The Following, Ep. 1.5, “The Siege”: Feelings, nothing more than serial killer feelings

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The Following_Ren

The Following, Season 1, Episode 5: “The Siege”
Written by Rebecca Dameron
Directed by Phil Abraham
Airs Mondays at 9pm (ET) on FOX

Dammit, dammit, dammit for speaking too soon. Last week’s episode of The Following impressed by transforming its serial killers with mopey Dawson-faces into libidinous psychos worth fearing—but here the experiment ingloriously fades, like so many others in the light of day. After waking up, looking coldly in the mirror, and pausing for a moment of bleary introspection, The Following faces the truth that it is still pitifully itself.

But did it have to be that way? Paul and Emma banging Jacob into being a better killer finally gave our cultists some bite and they could have woken up fresh characters. Like the kind who would  have fake marriages for years to pull off abductions in the name of Edgar Allan Poe. It would have also collided tensely with the plot of Hardy storming their hideaway, the three a finally more unified front, and a real threat for our hero. When the show instead takes the route of Jacob waking up oh-so-empty-and-confused-inside, it makes the statement that it can’t let go of any drop of drama, no matter how inappropriate (the horny female cop eyeing Mike in Dutchess County being another fine example).

Also, Jacob’s straight-boy-angst puts Paul right back to looking like a doofus. They try to evolve him, as Emma and he revel in their new-found passion, but in the end he still does “touchy-feely” with a man who doesn’t want it, and reacts too emotionally. When Joey tells his mom he’s scared of Paul it has no resonance, and when later Paul tells Emma the kid “needs a smackin’”, it has no dignity. We just have to face the reality that the killers on this show talk like Jackie Gleason, use magnets as weapons, and wear stupid masks while singing “I Don’t Wanna Wait”.

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Giving up on the characters, “The Siege” does put the show forward in the action department, however superficially. Instead of running around houses in Virginia, the show releases Kevin Bacon into the forest and you can tell it makes him feel like a regular Ren McCormack. The energy is up and the stakes are high for everyone, actually, as even the usually inactive Joey and Claire get some in some light tradecraft. The episode knows it is on a roll though, since there are two separate times in the episode someone says to someone else that if they split up, they’ll “cover more ground”, just like in real action shows! Don’t get too cocky, computer who writes The Following.

Though, speaking of this week’s glitches, did anyone else get a Breaking Bad vibe from the three new characters? Joe’s new lawyer, Olivia, really recalls Lydia with her combination of ambition and shallow breathing and the new “triggered” killer team are reminiscent of The Cousins, both in mystery and story function. Maybe it’s because an interview with Bacon just came out that hilariously invoked the two show’s names in the same breath, but it is pretty obvious, and disappointing to see. As poor as The Following is, it should not need to resort to cribbing this way. If you must, show, just go all-in with your emo serial killers, and you will find your bliss. Maybe a romantic quadrangle instead of a triangle? Hmm, horny cop’s shifty eyes could mean something else, after all…

Michael Narkunski

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