BUY FROM AMAZON: CLICK HERE!
RATED Not Rated
STUDIO Warner Home Video
RUNNING TIME 660 Minutes
• 14 Inside The Following Behind-the-Scenes Featurettes
• Following Marcos Siega Featurette
• The Religion of Joe Carroll Featurette
• Bound By a Common Foe Featurette
• Joe Mask Featurette
• Season 2 Alternate Ending
• Sneak Peak: Silence
• 2013 Comic-Con Panel
• Severed Scenes
• Gag Reel
It’s a motif, Chewers!
Kevin Bacon, Shawn Ashmore, James Purefoy, Jessica Stroup, Connie Nielsen, Sam Underwood, Valorie Curry, Tiffany Boone
With serial killer and cult leaders Joe Carroll presumed dead, ex-FBI Agent Ryan Hardy has spent a year rebuilding his life. But a horrific killing spree motivates Hardy and his ex-partner, Agent Mike Weston, to contact the lone survivor, Lily Gray. As Hardy investigates on the down-low with the help of his niece, NYPD cop Max Hardy, it’s not long before he is once again an assassin’s target.
Last Season on DVD REVIEW: THE FOLLOWING
“Fox’s The Following is the most blatant rip-off [of The Hannibal Lecter mythos], going so far as to be a slightly skewed take on Red Dragon with Kevin Bacon as the Will Graham-like FBI agent pulled out of retirement to stop a serial killer, James Purefoy as our Hannibalesque serial killer pulling the strings from prison, and a cult of devoted followers of Carroll standing in for Francis Dolarhyde.”
“At several points the cultists escape due to their ability to shoot trained policemen and SWAT before the can react, they secret knives away on their person constantly as if an open-blade knife is easy to carry around all of the time, just in case. Any time two characters stand close to one-another, one of them is going to stab the other in the torso, gut wounds are this show’s Horatio Caine one-liners.”
“Fox was smart to hire Kevin Bacon. He is the only thing holding this show together most of the time.”
“At no point are any of the Carroll’s followers scary or even particularly menacing. They’re smug, pretentious, and oh-so-punchable to the point that there should really be a DVD special feature where we get to watch each one of them get stabbed in the face repeatedly. Instead of being an army of terrifying killers they’re just a sea of smirking pretty hipsters who recite Gothic poetry and talk about how uncool everyone else is for not seeing the value of murder.”
The most infuriating aspect of the followers is how much time the writers insist we spend with them. They’re amoral assholes with no regard for human life, I do not care about their bisexual love triangles or how betrayed they feel by each other; they cut a lady’s eyes out earlier, they can go die in a fire.
“The funniest moment by far is in the final episode of the season where Carroll’s ex-wife mentions what a cliche his Annabel Lee themed finale is and he snaps ‘It’s a MOTIF, Claire!'”
“Purefoy has no screen presence, his biggest strength is that he kind of looks like someone made a clone of Thomas Jane and left it too close to a heat lamp. I don’t look at him and see a catlike intelligence or a bestial lust for destruction; I see a guy who looks like he owns a lot of posters of prog-rock bands and at least four flannel shirts. I cannot buy that a character is charismatic enough to hold sway over a large group of mentally unstable murderers with disparate motivations and disorders when he isn’t charismatic enough to make me voluntarily finish watching what scene he’s currently in.”
“Kevin Bacon and Shawn Ashmore make this show bearable but they deserve better and so do you. Stare not into this abyss lest it stare back, I’ve been clean for a few weeks now and still find myself thinking ‘I wonder what Ryan Hardy is up to in season 2…’ I’m like the not-awful Olsen sister in that movie where she plays the girl with all the M names, just waiting for the day when The Following finds me and drags me kicking and screaming back into its dark desolate corner.”
I just couldn’t stay away. My morbid curiosity kept digging at me and reminding me that (completely unreliable) people (who aren’t to be trusted) said that the second season of The Following was better than the first. So I relapsed and got The Following season 2 when it came up for review. Is it better? Unquestionably. Is it any good? Not even close.
