The Following Season 2 Premiere Review: Bring It In for a Huggy Hug
It's a rare condition, in this day and age, to read any good news on the newspaper page. But for Ryan Hardy, it's been a solid year. Sure, Season 1 didn't end all that smashingly for him, unless you count that nurse's head he smashed into the ground before twisting her neck and finishing off a spectacular run of self-defense murder to conclude the Joe Carroll days. But since then, things have gone famously.
Hardy's sober now. The scar that previously marked his Achilles heel, his soft and fragile heart, so tortured last year by all manner of emotional, physical, and electromagnetic devices, now looks like a chocolate smear on his torso. He's running. He got a fancy alarm system. And he's teaching our country's brightest youth how to recognize left-handed masturbators who brutally slay the women who unfortunately step into their paths.
But the best part, for Hardy at least, is that he's been able to distance himself from the Carroll cult that's been laying low since Carroll was confirmed dead in the boathouse explosion at Havenport. Even then we kind of knew that Carroll probably wasn't dead since we didn't see a body, and if there's any show on TV that follows soap-opera rules, it's The Following—but none of that was important as the first year passed. The night that Molly the Nurse attacked Hardy and Claire in his apartment, he also got to shed that miserable harpy from his life, and that kind of seems like a positive.
Ryan was crushed after realizing that Claire was put asunder, and my immediate thought was that Season 2 would allow for a new uptake of angst as Hardy deals with a laughable number of demons. But the first few minutes of "Resurrection" showed that shaking her might've been the best thing he could've done. He didn't have to raise Joey, the seed of his enemy. He looked like he was partying with some serial-murder-consultant groupies when he fell off the wagon. But then he got sober, and at the outset of the episode, he looked pretty put together. Or so it seemed.
With a resurgence of the Carroll cult by a bunch of followers wearing Joe Carroll masks (which are better than the nebbish Edgar Allen Poe masks, but so large that they make the followers look big-head NBA Jam characters), Hardy got his opportunity to truly reveal the lie he's been living. As you looked around his clean apartment and stable life, perhaps you were cynical that he'd been able to pull himself together and honestly leave Carroll behind. There must be some magic clue inside those tearful walls. But what could it be?
Despite pleas by Weston (welcome back, Shawn Ashmore!) to contribute to the case—and then more pleas from Hardy's niece Max (Jessica Stroup), who's now a detective with more access to NYPD intel than Hardy deserves, to go to the FBI with anything he might know regarding the five murders on a train car and a Gwendolyn copycat murder (we'll get to that ridiculousness in a bit)—Hardy refuses to play ball. Instead, locked in a room of that sterile apartment is his tower of dreams, his Homeland-style shrine to the aftermath of the Carroll cult bursting at every seam.
That new infusion of angst really stuck. But instead of going to the FBI—which essentially gave him a license to kill, break-and-enter, and sabotage every procedure that organized law enforcement has in place so as to not have its cases thrown out in court—Hardy has internalized the whole thing and deputized his niece to help him track down the remaining cult members. I mean, he's not so good that he's able to actually stop anything from happening, but he's good enough that he can determine the whereabouts of certain followers whose trails the FBI somehow haven't bumbled onto. I would understand if the reason for this was that Hardy has a complete lack of faith in federal agency that surrounded a house with heavy artillery and still let everyone escape last season, but I have a feeling he's holding information for the stroke-worthy reason that he feels this is something he has to do by himself in order to avenge all the people he's ever loved, and to protect the people he currently cares about.
And that's where things get goofy. Hardy was able to track down Carlos but he didn't have anything on the French woman facilitating this "resurrection" (I didn't catch her name, so I'm calling her Rousseau), nor did he seem to have any knowledge of Luke and Mark, the creepy twins (both played by a single actor, the serial-killer-typecast Sam Underwood) who seem to have that "personal" part of the murders down pat.
The Dead Ringers killed a golden-haired theatre actress and what ensued was an absurd blend of American Psycho (they sang along to a number of '70s music tracks) and the video for "Mary Jane's Last Dance" by Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers (they slow-danced with her, put makeup on her, etc.). After it was all over, what I got from their unaffected state was that they're capable of anything—but I'm not sure if the events in Heather Clarke's apartment were meant to be macabrely funny, or representative of a brand of humor to which they're unaware. I assume it's the former, since later on, one of them also karate-chopped Carlos in the neck before putting him in the corner for possibly drawing Hardy's attention. But I also can't discount the latter, because The Following.
As the days go by, I can only assume this season will find a way to shed any sense of credibility from this opening episode (which it owned for about ten minutes) to plumb some ridiculous depths. Between this sleeper cell of Carrollism in New York to Emma's ridiculous hide-in-plain-sight look to however the show and the cult members are planning to reveal the grand design, it seems like we're primed for a level of ridiculousness that Season 1 only hinted at.
But something to look at for the season is how the show establishes clans and togetherness, particularly with the country-wide diaspora of the Carroll cult and Ryan's own new-found interest in creating a support system between the people at his meetings and his niece finding a larger role in the show. This first episode seems dedicated to identifying the Carroll cells as tribes of a nation who may not have a whole lot of communication between them with their separation but they still exist and may come together, just as Hardy may stitch together something of his own. I mean, who is Carroll eventually going to threaten of Hardy if he doesn't have some family matters?
– Molly the Nurse was the last person Hardy killed. Do we have an accurate body count now, before we really get into the new season and he starts letting the bodies hit the floor?
– There seem to be a lot of characters roaming around: Between the new Parker (no-nonsense Gina Mendez, played by Valerie Cruz), Phillips, Max, the Dead Ringers, Rousseau, Barry the Sponsor, Melissa the "Distraction," and Lily Gray (the one who lived to tell the tale, played by Connie Nielsen), you have to wonder who's going to be killed off by season's end, and who's going to just dissolve out of sheer necessity.
– "I wish he was hairier." I like Max. She seems to have potential for humor in a universe where everyone takes themselves way, way too seriously. Maybe she can be the Munch of the group.
– Lily Gray survived, and Connie Nielsen is too striking of an actress for a bit part, so Hardy got to have his little apology scene. What're the odds that she's another member of this sleeper cell? Or is she the woman Hardy will eventually shack up with so that Carroll can kidnap her?
– My favorite part of Weston's new role as consultant on this case is that he's doing his best Hardy impression now that he's not officially FBI. Watch him skulk around the crime scenes. It's uncanny.
– During that scene where the FBI was combining evidence in what seemed like a darkened NASA command center, it seemed very obvious they were trying to convince the viewers they were following procedure for everything. "We are not inept this year!" they cried. And then there was that computer program that was able to identify 3-D body types from 2-D mugshots and 2-D camera footage. I mean, it was only 75 percent accurate, so it was only 75 perent ridiculous.
– "I considered running." He should've ran. He should've ran so far away. Try to get away.
– Emma's new look is ridiculous. The pink hair and piercings are like punk rock designed by someone who looks to Gwen Stefani for punk rock. Although I'm glad the show kept the Matted Hair of Sadness from last season. That Emma is completely confused about what's going on with the cult makes me pretty happy, though. She mad. Oh, she real mad.
– Hardy did have a few zingers. After knocking Carlos out (I was just about sure he was dead and that the Season 2 body count was starting early), he said, "I barely touched you." I feel like that was just for us.
– Hey, remember that time Hardy got hit by a cab and just walked it off? Guess that heart's doing just fine.
– Something I never understood about killers: If they're stalking their prey out of a newspaper or a playbill or something, why circle it? If you know who you're going after, what's the point of circling it in red pen? It seems obvious.
–The Dead Ringers asked Carlos for a "huggy hug" to settle their differences. Okay, Luke and Mark have to be tongue-in-cheek.
– Carroll actually IS alive. He didn't climb out of the rubble of the boathouse like the Shredder, but he did find a hatch in the floor so he could dive into the water. He does have a full beard now and seems to be shacking up with a prostitute (Carrie Preston) while going by the name of Darryl. I wonder how much Bordeaux he's getting in that trailer.
What'd you think of the Season 2 premiere? What do you think (or hope) is in store for the season?
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