The Following, Season 1, Episode 15: “The Final Chapter”
Written by Kevin Williamson
Directed by Marcos Siega
Aired Mondays at 9pm (ET) on FOX
As just an episode, “The Final Chapter” of The Following is a slight step up from the past many (inevitably, since everything set up in the pilot has been saved for this entry); but, even if it’s a passable ending for some kind of story, somewhere, it is absolutely horrendous as a finale. For every moment that we’ve been waiting for—a scene between the three major characters for once, some guilt out of Claire, etc.—there is an opposite moment of confusion and frustration considering what we’ve been fed thus far. The characters speak about things they should have talked about in “Chapter Two,” but didn’t because they were too busy following Joe, who was such a genius and always one step ahead. Now, it’s magically the opposite. After ten minutes of repeating last week’s information (The Following’s real forte besides flesh wounds), Claire decides to go in on Joe, calling him and his plans predictable—a refrain that is heard throughout the episode and is as infuriating as Poe’s beating, tell-tale heart.
Of course Joe is predictable! Most people are savvy enough about stories at this point that they don’t have to wait for Ryan to say “They wanted us to find this!” or “He planned the whole thing!” every time Joe wants us to find something, or plans the whole thing. This is really not news. Still, Joe is smarter than the characters, who have been constantly surprised the whole season, and it’s not fair for the writers to suddenly turn the tables on Joe and have him be so weak in order to have a convenient ending. That’s what’s predictable here and nothing less.
If the story of the first season of The Following was to be about an ego-maniacal writer that an FBI agent has to outwit, there should have been a thread all season about how he was going to do this. Instead, to keep the body count absurdly high, Ryan has fumbled all season. Even in this very episode, with the death of Debra Parker, he comes off as an amateur. Suddenly, though, when it comes to him and Claire’s lives, he succeeds. Not because of some character growth, but just due to some more cocksure posturing, and some errant bullets that randomly create the obligatory climactic explosion.
It’s really as simple as not having fifteen episodes of story chalked up to the machinations of someone not good at telling stories. They faked us out with this in the beginning, in the episode where Joe’s critics were being murdered, which ended up not even his doing. At the time, it was painted that he was above such petty revenge, and was actually secure in his novel and his goals, so that we the audience would keep watching to find out what they were. Naturally, that all goes out the window now. And not only do we have to listen to how lame he and Edgar Allan Poe are—which we quite already know, thank you—we apparently also must have an argument in the middle of everything about Ryan, and whether or not his death curse is an interesting hook for audiences.
Nothing in this series is confident. Although it was partially said last week, it bears repeating that the show clearly only exists to be a show, and for you to believe things can still matter, even when they don’t anymore. After hours spent this year on a love triangle with three young serial killers, only Emma is alive and the rest is in the toilet. Sure, maybe “this time it’s personal,” but how soon until that story-line gets as buried as Parker, to make room for the next shock?
In the end, everything this season built up to as far as cults and Joe’s connections and helicopters and ability to break out of death row twice is gone, and it all ends on a woman we’ve only met a few times: Molly. A thousand dollars that she is the sister to the junkie Ryan killed when he was a teenager. In this show, every action has a serial killer reaction, as little sense as it may make. That is Joe’s mantra as well as The Following’s, as far as they have shown. This may work in a slasher flick, where the death of naïve teens provides some sick pleasure, but to apply these same principles Williamson once skewered to a long-form television show, supposedly about intelligent adults and for a mainstream audience, is a gruesome misfire. Just like Ryan with Joe, most of us know what you’re up to, Kevin Williamson. Unlike Ryan, we fortunately won’t have to come back to deal with more. In the words of Poe, who really wasn’t nearly as lousy as you made him seem, In pace requiescat!