At the end of season 1, most of James Carrol’s followers were dead or caught, Joe was killed in an explosion (DNA evidence concluded that it was actually him), and Ryan Hardy and Carrol’s ex-wife Claire Matthews were assaulted in his apartment by his friendly next-door neighbor who was revealed to be a Carrol-ite. We pick up right where season one left off as Hardy survives his definitely-fatal stab wound and cold snaps the woman’s neck. We jump ahead to the hospital where Mike Weston shows that he’s played by a much better actor than most of the people in this series as he delivers the news to Ryan that Claire has died.
Now we flash forward a year in the future as Ryan has put his life back together, he’s teaching a criminology class and everything is great until a group of masked men massacre a group of passengers on a subway car. Now, the showrunners want you to know that they realize how ridiculous those Poe masks looked last season (see the above .gif if you doubt it), so they have remedied the situation with a new disguise. This group of followers are wearing over-sized exhaustively detailed replicas of Jame’s Purefoy’s head. They are amazingly ridiculous.
After the murders start, we find out that Ryan has secretly been searching for Joe’s remaining followers and theorizing that the man himself is still alive. Emma the Terrible is hiding out with the last few murder hipsters, Mike signs on as a consultant for the FBI on the case, and the show can’t even wait halfway through the first episode of the season to reveal that Joe is still alive (there’s still a big scary music stinger when they actually show his face at the end for some reason.)
Our new bad guys are twin brothers, Luke and Mark (both played by Sam Underwood), who enjoy strangling people to death and then having a nice day of activities at home with the corpses (that is not a euphemism.) The showrunners of The Following realized that their Hannibal Lecter pastiche was easy to pick apart last season, but they bank on the average Fox viewer not being a big Michael Haneke fan because they’ve stolen the two villains of Funny Games and planted them in their dumbass TV show. Derivative though they may be, Luke and Mark inject some much needed pulpiness into this season; they’re a sign that this show has started taking itself much less seriously and admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery.
The other big bad this season is Lily Gray (Connie Nielsen). I know that me telling you that Lily Gray is a follower sounds like a spoiler but if you’ve watched more than five minutes of this show, then the only surprise should be that they don’t reveal the twist in the episode in which the character is introduced. Lily is Mark and Luke’s mother and the reason she is a serial killer is because she grew up poor and, now that she’s filthy rich, she just likes to watch people die. Lily Gray is an awful character but she’s mildly compelling (less than Mark and Luke, but definitely more than Joe.)
As with last season, the first four episodes are awful in a way that only The Following can be. It took me nearly a month just to get to episode five. Joe is hanging out in Arkansas with a former prison pen-pal, sporting a big beard and a bad southern drawl. It is majestic. He has a teenage sidekick named Mandy (Tiffany Boone) who’s meant to be our sympathetic window into the followers’ mind. Mandy is standing in for the now-deceased Jacob this season and her plot thread is just as pointless as his was, even though her character works better.
Once Joe leaves the simple life to go back to being a pretentious murderer, we find out that he has a follower inside the FBI helping him out. It’s not like it matters since The Following’s FBI isn’t smart enough to pour water out of a boot if the instructions were printed on the heel, but it does explain how an official on-file blood sample was switched at the FBI’s secret warehouse with the blood of his half-brother, whose corpse stood in for Joe’s in the boathouse fire, naturally. That whole mess is presented as a perfectly logical sequence of events, by the way.
After a contrived sequence of events we finally get all of our murderous dicks together in one place. After some serious friction at the beginning, everybody starts getting all into each other. But then Lily Gray gets all clingy and starts talking about settling down in South America and Joe practically all-but leaves a James Purefoy-shaped hole in the drywall as he decides he wants nothing to do with this crazy woman. At this point, the writers snap and the show descends into bugfuck insanity.
