For a show like The Following, where a streamlined story replaces television’s all-too-familiar episodic narrative, it’s all about the journey and the end result. No matter how thrilling the ride or how high the body count, the success of the series rests on creator Kevin Williamson (Scream, The Vampire Diaries) providing a satisfying conclusion to this chapter of Carroll’s twisted tale. Thankfully, Williamson does just that, and then some.
Much like the series premiere, The Following season 1 finale thrusts audiences into a non-stop, action-packed, suspenseful thrill-ride where Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon), through his unwavering determination, leads viewers into the heart of darkness - only now it’s to provided answers, or in this case, a potential conclusion. And though it is often the promise of impending answers which fuels excitement for any type of finale, The Following is merely turning another page to the last chapter, as was the plan from the start.
The Following has, through its impeccably planned series progression, helped fuel and rejuvenate the much-ignored idea of an enclosed tale on broadcast television. Still, what makes this series work better than others is its perceptible intent at actually telling a story with purpose, not simply because having a TV show sounds fun.
Carroll, now injured from Claire’s attack, is forced to play out his final act as physically exhausted as Hardy is through his selfless dedication; both out for vengeance, yet up against an opponent more powerful than either initially planned. But The Following has always been about carefully planned attacks on the psyche more so than brute force – so even when Carroll and Hardy come face-to-face, the suspense not only remains, it builds exponentially, as this is where the series shines.
The Following thrives on moments where dialogue and intent are used to progress the core plot, and James Purefoy and Kevin Bacon, whether together or separate, are masters at it. Whatever happens onscreen, The Following is a show where its most poignant moments can be enjoyed simply by listening to the dialogue – well, most of it. Even after a rewarding and thoroughly surprisingly conclusion to this chapter of the story, the FBI aspect of the series still fails to come close to the powerful prose that its two leads receive - with the exception of Annie Parisse and her amazingly impactful final scenes as Special Agent Debra Parker, of course. Though this element of (sometimes) weak dialogue doesn't stand out in the finale as much as it has in earlier episodes, it does raise some questions about the show’s potential, next season.
In many ways, no one could have expected to witness the death of the show’s villain, Carroll, or the surprise stabbing of Hardy and his love, Claire, in the show's final moments. The Following has always presented itself as a streamlined story with a purpose - but now, without Purefoy, the show must evolve in season 2.
The ending of The Following season 1 finale feels like a mixture of "Plan A" and "Plan B," depending on whether or not it was renewed for next season. And, for all intents and purposes, it delivered an exciting conclusion to what could have been seen as a successful mini-series. But now, with cliffhangers and a dead nemesis, the show’s producers, as well as its audience, are venturing into unknown territory about what The Following can be in season 2, versus what it was in season 1.
While it’s true that Carroll can (and probably will) “live on” through his followers, Williamson and his team have more than enough time to craft another complete tale for viewers to enjoy. And if the quality of season 2 is anything like it was in season 1, you won’t have to think twice about whether or not you’ll be tuning in.
The Following season 2 premieres in 2014 on Fox.