The Following 2.02 Review: “For Joe”

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“For Joe,” as its name suggests, spends a lot of its time building around The Following‘s villain. Despite whatever minimally interesting things are going on with his followers, though, Joe remains geographically isolated and intellectually vapid. It’s a strange, almost comical way to end the piece-moving episode – to have Joe kill the reverend who has unintentionally identified him and to have Joe cradle his “niece” as she fearfully realizes her mother is coming back as the series title card pops onto the screen. It might be the maniacal laughter and gurgling that emanates from Joe’s bearded mouth or the over-the-top nature of the whole act, but the killing of the reverend is probably the least useful scene in terms of information that it gives us, making it a really ineffective way to end “For Joe,” which is an episode mostly about the people connected to Joe.

Emma is, of course, the most important of Joe’s allies if only because we spent the first season getting to know her. She, apparently, has had no contact from Joe whatsoever, which we learn when she manages to get a hold of Carlos. The Joe-Emma relationship from the first season was so peripheral that it’s pretty much impossible to feel any kind of empathy towards Emma, who is, after all, still a murderer. Maybe the team thinks we’re forgetting some of the horrible things these people have done based on how Emma is portrayed with a sympathetic eye from the camera, but even if that awareness is there, it doesn’t feel like anything is being done to make the antagonists any more compelling, Emma included.

The Evil Twins are especially guilty of being way too cartoonish for a series that takes itself this seriously. The dinner scene they have with their two victims isn’t shocking so much as it is superfluous. It seems like maybe, at one point, Evil Twin A looks meaningfully at Evil Twin B in a way that suggests that Evil Twin B is into this whole thing a little bit more than Evil Twin A, but the two fall into the same patterns of last year’s villains and can only get a rise out of viewers when they’re being sadistic in a manipulative way. There’s more needlessly violent stabbings and other assaults executed on the Twins’ part, which more or less suggests that The Following didn’t learn from any of the mistakes it made last year with its portrayal of violence as sensationalism.

Ryan continues to butt heads with the feds, not wanting to let them in on his personal investigating and not taking responsibility for the dangerous situations he puts other people in by being so easily-maneuvered because of his history with Joe’s cult. Again, he spends too much of his time trying to make up to the metro victim for something that wasn’t directly his fault, and that leads to events that could be considered directly his fault. Ryan was an incompetent FBI agent most of the time, and his incompetence is the same now, more or less, making it not as worthy of condemnation. Yet if we’re going to be following Ryan around all the time, he needs to prove that he has stuff to give that’s worth the attention that he gets. It just seems like Joe could have had Ryan killed ages ago, but somehow – against all normal odds – he’s still doing his own thing, trying to locate and bring down the guy who was responsible for the death of his lover.

As talented as Bacon is, Ryan is still a poor lead character incapable of being elevated by any actor. The interesting parts about his past largely get ignored. His hyper-sympathy doesn’t communicate anything about his ability to solve crimes (shouldn’t, like Will Graham in Hannibal, he be able to use that connectedness to better understand and anticipate the people he is chasing rather than just waiting around for them to call?). His emotions get the better of his detective skills. That is probably the most unforgivable aspect of his character – that he can’t be trusted to get things done unless he has no personal stakes in the matter. And considering how often he manages to create personal stakes, the outlook is not good.

[Photo via Giovanni Rufino/FOX]

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