[This is a review of The Following season 2, episode 2. There will be SPOILERS.]
When one story ends, another begins, and The Following season 2 sets off by starting anew, in New York City, with a group of followers attempting to resurrect Carroll's name. However, there’s still much from the past that needs to be revealed, and therein lies the first obstacle Kevin Williamson’s new chapter has to overcome.
In the premiere episode, written by creator Kevin Williamson, a group of masked Carroll followers massacre an entire train of people on the anniversary of Joe’s (James Purefoy) death, reigniting the investigation of the mysterious cult, which pulls the resilient Mike Weston (Shawn Ashmore) and relapsed Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) back into the chaotic case they thought was over. Elsewhere, Emma (Valorie Curry) is surprised by the cult’s resurgence, while a lumberjack-looking stranger hints at Joe’s return.
There was a time when Mike Weston was simply an ancillary character; great episodes like “Welcome Home,” which found him being tortured by Carroll’s former right-hand man, quickly made him a fan-favorite. Ashmoore deservedly earned the bump in focus that his character received, but this episode proved the producer’s decision correct, as he served as the driving force for much of this episode and is currently what will keep fans tuning in.
Hardy was there, present and enjoying all his various vices, which helps build intrigue for the inevitable battle between Hardy and Carroll everyone knows will, at some point, occur. But his actual use in this episode is purely vanity and is what makes this episode feel more like a well-made prequel that’s standing in place of the actual premiere, which, as it turns out (or now feels), is next week, in episode 2.
The audience, along with Carroll’s followers, are ready for round 2, yet we’re still waiting for Hardy to get his shoes on. Though the flashbacks do give us perspective of what occurred in the time that has passed, we’re now in a position where we need him to take us through his past journey, which is now only slowed down by continued self-indulgence. Even so, Bacon never wavers as the extreme Hardy – there’s just no reason to care yet.
The intense brutality is back and perhaps elevated even more with the new recruits, and the story does, indeed, thrive because of it. Williamson is no stranger to writing intense tales filled with blood and violence, and allowing him to stay where he’s comfortable benefits the series overall; however, there are more than a few times where the trappings of The Following fall away and Scream 2 (or 3 and 4) takes over, completely removing you from the focus of the intended scene.
What lies ahead in The Following season 2 appears interesting – especially with Emma unaware of activities – so it still feels worth investing the time required for the story to get on its feet. Keith Carradine (Dexter) also helps. After a few episodes, however, a sense of the overall story will more or less be revealed, and then it will be up to expectations and hinted promises to help make up for whatever you feel is lacking elsewhere. It’s still too early to tell.
The Following returns next Monday with "For Joe" @9pm on Fox.