The Following "Let Me Go" Review: The Nitwittery Continues

By Nick Campbell

Mar 05, 2013

The Following S01E07: "Let Me Go"

When did The Following turn into an episode of 24?

It's not like Bacon's turn as Ryan Hardy wasn't bound to draw comparisons to Keifer Sutherland's ethical-gray-area, super-awake antihero. I mean just on gravelly voice alone they could both at least compete for a trophy at the Jack Donaghy "Talking Like This Contest" invitational. And while the thing I most admire about this show is that Ryan is quick to pull the trigger on any fool in his way, I wasn't so sure that he was quick to torture.

In fact, there were a lot of times in "Let Me Go" where law enforcement seemed more like a band of vigilantes rather than well-trained and organized professionals. Parker pulled a gun on a dude who was just driving the truck. Isn't that the unspoken bond of those charged with carrying weapons for their jobs? That they don't just pull them on each other to get their way? Otherwise I feel like cops would be pulling guns on each other for the last jelly donut. Stereotypes!

Anyway, it seems like someone watched Zero Dark Thirty during one of their breaks from the writer's room because the episode was bookended by scenes of torture and how it could affect a case. You might argue that the Ryan's recklessness is what provided Carroll the means to get out of prison, but I would counter that (a) what provided Carroll the means to escape was holding the warden's daughter hostage and (b) our country's view of torture and what constitutes "cruel and unusual punishment" for a criminal who's killed fifteen people and trained an unassuming army of brainwashed idiots to feel free to get stabby didn't hurt. Is it cruel and unusual to jab your finger into the bullet hole of someone who knows the next step of a sweeping plan of widespread murder and intrigue? Maybe not if you're backed up by law enforcement agencies who aren't the worst at their jobs.

So when did this turn into an episode of 24? About the time Ryan couldn't trust anyone on his team to do anything. Now, I know that not everyone can graduate at the top of their class. Someone has to have a doctor who graduated somewhere near the middle. But it seems like, at every turn, Carroll gets away with this "grand scheme," the one he's been planning for years based on what everyone would do in certain situations, because the FBI stupids their way through everything.

And to be fair to the FBI, in this episode they didn't seem as dopey as usual, but I assume that's because they were operating in the shadow of last week's colossal failure. Any operation that didn't end in a 3:1 law enforcement casualty rate and letting every bad guy escape after having the upperest of upper hands must look like a success worthy of cake. But they still let their nitwit flag fly.

The show made it dicey to call everyone out-and-out nitwits, though. I was more or less impressed by how reasonable (if not logical) the empty truck scam was. The progression and follow-through of that storyline made sense and created drastic-enough stakes that, yes, it was believable that the warden of a penitentiary would open the channels to allow such a thing to happen with a daughter on the line. What's most important is that neither the warden nor the prisoner Dana were cult members. In fact, after last week's deus ex machina, there were no surprise cult member crutches to be found. Had we learned that any of these people were turned in order to facilitate Carroll's release, The Following would seem like a show that has absolutely no respect for its audience. But it wasn't that way and I was relieved.

But then there were so many other things that undercut that minor success. The fact that Parker is still around after what should've been a career-ending failure (three men shot, two dead, only half of the hostages released, and every single bad guy getting away) is completely ridiculous. I get that they can't shift her around since we're supposed to be invested after her flashback-in-a-flashback nonsense last week (don't go to sleep on a plane watching this show—you'll get incepted) and she's a major character (either as the only person who believes in Ryan or who could be Roderick) but it's hard to believe that she didn't suffer any consequences after that botched operation. Add to that her losing track of Carroll's mouthpiece throughout this thing (really? No one's going to keep tabs on the lawyer?) and then losing track of a helicopter (oh, come on!) and you have a pretty below-average performance by law enforcement. What's less than a gold star? Silver seems too bright. Copper? Rusted aluminum? They get a rusted star for effort.

But all told, what bothers me the most about this show is something Carroll hit hard this week. The backlash to a lot of criticism about The Following, in multiple forums (the comments on these reviews included), is that critics are thinking too hard about the show. If people would just accept it for "what it is" and try not to nitpick the details, they would find that The Following is exciting and enjoyable. At the risk of sounding conversationally anal-retentive, my issue with that is twofold.

