Although Variety’s initial review of “The Following” was largely favorable, it came with certain disclaimers and “qualms about its durability.”
With Monday’s finale completing the 15-episode run of a series Fox has already renewed for a second season, it’s safe to say while the concept of doing a cable-style show was interesting, it’s hard to envision any scenario that would make me want to return for future installments of a program so nihilistic, empty and, ultimately, lazy.
Why lazy? Because virtually every time the producers appeared to write themselves into a corner, they simply had a random character turn out to be one of serial-killer Joe’s followers, killing someone (or several people) in order to implement an escape. As for the feds led by Kevin Bacon’s Ryan Hardy, their main characteristic — other than being hopelessly outclassed and out-smarted by the bad guys time and again — was to engage in a level of torture that would have made “24′s” Jack Bauer begin yelling about Miranda rights.
Finally (and be warned, SPOILERS are ahead), “The Following” spent an inordinate amount of time putting women in horrible situations, including its derivative riff on “The Vanishing” — with someone suffocating in a coffin, buried alive — in the finale. After her stint in “Justified,” it would also be nice to find Natalie Zea a role that could free her of this odd ex-wife-in-peril niche into which she’s fallen.
Even Bacon’s battle-scarred FBI agent and James Purefoy’s suave killer/cult leader couldn’t redeem the series, which engaged in a positively inane story-within-the-story shtick in the “Final Chapter” (as the closing episode was titled).
“It’s overkill! You’re gonna destroy the story!” Hardy protested, referring to the villain’s attempts to script the climax like a gothic novel. If only producer Kevin Williamson had been listening, or someone at Fox had invested as much time into trying to shape the show’s arc as making sure every commercial break carried a “parental discretion” advisory.
In this spring of serial killer TV — including “Hannibal” and “Bates Motel” — “The Following” emerges as the most grisly of the lot, making life cheap and disposable at every turn.
So for all the program’s literary pretentiousness about Edgar Allan Poe, all I can think when faced with the prospect of picking up where the season cliffhanger left off is, “Nevermore.”