How do you make a group of crazy assholes sympathetic? You simply introduce a crazier group of bigger assholes to oppose them. Emma and Joe realize pretty quickly that Lily Gray, Luke, and Mark are too nuts even for them and this spins off into an antagonistic relationship that makes the follower side of the story more interesting.
As for Ryan Hardy and Mike Weston, they become the hands of our frustrated psyche. Mike and Ryan aren’t fucking around this season, they’re gutting cultists and shooting people execution style, at one point they torture an eleven-year-old boy to find the whereabouts of his serial killer father. It’s the kind of wild-eyed lunacy that this show needs to embrace more often because it makes everything so much more watchable and I laugh with glee as it happens.
After Joe and his sister-wives escape from Lily Gray, they go to a good old meat-and-potatoes cult so Joe can overtake it from the inside and gain a whole bunch of new followers. The cult is bananas: most members dress all in red, but new members have to wear white robes and half-face masks because they “haven’t earned their identity yet.” They participate in human sacrifice but it boils down to superficial cuts on a cultists arm that the cultists then drink. The leader is named Micah, and he is amazing.
Micah is played by Jack Weber of Medium and the Dawn of the Dead remake, he plays his character like a cross between Don Johnson and a coked-up Dustin Hoffman. There’s a manic goofiness that’s just magnetic about the character and he’s so obviously nuts that I savored every moment he’s onscreen. I hate this show, but I want a Better Call Saul-style prequel series just based around this guy!
Unfortunately, as quickly as the lunacy starts, it fades. Eventually Carroll usurps Micah’s power and convinces most of the cult to start murdering people by simply talking about heaven whilst strangling a cat. As in season 1, the followers are the worst thing about The Following. All of Carroll’s new followers are dull and annoying, the most well-developed one is a fat woman who gleefully murders people who make fun of her for being fat. The newbies really made me appreciate Lily Gray and her sons.
As before, it becomes apparent that the writers have no clue where this bullshit is going and are just making it up as they go along. Early in the season Joe has an epiphany that the whole psycho-sexual writer angle was really dumb and that he’s a bad writer (subtext!) but he promises Emma that he has a grand plan. It is almost immediately clear that Joe is a filthy stinking liar and has no clue what he’s going to do to make himself relevant again, both in the context of the show and in real life.
After waffling around for a few episodes somebody apparently decided that Joe is fiercely anti-religion because he’s an “intellectual.” So he sets his sights on a mega-church TV pastor who has started an anti-Carroll TV campaign. The show pretends that there’s something to be said about the state of morality, religion, and such but there isn’t. Joe just kidnaps the pastor and takes a Manhattan cathedral hostage, tries to make the two men kill each other, and broadcasts it on the internet. It’s all just a delaying tactic to pad out the season for about five episodes until the finale.
The finale is actually pretty good, surprisingly enough. Sure it’s cliched, poorly written, and dumb as a sack of door knobs but is has Joe and Ryan Hardy teaming up like buddy cops to stop Lily Gray’s following and manages to squeeze in a few decent character moments. The ending ties everything up but leaves a loose end for next season, coming to a satisfactory conclusion.
As before, Kevin Bacon and Shawn Ashmore are the major assets of the show. Ryan actually develops somewhat as a character (not much, but for a living hunk of gravel it’s a big step) and Mike’s turn into a grimdark badass is handled with a surprising amount of depth for this show.
Hardy’s niece Max is a decent addition to the show, even if she is used as a love interest for Mike and an occasional damsel. She is at least a character in her own right which is more than can be said for most of the other women in the show (more on that in a moment.)
The deck has been stacked with a few more character actors who get to waste their talent and time on The Following. Gregg Henry appears as a college professor who trains budding serial killers and inspired a young Joe Carroll. In addition to Henry, Oz‘s Lee Tergesen turns up as a ripoff of real-life Alaskan serial killer Robert Hansen which is only slightly less tasteless than The Frozen Ground. Rather annoyingly they’re willing to exploit Hansen’s modus operandi (hunting women like game animals) for entertainment, but not fully commit to a Most Dangerous Game-type episode, which might actually be interesting to watch.
