I have rather been enjoying The Following, that is, up until Episode 5: “The Siege.” To be fair, I did not not enjoy this episode, but instead of pure, unadulterated fun, I finished the episode feeling exceedingly annoyed with many things.
To start, do the writers understand the meaning of “siege” because the title misled me to expect an entirely different sequence of events? While I do not wish for my television to be predictable (a trait which Episode 5 claimed in nearly every other aspect), I do not think it is fair to deliberately mis-name an episode simply to mis-lead the audience. Again, to be fair, I really do not think this was intentional; I just think someone must be a poor namer.
Warning: THERE BE SPOILERS AHEAD.
Ah, so many contrivances! A different reviewer has pointed out that “previously, all the thrills were from the violence,” and that this episode was one of the best so far, due to its suspense. I can agree with this statement. This episode was enjoyable largely due to the suspense. That said, there were so many contrivances created to drive this suspense, along with the wholly gratuitous deaths, that despite the suspense, this show irked me for the first time. I’d like to point out that this is a relatively rare experience for me. Usually, if I am irked by a show it is because it starts off that way and I either end up no longer watching it (Revolution, Beauty and the Beast) or having it grow on me despite its irksome nature (Terra Nova).
It seems that I am not the only one who had problems with this episode. I particularly liked “Things Episode 5 of “The Following” Has Taught Me.” Nevertheless, I would like to contribute my own thoughts to the blogosphere…
1. Gratuitous deaths
Why? Why would a police officer, even a scared shitless one, let an unknown man continue to walk towards him, knowing there were dangerous serial killers in the neighborhood? Seriously. Someone who is nervous or scared of you because you are pointing a gun at him or her, does not – I repeat, does NOT – approach person with said gun. I imagine if that were to happen to me, I would keep my hands up, and if anything, walk away from the person holding the gun. Okay, having never been in that situation, I am not sure what I would do, but I’ll tell you what I would NOT do – walk towards the person pointing a gun at me. Someone (see above) said that officer should have shot Hank in the kneecaps. Since the officer seemed inexperienced and incredibly scared, I think what would have been more realistic in that instance would have been for him to shoot Hank in the chest. Maybe he would not have had good aim, but I was offended that the officer (who regardless of how small town he was, presumably had some sort of training) stupidly let the man approach him, and then shoot him with his own gun.
By the way, nice job introducing a new character, just so he could be killed off (sarcasm intended):
Someone (see above again) also pointed out that Officer Stupid was not wearing a bullet-proof vest. I think that part may not have been unrealistic. They were out searching for a house, not planning a raid. It may not have been procedure to wear a vest in such an instance. Nevertheless, I found his death completely unnecessary, other than to characterize the cold killer that Hank was supposed to have been (which was unnecessary due to the scene with him in the lawyer’s office), or to create an emotional reaction, which was difficult since the officer was acting stupidly. It was also highly predicable. Did you not know immediately that dude was going to die?
Officer Stupid’s death was not the only unnecessary death. What about the old couple?
A) By the time Paul and Jacob got back to their house they had already called the police. Was it really necessary to go back and kill them? The only good that did was to prevent them from telling the police in what direction the girl with the boy went back into the woods. This apparently was unnecessary since Officer Stupid immediately knew where the closest house was.
B) Why did Paul (and since Jacob has not killed anyone yet, Paul would have had to do all the work) take the time to kill them with a knife? Okay, perhaps this was before they distributed the guns, but I did find it strange that they were found neatly sitting in chairs as though they were caught off guard and not in the kitchen phoning the police. Why did Paul and Jacob take the time to arrange them that way? Or did they tell the couple to sit down in the chairs so that Paul could reach their throats with greater ease? As soon as Paul and Jacob came into their house uninvited, they should have know they were going to die. If I were to imagine myself in such a situation, I do not see myself cooperating with my killers to make their job easier. So, again I ask, why in the world did Jacob and Paul take the time to neatly arrange their fresh kill?
Both of these instances of death were completely unnecessary and seem to solely fulfill some quota or expectation. Just because the show is about serial killers does not mean that multiple people, or anyone at all, have to die each episode.
2) Are Joe’s followers also stupid?
Why would Emma, Paul and Jacob not know that they needed to get out of there as soon as they could? They interrupted the old couple as they were telling the police on the other end of the line that they had just seen that missing boy. Did they really need Hank to show up to tell them they needed to leave?
Which brings up something else. So, it took LESS time for Joe Carroll to contact Olivia Warren, the lawyer, get her to find out the skinny on an FBI investigation (how did she have access to that information again?), have her report back to Joe, arrange a statement, have that statement reach Roderick, who calls Hank (where has he been hanging out that he got to the farm so quickly?), who shows up at the farmhouse to tell Emma, Jacob and Paul that it is time to leave, than it took for the FBI, in conjunction with the county sheriff, to search 150 properties? I get 150 properties is a lot, and the county was sprawling. I also understand that I do not know what it is like to conduct such a search, but you figure 10 teams (which they should easily be able to swing, since the teams consisted of only two people) – that is 15 houses a piece. That’s what? A few hours? And yet, Hank reached the farmhouse before Hardy did?
On that note, how did the FBI know to search that county in the first place? Admittedly, I believe I may have zoned out briefly at this point, because I honestly do not remember. I thought the phone was routed through several different places and could not be traced? And if that were not true, then why in the hell did Emma, Paul and Jacob not high-tail it out of there immediately upon discovering that little Joey had called his mother? They should have been gone before Hank even showed up.
You’re not supposed to wait for backup?
I am not a police officer, or an FBI agent, so I do not know exactly how things work. That said, was it appropriate for Agent Hardy and Officer Stupid to approach the house alone, with concrete knowledge that their fugitives were there? Should they not have waited for backup? In which case, Officer Stupid would still be alive (whether or not he knew that a scared innocent would not approach someone who has a gun pointed on him) and Hardy would not have found himself with a gun pointed at the back of his head.
I get that television must take some license in order to create suspense. Wasn’t that what all 8 seasons of 24 were about? Jack Bauer CONSTANTLY breaking laws for a good reason? And wasn’t that why Hardy went on his own to save his sister last episode? But in Episode 5, this break from procedure felt simply lazy on the part of the writers. It was stupid of them to approach the house without backup and it was completely unnecessary since it did not appear that the fugitives were about to go anywhere. On top of that, what the hell was taking Weston and the backup so damn long? Okay, back country roads, big county – fine. But the “cliffhanger” felt contrived too, because at any moment you know that place will be swarming with law enforcement and it won’t matter who has a gun to Hardy’s head, because there is no way they are getting out of that situation. What ensues from that point might be an actual siege, which never took place in the episode entitled “Siege.”
Claire outsmarted the FBI?
Look, she’s obviously smart – she’s got a PhD and all – but, c’mon!
Is it also procedure to allow the closest connection they have to the mastermind, i.e. Carrol’s wife, Claire, to ever leave the FBI’s sight? Carrol’s lawyer speaks to her ALONE, then Claire all of a sudden decides to have lunch with a friend. It was so incredibly obvious that they could not have had Agent Turner, who was in charge of the operation at Claire’s house, NOT know what was going on. In which case, why did they just have two agents go with her to lunch? Why did they not have at least one agent on every possible exit? Claire refused to tell them what was going on, which meant they should have know she was going to try something, and there were agents swarming that house, so they had enough to go around. Why did the FBI agent not immediately get up and follow Claire to the bathroom? And did Claire pick the restaurant because she knew there was an exit by the bathrooms? Do you know which restaurants you frequent that have their bathrooms next to a door leading to the parking lot? I suppose that is not out of the realm of possibilities, since I can think of a few in my own neighborhood, though none quite so conveniently around a corner and down a hallway out of sight of the main room.
This is a small issue, but as long as I’ve blathered on as I have, I may as well address this point as well. I find that they are inconsistent with Joey’s character. Not that his character is necessarily inconsistent, but it feels like they have attempted to create a horrific show about serial killers in which people revel in blood & death, and yet they have gone to great lengths to protect the child from being exposed to any of that horror.
