‘The Following’ Season Finale: Bad to the Last Bloody Drop

'The Following' Season Finale on Fox:

Few things speak more glaringly to the void “The X Factor’s” cancellation will leave in Fox’s schedule than the network’s decision to renew “The Following,” a drama that long ago fell victim to lazy writing and its own pervasive nihilism.

Further muddying its own narrative this season with an unnecessary foray into religion, the finale began in a church, where (and SPOILER ALERT if you haven’t watched) the death toll continued to mount. Then FBI Agent Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) and serial killer-cult leader Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) found themselves thrown together trying to save the woman they both love (Natalie Zea) from crazy twin brothers, in what might as well have been subtitled “Lethal Weapon: Get Me the Hell Out of Here Already.”

With Joe having already cheated death once at the end of the first season, the producers could have done everyone a favor — and perhaps achieved a small measure of redemption — by at least bringing closure to that thread. Instead, they relied on yet another loose end — “The Following” exists in a world where nobody appears to know how to secure a crime scene — and a cryptic cliffhanger that offered more of a whimper than a bang.

It’s all a terrible shame, since the pairing of Bacon and Purefoy was initially filled with promise, only to stumble into one ridiculous dead end after another, escaping those situations without any ingenuity beyond having some new character show up and start randomly killing people.

This season, the producers did initiate some minor tweaks, including the decision to give a regular role to Ryan’s grown niece (Jessica Stroup), who happens to be an NYPD cop. The show also upped its serial killer quotient to three, including Connie Nielsen’s Joe Carroll-worshipping wannabe and an aspiring religious cult (complete with “Eyes Wide Shut” masks) that Carroll quickly bent to his will.

While one can appreciate a broadcaster’s attempt to do an edgier, more cable-like drama, “The Following” has the look and cruelty with none of the smarts. Moreover, its condescending attitude toward religion and Fox’s generous use of the TV-14 rating (indicating the show is appropriate for those 14 and up, as opposed to the more restrictive TV-MA) give credence to complaints from groups like the Parents Television Council whose gripes usually fall on deaf ears. (Not that kids are watching the show — they’re not — but why not be honest that the content isn’t appropriate for them?)

As noted, Fox can’t really expect the series to grow at this point, so it has to rely on the audience that’s been hanging on this long. Maybe most of them will come back, but after two seasons of waiting to see if “The Following” experiment actually led anywhere, it will have to get by with one less follower.



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  1. Erin says:

    It seems a lot of the writers and crew from The Following are commenting on here. I don’t understand all the praise otherwise. This show is Garbage with a capital G. It’s the same tired, lazy writing every week. Killing for shock value only and not to advance story. All the problems from S1 Williamson said he would fix were still there and were even more relied on. There’s no character development whatsoever and yet again, the law enforcement agencies were made yo look like an absolute joke. The superb cast deserves so much better than this crap.

  2. Trent says:

    What this article writer fails to realize is that all nihilism is pervasive. That is a sure sign it is being represented accurately and intelligently. Nihilism is a reality that does not compromise, and for that it holds an alluring power that ignites Purefoy on screen. A character who continues to demonstrate many different levels keeping his persona not only interesting but intriguing. The fact that *SPOILER* he confesses his love for Claire at the very end and begs for forgiveness, only leaving her too traumatized to turn to Ryan or perhaps any other man again was pure brilliance. I am a Joe Carroll fan, and implore the writers of this show to keep exploring further down this razor wire rabbit hole.

  3. Lola says:

    Pretty awesome tv show if you think about the same tired old hackneyed plots that NCIS, Law & Order and all the other crime shows churn out. The Following is innovative….

  4. Arrielle says:

    I liked both seasons. It may be only because Kevin Bacon, but it’s a decent TV show compared with what is out there.

  5. Sean says:

    I feel that season two was in some ways better than season 1. I felt the finale last night was very strong, and that the fact that Ryan didn’t kill Joe was almost better. Joe wanted Ryan to kill him at the end, and if he had done so, Joe would have gotten what he wanted yet again! Ryan doesn’t want Joe to go out on his own terms-he wants him to suffer. I don’t believe the writers intend to use Joe Carroll next season just because they kept him alive. I look forward to the surviving twin and whoever was in that car being the main villains in season 3!

