Joe Carroll's (James Purefoy) murderous web continues to reveal itself in the second episode of The Following, "Chapter Two", where the origins of Carroll's most important followers are revealed, and Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) uses deadly force to protect the next intended target from being killed.
After Carroll had his son Joey (Kyle Catlett) kidnapped from his mother, the FBI brings on new agent Debra Paker, an expert on alternative religions. But when Carroll's prison guard Jordy, now one of his followers, begins killing people, Hardy takes it upon himself to investigate the case, which leads to him being attacked by a mysterious masked man. Meanwhile, the followers who took Joey must deal with love and jealously, and Carroll attempts to put an end to his material "problem."
If The Following series premiere showed viewers just how far Fox is willing to go to bring a bit of cable television to the network, "Chapter Two" is continued proof that Kevin Williamson's new series is much more than just an intriguing plot with a notable star. With twists and turns planned throughout, as well as a single underlying narrative directly connecting the two episodes, The Following manages to use miniseries logic of a truly continuing story to build a single narrative strong enough to best many of its competitors, both on network and cable.
As Hardy continues to delve further in to the bloody plan that Carroll has created, tales of the serial killer's past are seamlessly woven into the present story, helping audiences understand more about the game of cat and mouse the two are playing. For a new television series driven by an over-arching mysterious end game, this can be dangerous. Fortunately, The Following came prepared.
Although television mysteries and thrillers have taken quite a hit following Lost, choosing to use the unknown to fuel audiences need to watch, The Following refreshingly replaces the familiar lack of story with an abundance of it. Instead of audiences having to accept "not knowing" as the actual theme of the series, stories from the past and present - as well as foreshadowing of future events - serve as a proverbial warning for audiences to not look away. This series, unlike many, is one you must pay attention to.
The Following, as a series, should be applauded for bringing its new take on a familiar genre to television. Even so, such a strong story presence so early on can be dangerous. In this episode, for example, the abundance of storytelling does contain a few weak elements which, up until now, had yet to reveal themselves. The cold, brutal backstory to Emma Hill (Valorie Curry) - one of Carroll's early followers - was more than anyone could have expected from such a seemingly innocent(ish) character; however, the jealous love story foreshadowing that followed served to slightly undermine what the series had painstakingly created.
For all intents and purposes, Joe Carroll is an extremely intelligent man with an extremely well-laid plan. In the premiere, he bested the hero and killed his prize. Without warning, a follower of his flock apologetically shot themselves just because Carroll instructed them to. A day later, where "Chapter Two" picks up, Carroll's well-laid plain is already beginning to fall apart at the hands of those he "trusts" most? This early on?
In its defense, The Following has had Carroll besting Hardy time after time in its short time on the air. So it's understandable, on some level, to create a weak point for audiences to focus on for hope, and for Hardy to hopefully use to his advantage. But with Carroll continuously finding ways to place his followers in Hardy's path, it still would have been more rewarding to see a nail-biting, earnest battle between the two unfold, rather than allowing audiences to see unnecessary weakness in what's been a perfect plan so far.
At this point, The Following is essentially a miniseries - one that requires no qualifications from its viewers to watch, unlike some fan-favorite series. Each chapter (read: episode) of this story is a standalone thrill-ride in its own right, with a terrifying tale of obsession gone awry lingering over it all. Let's just hope they'll be able to maintain such admirable storytelling in to season 2, which it will almost certainly receive.
The Following returns next Monday with "The Poet's Fire" @9pm on Fox. You can check out a preview of the episode below: