May 18, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Finale Review: “The Following”


Hardly anyone who wasn’t earning a paycheck from Kevin Williamson’s THE FOLLOWING will miss it.  It was as close as any network series has ever come to torture porn, with at least one or two innocents being slaughtered or at least terrorized every week, and without the aesthetic artistry of Hannibal to justify its gore.  More infuriatingly, it kept being bad in exactly the same ways for 3 seasons, its producers apparently as clueless as its villains.  The dwindling number of viewers begged the show, among other things, to move on from original baddie and grandiose Edgar Allen Poe enthusiast Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) beginning at the end of Season 1, but he lingered on until midway in Season 3–and even then, he returned as an evil specter lurking in Ryan Hardy’s (Kevin Bacon) mostly drunken imagination.

One thing finally did change in the final season:  the title of the show became meaningless, because while there were something like 8 mass murderers clogging the mortuaries over its 15 episodes (several of them, like Joe, holdovers from previous seasons that the show couldn’t bear to part with), not a single one had much of a following.  The final Big Bad, Theo Noble (Michael Ealy), was a garden-variety serial killer who checked off several boxes on the list of 21st-century thriller cliches, having a wife and family oblivious to his activities, and being a genius computer hacker who could instantly make his way into any system, governmental or otherwise.  (Despite this skill, much of the final stretch of episodes revolved around his need for some other group of evildoers to provide him with a false identity, which for some reason he was unable to do himself.)

The final back-to-back episodes (Hour 1 written by Supervising Producer Brynn Malone and Story Editor Michael McGrale, and directed by Rob Seidenglanz; Hour 2 written by Executive Producers Alexi Hawley and Brett Mahoney, and directed by Marcos Siega) contained a last helping of everything that The Following had made its own:  several more torture sequences, some terrible police work by the FBI (its agents always managed to arrive on the scene a beat too late and a moment too slow), a high body count, and idiotic plot twists, the most notable one being the “reveal” that yet another FBI agent (played by Diane Neal, who used to dwell in less tawdry violence as part of the SVU cast) was in league with yet another band of murderers.  (Suffice it to say that background checks on agents need to be beefed up at the Bureau.)  In the end, Theo and many anonymous cops had bitten the dust, and the good guys were–barely, in the case of FBI agent Mike Weston (Shawn Ashmore), also the love interest for Ryan’s FBI agent niece Max (Jessica Stroup)–still alive, including Ryan’s unborn child with Dr. Gwen (Zuleikha Robinson).

As for Ryan himself, the season had essentially turned him into Jack Bauer, flouting all authority and waterboarding suspects when ordinary measures just weren’t enough, and he ended the series by deciding that the only way to keep his loved ones alive was to disengage from all of them, pretending to be dead at Theo’s hands and roaming the Earth in pursuit of Eliza (The Americans’ Annet Mahendru), leader of what appeared to be a Eyes Wide Shut-meets-Hostel society of swanky thrill-killers.  Had The Following somehow reached a 4th season, presumably we would have found out who the man was on the other end of Eliza’s phone call to her boss.  But it wasn’t to be:  America prefers some variation, at least, in its bloodthirstiness, and The Following didn’t have any.  Aside from relieving the airwaves of its aroma, this frees Bacon to fix his mistake and seek out a quality drama for his next turn on TV.  The comfort is:  he can’t do worse.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."