  6. Yeah, this season was pretty lame compared to last season. I didn’t like the weird religious cult angle – but I understood why they went there – Jim Jones, Wacko – religious cults are a great place for a narcissistic psychopath to take control. But it just felt really cheesy. The Joe character really comes off more cartoonish than anything. Some of the lines they give him are good, but more often than not, he’s just cartoonish. Sad cause Purefoy is a really good actor but he still can’t overcome the crappy writing. But I’ll continue watching next season. Kevin Bacon needs to make back all that money that Madoff stole from him – I’m here for you Kevin!!! :-)

  7. sojourner says:

    I am done. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me. The only reason that Ryan, whose intent the whole show was to kill Carroll, didn’t was to extend the show for an other season. That left the Ryan character with no credibility. And while I am at it:I started watching “The Following” because Bacon was starring in it. That will not be happening again.

    • DryHeat says:

      I agree with you about Ryan not killing Joe to extend the storyline, but if your mortal enemy was begging to be killed, wouldn’t you do the opposite of what he wanted? Wouldn’t it be better to have him rot in jail?

  8. karen says:

    I love this series im gutted its over !!! bring on series 3 and I luv kevin bacon and if the haters hated it so much why were they so intrigued that they had to keep on watchin series 1 and 2 !!!
    ?? ha ha !!! gotcha !!!

  9. No Longer Following says:

    I’ve hung in there for two seasons, but I’m done. Not because of any fault on the part of the cast — they’re all excellent, particularly Kevin Bacon. I realize that the premise of the show is that it focuses on a serial killer, but enough is enough. It’s too unrelentingly dark. Everybody is crazy. Every new character is another wacko, and when they kill one off, they just bring in a replacement. There’s no hope of ever putting the story line to rest. There is no light at the end of the tunnel for the characters, and I’ve had enough. I won’t be back next season.

  10. Pat says:

    JC coming back from the dead – it’s been done before.

  11. rodriguez says:

    They killed off two of the main characters last season only to find out this season, lo and behold, they never actually died. That’s just bad writing. It reminds me of Supernatural. I believe at the end of every season of Supernatural they kill off a main character and the next season they bring the character back from whatever hell it was sent to. It’s as if the writers lack the creativity to create interesting characters so they contrive scenarios where they go on living in spite of all the climactic brushes with death that punctuate season finales; or, worse, they prefer milking the show, season after season, rather than allow the characters and the series to progress toward their natural conclusion. There’s just no tension there, no drama, you know it’s gonna go on and on and on, nothing is truly at stake.

    I think Brian Lowry summed it up best with this:
    While one can appreciate a broadcaster’s attempt to do an edgier, more cable-like drama, “The Following” has the look and cruelty with none of the smarts.

  12. Bre Durant says:

    -I agree. While this season had its moments it didn’t really do it for me. The 1st season was definitely better and seemed to actually have a point. I don’t really think there is anything for them to do in the 3rd season especially after seeing that horrible season finale.

  13. Linda says:

    I’ll watch till every bloody one is dead. Love that show~

    • Dee says:

      And it’s great to know that the show has already been picked up for another season! Can’t wait to see what the writers have in store for everyone.

  14. First, let me say this season wasn’t as good as last but, for me, it’s still entertaining.

    I believe this is the second time I’ve read (not only here) about “unnecessary religion” injected this season. It’s not like there were some sort of religious undertones or the show was trying to take a shot at religion (condescending attitude, let me call the whambulance for you) in general. Joe wanted to return to the limelight and he needed a new army. Jana provided him with a list of cults from the FBI database, Joe knew a fanatical religious cult would be the easiest to manipulate.

    Also read a few times now about the death toll. One of the main characters is a mass murderer. People are gonna die on the regular. All the people and reviewers that complain about every character that just starts to have a story and gets killed would be the same ones complaining if there were too many regular, recurring characters and the story was too jumbled.

  15. Gary says:

    This is what critics do. Hey…let’s all watch Dancing With The Starzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…
    The most watched movies rarely win the Oscar. We enjoy the show…and Kevin Bacon is excellent in this role.

  16. Noah Coward says:

    As ridiculous as this show became at times this year, I still found it engaging. Put another way, “The Following” may be crap, but it’s entertaining crap.