The unintentional meta-humor is back for season 2, though its much more muted this time. The best “running joke” of the season is that Mike and Ryan have seemingly figured out that they’re leading characters in a television show, and are thus unkillable. In season 1, the tendency of the characters to go check leads or chase bad guys without back-up was dumb, but now that they’re aware of their John Wayne-esque invisible bullet/knife shield, it seems perfectly reasonable and even smart. At several points Ryan just lets himself get caught so the bad guys will let him in on their secret plan, and once they do he easily escapes and foils it.
Everybody seems to be in on how bad of a character Joe is now. Emma acknowledges how worthless he is around Ryan Hardy (it actually becomes a crucial plot point), Micah acknowledges that he’s a Charlie Manson ripoff, several characters vocally question why he doesn’t kill Ryan or Mike when he has the chance. Even Joe Carroll seems to be tired of his stupid murder cult. James Purefoy is playing the unhinged campy Joe from the end of season one this time and it improves his character greatly, if he would’ve done this for all of season one I would have liked him a lot more.
The Following sure is a lot more misogynistic this season (there’s your pull-quote, guys.) Not only do stupid women-folk continue to fuck up and get themselves damseled, but we have a new villainess whose character profile can basically be summed up as “crazy vindictive bitch.” Lily Gray is clingy, petty, two-faced, and a jerk even among her own kind. She makes previous misogyny-trope Emma look well-adjusted by comparison.
But don’t think the ugliness ends at the villains. One notable archetype missing from Season 1’s Red Dragon pastiche was a Freddy Lounds character; a sleazy reporter to muck things up. Enter Carrie Cooke (Sprague Grayden) a character who is the be-all end-all nosy reporter. Wishing no offense to Ms. Grayden, Carrie Cooke has the most punchable smirk of any person ever. She even smirks when she’s unconscious! Now, in fairness, Carrie does become a much more sympathetic (and smirkless) character later in the season and actual becomes a downright good person by the end, but it’s only when she decides to defer to Ryan Hardy and I kind of have a feeling that her change of heart was a late-stage rewrite by somebody who realize how toxic the writing of the character was.
Most egregious is Micah’s wife, who is first introduced pointing a gun at Joe and telling him to humble himself before her. Joe gives her a look that says “I will dominate you later”, and sure enough when he kills her he says “How’s that for control?” It’s pretty awful.
Even the neutral women characters in the show are problematic. Women make incredibly stupid decisions and keep putting themselves in situations where Mike, Ryan, or Joe need to save them. Even Max, who is the most positive woman in the cast, gets herself in life-or-death situations that Ryan and Mike just don’t get into. They bring a character back to life just so she can get kidnapped by murderers and used to lure our heroes into a trap!
Season 2 didn’t get a lot of viewers so it’s likely that season 3 will be the last. The whole Joe Carroll thing is done, they could bring him back in a villainous capacity but it would be dumb and regressive even for this show. Season 2 has shown that Joe Carroll works far better as a pseudo anti-hero than a sinister villain. The Joe/Ryan partnership from the finale is the most interesting either character has been thus far in the entire show and I would like to see more of that dynamic. What I’m trying to say is that if The Following is going to continue stealing from movies then season three should just be a 15 episode re-adaptation of 48 Hours.
The Following is a better show now, but it’s still miles away from being good. Season 3 premieres in just a few weeks and if the show can manage to drop all its awful gender baggage and embrace its absurdity (all while remaining completely straight-faced about it) then it can at least come out with a reasonably entertaining show. As it is, there’s nothing that makes this season more of a must-watch than it was a year ago.
This set is dense with featurettes that are fairly interesting despite the fact that they’re all deeper looks into something criminally shallow. There’s a fake alternate ending (it was made so the cast wouldn’t know how it ended before it aired.) There’s a mildly amusing gag reel and some other miscellaneous crap.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars