The Following "The Fall" Review: Chances Are, You're Also a Cult Member

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The Following S01E06: "The Fall"

Remember when we all talked about deus ex machina? I'm pretty sure this is what Horace was talking about.

In any other procedural where the police aren't mindless sacks meant to be stabbed and shot, a surrounded house, by every conceivable agency, is a prelude to a shoot-out. Did you hear the list of forces descending on the property? I'm pretty sure Ryan was just making up acronyms after a while. They had the perimeter sealed, they'd identified the access points, (which, I assume, were also the exits), and even had an airship there or on the way (unless that shot of the helicopter was simply artistic). And yet.

This was something we always knew the show was capable of, the hopeless situation that gets flipped because no one was keeping track of Carroll's visitors and internet time and he racked up many dozens of followers. They could show up at any time with any set of skills because, as Parker was quick to point out with a line that seemed to have more tags on it than Lord of the Rings had endings, belonging is a "primal need," so literally everyone you can think of might be in on the plan.

So we're clear, we're not talking about Officer Marsden, who we all basically knew from the first time she batted her doe eyes at Weston that she was in with Carroll. I'm a little surprised that she wasn't more involved with thwarting the police's plan to storm the farmhouse. She was generally a bystander until they found Emma. Then she found her switch. In fact, what information we might take from the entire altercation between Marsden, Emma, and Weston is that she shot him not in the face or the leg or the arm, but square in the bullet proof vest. To be sure, a Carroll minion shooting Westen does not absolve him from being Ryan's "follower."

That Charlie introduced the term "follower" to specifically mean someone who keeps tabs on an important party to the overall "scheme" is an interesting turn. It at least demonstrates that there's some sort of organization to this madness, that it's not just a bunch of deranged kids marching into the world with kitchen knives and a brief overview of Poe. From what we've seen of Jordy, the threesome, and Hank the Cleaner who pretty much failed his first job, the infrastructure for masking all the calls and emails seemed a little out of reach. But learning that maybe not every one of the hundreds under Carroll's employ behaves like a murderous outcast from the Creek with absolutely no power within the superstructure might be the most promising thing about The Following to date.

Although let's face it, Charlie isn't exactly a genius either. I understand the temptation to make a "follower" fall in love with his target (so many terrifying movies are about just that thing), but... I kind of wish Charlie hadn't. A fond affection, sure. A bond that remains secret even to Carroll? Yeah. But the horror-movie-esque crescendo soundtrack to when Charlie stabbed Claire with a kiss was just goofy. I hadn't thought about Disturbing Behavior in a long time, but the "impure thoughts" schtick coupled with the flagellation by head trauma just reminded me of when one of the brainwashed kids in the movie bashed her head into a mirror, chanting "Bad. Wrong." It's theoretically disturbing but, in practice, pretty silly.

Maybe part of the reason I feel that way is that I have zero empathy for Claire. It's troubling, since the show has worked really hard to make the audience feel something for her. This is a woman who suffered a husband who turned out to be a serial killer and tried to kill her, a woman left behind by Hardy so he could continue his quest toward noble martyrdom, a woman who had her son kidnapped by the thousands-strong cult that worships that same murderous husband, and she's still so very stupid. And so very dull. And not at all as intoxicating as Carroll. Yet the show is basically begging us to believe. Claire is kind of like Jennifer Aniston in that way. The media and the industry for decades have been trying to tell me she's either the worst or the best when, in all reality, she's really just fine, and the constant demand that I fall one way or the other makes me reject her entirely.

Anyway, the "followers" and Roderick—a deity-like fixer who's named after a character with only the faintest grip on reality and who's basically handicapped by his own neuroses (?)—offered a sliver of hope that the shitshow that's been The Following's first six episodes might just be the first dirty layer of an onion. But, at the same time, I can't escape that feeling of deus ex machina, where several tactical divisions were thwarted by a few men who, to the best of our knowledge, escaped unscathed. Did Carroll also turn some Navy SEALs?

This is the trouble I'm having with the series. At once I can see where this is headed, where, yes, we've been witness to a mess but it was supposed to be that way. We were bearing witness to pawns, the simpleton drones who were the catalyst for the drama but certainly not in charge of anything. Howver, the show hasn't provided me with enough evidence that I can trust it to not constantly bring up any of Carroll's millions of cult members to thwart Ryan's "gotchas." It's one thing to maintain a universe of suspicion by feeding paranoia. It's another to present a hopeless situation and undermine it with some unreasonable, made-up bull crap.



NOTES


– One thing I really do like about The Following is that Ryan isn't trigger-shy. He will shoot some folks for looking at all suspicious. What he doesn't seem to be great at is stabbing people. Three times to the gut and Paul still makes it through the night? How to shiv a dude must not have been part of FBI training.

– I really don't like that my spellcheck knows that I got "Aniston" wrong the first time.

– Lesson of the night: Kids, always be suspicious of milk. Get your calcium from leafy greens, instead! Spinach and kale = less opportunity to be roofied.

– I really hope Meghan comes back to help out in some way. Otherwise, that whole storyline was kind of silly and a bit anticlimactic. Although I did appreciate Ryan's advice to "keep running." Like you should've done the first time.

– Did anyone care more about Parker after her flashback? I was trying to think of a show that used flashback as much as The Following does but maybe more effectively. The only example that comes to mind is Lost, where half an episode would be dedicated to getting to know the backstory of one character. But on Lost, because the stories of the past and present tied in so well together, the flashbacks felt less herky-jerky (a technical term) and more integrated. One story enlightened the other. The flashbacks on The Following tend to be single-minded, in purely giving exposition that's loosely tied into the show. Basically, I'm saying that The Following is a fighting chicken away from becoming Family Guy. And that maybe we should be getting backstory that's more compelling than a case-of-the-week on SVU.

– Seriously, how can these agents/police constantly let people get away? Charlie and Claire were in the basement of somewhere and they were just like, "Whoops. They got away." THEY CAN ONLY GO UP.

– I shudder to think of what Charlie has in his "personal stash" of Claire materials.

– If I ever need a pacemaker, I hope I get the kind Ryan has. I don't think my actual heart could take the punishment his has received. I mean, electro-shock, magnets, the pressure of constantly being a weak allusion to "The Tell-Tale Heart." It's a lot to bear.


What'd you think of "The Fall"?