Where is the kid when Emma and Paul are off chasing Megan? Where was he at any point when there is a weeping woman bound up in the basement, for that matter? Where is he when they are all in the shower together? Where is he when they are getting on their menage a trois? Where do they imagine he is when they are casually sitting around talking about him? Surely he couldn’t possibly be skulking around listening to their conversation, right? Wrong. Because here’s the deal, if he is young enough to go along with the story Emma feeds him, it means he is pretty young. Maybe he is a good kid who goes to bed when he’s told, sleeps soundly for twelve hours and is happy playing by himself. That would be an awfully lucky convenience for his captors. I suppose it could be argued that Emma has a soft place in her heart for the kid, and that these issues are addressed through Paul’s comments (which I think is supposed to make us dislike him, but really makes me think he is the only rational one in the group). Soft or hard heart, the fact is they are not very careful about where he is, what he thinks or about keeping him secure.
I suppose the audience is not privy to the primary objective of Joey’s kidnapping. This may be the reason behind some of Emma and Paul’s actions. For example, are they supposed to create a serial killer out of Joe’s son? In which case, I can understand why they want to hide from him their true intentions: they need to ease him into the lifestyle. However, this primary objective necessitates a secondary objective, which is DON’T GET CAUGHT. Yet, Emma calmly walks away from the couple, even though she knows that they know who Joey is. At this point, she has a choice – does she try to keep up the charade with Joey, or does she protect their security and kill the couple in front of the kid? How does she know Paul and Jacob are right behind her to go back and deal with the problem? They all went off in opposite directions after all.
It isn’t that I want to see the kid traumatized, and I realize there is a fine line about involving even fictional kids in horrific experiences (as well as the television show being on a network station), but the decision was made to create a show about a serial killer cult and place a young child at the center of it. This cannot be realistically pulled off without the child experiencing SOME trauma. Which is not to say that any horror needs to be perpetrated against the child himself. But, for example, it would have made more sense for Emma to turn his running away into a lesson about why he cannot do that – because then she’ll have to kill anyone who sees him. She could have even framed it around his safety – she HAD to kill the couple because she wants to keep him safe. But, that would have traumatized the child for life, except that if their true objective is to turn him into a serial killer like his dad, then they are going to have to expose him to murder at some point or other.
Let me emphasize the fact that I really do not think I would have liked it if Emma had killed the couple in front of sweet little Joey. I am just saying that disjuncture between the perverse serial killers on the one hand and the uncontaminated innocence on the other is hard to swallow. You set those two things next to one other and one is going to seep into the other. It is like accidentally resting your arm on an open rollerball pen. Your arm is going to come away with some spots of ink. You cannot have Joey held captive by those people without him being exposed to some horror. Even if that horror is simply him finding a dirty, bloody, bound woman in the basement.
I think they made a mistake by involving the child in the first place. Sure it creates horror for the mother with which the audience can empathize, but unless the child is only held for a short time (i.e. a few hours or a day), then in order for it to even approach believably, the horror has to be experienced on both sides: the mother’s and the child’s. If they wanted to involve a child, they should have had it be a much quicker experience. I am assuming that when this situation is resolved in Episode 6, this will be the end of Joey’s captivity (and the beginning of his mother’s). This is a good direction, because the longer he is held captive, the less believable it is that his innocence has not forever been marred by the experience.
5) Claire’s “abduction”
Trading the child for the mother create nice symmetry, but the process of events leading up to this exchange (Carroll’s control over the lawyer, Claire’s willingness to sacrifice her life for the chance to see – not save – her son, the ineptness of the FBI) feel too contrived. This episode made me feel as though the whole show is contrived. Every event seems to follow t.v. logic, rather than rational logic. A few instances of t.v. logic are okay and forgivable, but when every decision by the characters is ruled by this unreal logic, it starts breaking down my willingness to suspend my disbelief. This is a problem.
I am going to conclude this rambling mess here. I feel better having gotten that off my chest. My appreciation to those readers who made it this far.
At the beginning of the year I had said that I wanted to rework the direction of my blog. Perhaps it should be geared towards television because that seems to be one of my favorite topics.
The best part of this show is Kevin Bacon’s performance. I really have nothing negative to say about him – I just wish the writers/directors (whoever is responsible for the stupid decisions) would give him some better material with which to work.
And finally, if Weston is a cult follower, Imma hav ta shoulder dis show.