    The problem comes from taking an interesting story and turning it into an ongoing series. Same problem with “Homeland.” Artistically speaking (pardon the use of that expression in this context), the story should have a beginning, middle, and then end. For financial reasons, networks refuse to do that. They’ll just keep it going as long as they can.

    Sure seems like “The Following” has run it’s course. Hard to imagine how they’ll try to resurrect the show for yet another season. Undoubtedly Joe Carrol will be involved.

  17. Jeff says:

    “The Following” is completely ridiculous, but it’s entertaining. In fact, I found it at times quite amusing all this Crazy Cult Leader preaching to his crazy followers.

    In mid-season when Joe and Emma stumble onto another cult, it was hard to figure out who was the most sane!

    Like I said, it’s entertaining. Take it seriously? Not in a million years.

  18. Dee says:

    I guess everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I can’t believe Mr. Lowry’s unbelievable comments! The Following is one of the BEST shows on TV, and every episode from both season one and season two have been packed with intense and emotional drama. It’s what keeps the fans coming back each week; it’s what makes us care about the story and the great cast of characters. This show is anything but predictable, and the season two finale was a loaded episode from start to finish. Mr. Lowry is obviously not a fan of the show, and that’s fine, but his comments were unfair and unjustified. Don’t dis the best show on TV simply because it’s not your ‘cup of tea’!

  19. Eric says:

    You are the most negative critic I have ever seen. All you do is rip every show on TV. Maybe it’s time for you to find a new profession.

  20. Brad Clarke says:

    What complete and utter rubbish!
    I watch a lot of TV… A bloody lot and this was certainly one of the best, if not THE best shows of the season. Every episode was line watching an action packed feature and twists and turns galore… I’m dumbfounded at your comments!

    • Sharon Knopic says:

      Oh sure, let’s keep another musical flop in the X factor and cancel a show that people wait for each week to see what’s happening. Sorry Mr. Lowry, but I think “The Following” will be around a lot longer than you are – and you should find another career if you think this show isn’t a hit. I’ve seen many similar shows, this one leaves them all in the dust.

      • derek says:

        Wow, I want whatever you are drinking guys. The reviewer was too nice in his review of this show. While I was entertained during the first season, there were plenty of moments that almost had me quit watching. This season started out with so much promise and deteriorated into a complete mess. Terrible writing, jump the shark plot twists, and Bacon and Purefoy hamming it up. To call this show the BEST thing on TV is so funny, it makes me think you guys are on fox’s payroll. This show is supposed to be a horror, yet it is not scary at all, and the senseless violence is complete overkill. This show is so dumb, and to think that a show like Hannibal, which gets far fewer viewers, yet is lightyears better in terms of acting, directing, writing and actual HORROR, is very embarrassing. I won’t be tuning into this crap next year, for sure.

  21. Johhnie R says:

    As soon as I saw that Joe Carroll didn’t really die I knew the second season would not be worth watching. Terrible writing gimmick that has been used WAY too many times.

    • carol matt says:

      After the end of a crazy day, Its fun to watch new creative shows. I liked the ending because its letting you see deeper psycological development of the 2 main characters, Ryan & Joe. I actually laughed at self realizing I was hoping that Joe & Ryan would of had a more emotional bond in finally. I cant wait for season 3

      • Dee says:

        To: Dry Heat…
        I think it was Carrie who picked up the twins. She was noticeably missing from the finale, and I haven’t entirely trusted her right from the start.

      • DryHeat says:

        Who do you think was in the truck in the end that picked up Matt & Luke?

    • Harlow says:

      Hey Johnny R – I dare you to come up with something absolutely original and sell it to a studio and then write 13 to 15 hour long episodes. TV, Movies, and music have been around for awhile. It is absolutely rare to come up with an original idea. Basically everything we see has been done before and let me give you a piece of juicy information – it is only going to get worse. That won’t change. So quit your complaining, be happy that you get to even watch TV that you can hear the TV cause there are people in the world where their entertainment is hitting a rock with a stick. Maybe your ignorant personality can go join those people.

      • Jedi77 says:

        You don’t have to be a good writer to recognize bad writing when you see it. And calm down, man.

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