossible to care one iota about a woman who’s so thinly drawn as a character, the writers felt the need to throw a piece of clumsily handled torment into her past just to make her in the slightest bit interesting (what became of that, funnily enough? It sprang out of nowhere, with no immediate relevancy, and was never touched on again). Then there’s the fact that she’s about as bright as a damp match in a dark cave (does that make sense?), so rather than evoking sympathy or sadness, her demise is instead a cause for celebration, if anything more than a non-event.
Credit to The Following, though, the cult’s mini massacre inside the hall was deliciously horrific. The woman taking a claw hammer to the back of the head, with a delayed onset of profuse bleeding, was a disturbingly gruesome highlight. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, when The Following stops feigning at being a character-focussed crime drama and just embraces the horror elements of its storytelling, that’s when it thrives.
All in all, “The End is Near” and “The Final Chapter” are a mixed bag. The same tiresome issues persist, but it’s not all bad. The Following did at least end on a high note, with Molly claiming her end of the bargain she made with Joe Carroll. Claire’s death was a genuine surprise – if an unintentionally pleasant one – and Ryan’s not looking like getting out of this one either. Well find out when The Following returns with its second series.
“The End is Near” Verdict: 6/10
“The Final Chapter” Verdict: 6/10