The overall issue is that anything that has to be prefaced with "accept it for what it is" means that it's not doing its job at establishing what it is. Poor execution of this concept can be blamed on marketing, but I lay fault mostly at the foot of the series itself. There are plenty of shows on television that have impossible, even ridiculous, premises. Pretty Little Liars, for example. involves a group of small-town teenagers apparently being bullied by an endlessly funded growing syndicate of bitchy thugs, and yet its execution of premise doesn't bother me. Dallas is back on the air doing the same routine it did twenty-five years ago—only cheesier and soapier—and its execution of premise doesn't bother me. It's because The Following is forever ridiculous but takes itself so seriously that it's so painful to watch. Not painful to everyone, since the ratings are strong and it just got renewed for a second season, but it's not something I've been able to reconcile.

But what's most maddening about asking an audience member to not think about this show in order to enjoy it is that the show begs us to believe that its characters are pensive and scheming. According to Carroll's own frequent admissions, everything that's happened during the series is the product of nine years of plotting. So far, however, most of the plot advancements have been due to lots of bumbling on the FBI's part. They don't investigate, or they improperly surround a house, or they lose track of a helicopter. While, for the sake of argument, I can be willing to concede that the trained assassins who spirited Paul and Jacob out of the house and provided Emma a lane for escape were part of a go-to emergency plan in Carroll's grand scheme, most everything else that's happened has not been a part of Carroll's advancement so much as it's been the FBI eating itself.

If the main villain claims that everything in the storyworld is orchestrated, how are we not invited to follow the throughlines of those plans? How can you have a scheme and pray the audience doesn't try to figure it out? How do you establish a world of consequences and near-reality, only for everything that happens in it to occur according to dumb luck and happenstance? It's troublesome and violates our contract as audience members to suspend our disbelief.

I'm always open-minded and willing to learn and I'm not saying this show isn't always without a ray of promise. But we're seven episodes in and it's hard to keep having the promise float further and further down a tunnel of poor chemistry, deus ex machina, and a shaky premise. If there's a turn ahead where the intrigue really begins, I'm ready for it.


NOTES

– Joey maintains his title as the smartest person on the show. "Tell me what's really going on." And the look on his face when Carroll bent down next to him just screamed, "Get. Me. Out of. Here." I can't wait for him to crack this case for Hardy while the FBI continues to pick its nose.

– When Louise walked by that security guard and sliced open his belly without so much as a stutterstep, that was so smooth, wasn't it? Must have cost a fortune to find that adamantium razor blade tipped with diamonds and lasers. How did she no-look-sneak past his jacket and cut through his shirt and deep enough into his skin that he would bleed out in seconds? Han Solo had more trouble cutting into a tauntaun with a lightsaber.

– This show turns me into that annoying person who accuses everyone of being a killer. I was 65 percent sure that Dana was a prisoner because she was getting out of hand with her murdering.

– At the very least, now The Following will live forever on in the next installment of someone's montage of times that people in movies and television ask ask to enhance that.

– With all the wan songs of grumbling and distortion, it was only a matter of time before If I Had a Heart" by Fever Ray turned up on the soundtrack.

– Performance of the episode: Deidre rolling her eyes when Weston offered the obvious cell-phone tracking tip. Thanks, buddy, but we've all watched Law and Order, too.


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  • kennygioia Mar 25, 2013

    Am I the only one who noticed that Carrol escaped from jail just to kill the nurse girl, then surrendered just to plan this whole escape again? Why not just not surrender at all? He really planned for 9 years to escape twice? And the two gay guys at the nurse's house. Didn't they know that Carroll was going to escape? Why not take the nurse away BEFORE the FBI arrive? I can go on. Watching for the comedy at this point.

  • nigelregan75 Mar 14, 2013

    When they said 'we were traking the Helicopter on radar but we lost it' I totally lost it. I mean come on it's either on the radar or not depending on how far it sweeps. Also the amount of Followers Carrol has, yes he had access to a computer we had that explained but it's more like he put an ad on Craigslist 'Hi I'm a mad serial killer, do you like Edgar Allen Poe? Are you either totally stupid or have a unique set of skills like prison breaking or weapons etc and/or are totally disposable? Well have i got the job for you'. When he pulled up to that house and there was what 50-60 people there. they obviously had short email chats before they signed on. I'd actually like to see the math on that. Right i'm off home to watch episode 8 and yell at my laptop. Damn, such a shame because I do lover me some Bacon.....

  • eh1109 Mar 13, 2013

    Well said. This show is such garbage, it even offends a 10 year old's intelligence. Those who can ignore the absurdity in this show are the ones responsible for the popularization of crap on TV.

  • PutU2REM Mar 08, 2013

    I stopped watching this show after the pilot because I couldn't get over the fact that everything that was about to happen was eminently avoidable if someone, ANYONE, would just have the common decency to put a bullet or two in Carroll's brain-pan.

    I mean, the dude started a killer cult from his prison cell. All putting him in another cell is going to do is force him to redecorate. (Hmmm ... this is starting to sound familiar ... "American Me" anyone?)

  • brucerudolph9 Mar 08, 2013

    Read all the comments about this last episode and was surprised that no-one mentioned the most obvious FBI blunder of all (perhaps second most after yelling FBI in the mall). As if Hardy wouldn't have insisted on having a gps ankle bracelet put on Carroll for the transfer.

    While Carroll still would have had to get if off at least he would have taken a personal cost in doing so (his foot).

  • tnetennba Mar 10, 2013

    I don't think that's the most obvious blunder. I'm not sure it's even a blunder. He doesn't have to cut off his foot. The only reason to do that is to ensure that the people monitoring the bracelet won't notice that anything is wrong. If you are OK with an alarm going off, then you can just cut the bracelet.

  • NicoleDeLaitt Mar 08, 2013

    I agree so wholeheartedly with your review.. I dont understand why it's gotten such an audience while Deception might not be renewed! (A much better show...) For instance i made some comment on a Utube clip about how predictable The Following was.. Basically the bad guys win all the time here. And somebody wrote back about how brilliantly unpredictable that was and how I was an idiot. Um.. Not really so unpredictable- Not if it's all that happens... Just because the cult ppl win (almost by default, it feels!) does not make the thing suspenseful or clever or surprising in any way. I really liked your point here: "The overall issue is that anything that has to be prefaced with "accept it for what it is" means that it's not doing its job at establishing what it is. Poor execution.." when people snap and say "dont watch it if you dont like it" it's really obnoxious. I can't watch things I don't wholeheartedly approve of to see what bad execution is like, or whatever reason I choose? I shouldn't read a book I think is bad writing to compare it to good writing? Anyway, thanks for the review.

  • NasiaVoulieri Mar 08, 2013

    And I'm saying it again... When I first heard about Kevin Bacon, serial killer and Edgar Allan Poe... This was definitely NOT what I expected. I keep watching but I've got the same thing where I just cannot see a show taking itself seriously with such a script! When you put the aforementioned actor and points of the show you expect it to be AT LEAST half as good as... let's say Homeland and, especially due to my favourite Poe, you need it to be more film noir, strong and smart plot etc etc... It just doesn't deliver. Whichever way you look at it. I *will* continue watching in the hope of it becoming better but I won't hold my breath...

  • tnetennba Mar 10, 2013

    It's not going to get better. Just abandon all hope, and then decide if you want to abandon the show or enjoy it as a comedy.

  • NasiaVoulieri Mar 10, 2013

    Abandon all hope, ye who enter here. :-p

  • Denius1704 Mar 08, 2013

    I should stop reading your reviews. On one side you are a very talented writer, but on the other side you take the whole "critic" part of criticizing way too seriously. How about trying to be unbiased once in a while, because from what i am seeing you have a certain "taste" and if it is not satisfied then the bashing begins. Unfortunately when that happens, the review stops being a review and is just... whining.

    The thing is that the series is not half bad with the only negative part being that the bad guys seem to "win" constantly and that might backfire since people are not used to that type of narrative, but i am hoping that by the end of season 1 the good guys will have a win or two under their belt as well.

  • shelleylaine Mar 07, 2013

    Are we watching the same show? Yes, there have been oversights (e.g., not keeping tabs on the lawyer), but do you really expect the FBI to keep tabs on every single person connected to Carroll and make every single split-second decision correctly? They're not omniscient or omnipotent. On a Criminal Minds DVD, they did a special with the actual BAU, and one of the guys they interviewed said he "wished" they had the resources Criminal Minds made it look like they had. The more they showed of the actual BAU, the more I found myself hoping they're never tasked with finding me alive, because they seemed woefully understaffed and underfunded. If anything, The Following seems like a more realistic portrayal of them. After all, the real BAU famously got the profile for the BTK killer wrong. I for one am glad they haven't given into unrealistic cop drama tropes like getting only one phone call, the bad guy confessing immediately when he's caught, no one invoking their right to an attorney, dropping little puns when they find a body, etc. Feel free to criticize the BAU team on the show as being incompetent, because their record's shaky in real life, but as for me, I'll continue to praise The Following for trying a lot of things I haven't seen on network television before and leaving out the crap that's getting old. I also love how some commenters are acting like one comments section on one article on one website is indicative of how the world at large feels. The show's averaging 10-15 million viewers a week and got picked up for a second season before the first was halfway over (freakishly rare for Fox)...clearly something's working.

  • juliewdavey Mar 07, 2013

    The most "boneheaded" move this week was shouting "FBI" when they spotted Carroll and his man in the lobby of the whatever it was. STUPID!!!!!!

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