Goodbye The Following. After three seasons, the network has done to you what Joe Carroll could never find it in his heart to do to Ryan Hardy: killed you dead.
Sure, it was a plot that was probably only good for one season at best. Sure Season 2 lost that plot with the cult stuff, and both of those seasons had FBI agents acting like the Keystone Cops, always two steps behind the bad guys and girls and run by idiots, but Season 3 kind of improved the quality control of the Feds in their pursuit of Theo the latest psycho threat, even if Ryan started going crazy and morphing into Joe's best friend kind of loony thing. Sure Joe was locked away, execution looming, but James Purefoy was still great value (in fact, rewatch Solomon Kane - disappointing on the first viewing if you've read the books, but not too shabby second time around, although still read the books).
Firstly, Ryan Hardy wasn't one of the Hardy Boys (that was Frank and Joe and they'd never have survived five minutes against any of the psycho followings shown here, no matter how smart and smart ass they were). Ryan was a mess. OK, the heart problem in Season 1 disappears almost completely once the pacemaker gets fixed (even when villains electrocute him or taser him or generally kick the crap out of him). And he's an alcoholic who loses everybody he loves, no wonder he's screwed up. But he still keeps coming through against the odds. You want him to win. He's the good guy. He's Kevin Bacon, for heaven's sake. Even in a phone ad he's great to watch. OK, Hollow Man wasn't that great, but he was great in it. He's Kevin Bacon. Plus, bacon is good. Who doesn't like bacon (apart from vegetarians, vegans, and various religious denominations)? Mmm, bacon.
Then there was the crazy pixie like girl, Emma. The adorable psychopath that had the hots for Joe, but he still wanted his wife and kid back. What were their names again? Then there was the dodgy cult stuff and that rich woman with the twin sons Mark and Luke (good job there weren't two others called Matthew and John - that would have been even weirder). But Mike (he was great, wasn't he?) killed the rich woman and then one of sons got killed - was it Mark or Luke? I think it was Luke. Yes, it was Luke, but he became Mark for while, then kind of switched back. Well, he was crazy. Whatever, they both died eventually. And then there was Max. She was great. She could do everything: computer stuff, shooting stuff, picking the wrong guy stuff, looking foxy stuff. Plus she was Ryan's niece, so there couldn't be any love stuff there, that's the area you reserve for the crazies.
But, the best thing about The Following was that it was so darn brutal. Aside from Hannibal, it was surely the bloodiest show on TV. You'd sit there thinking: "How did they just show that?" That's how bloody it was. And you didn't know who was on your side and who was one of Joe's followers? (Well, at least that was Seasons One and Two, really, a little bit in Season 3, but not much). People getting stabbed, people getting their throats cut, all means of nasty stuff. Oh, and that poor agent that got his bones broken and was folded up to fit inside a small, metal box. That’s what it needed more of: imaginative serial killers murdering in different ways. That’s what Season 4 would have been. Honest! The Following was never scared to kill off the good guys (although Game of Thrones kills off more, but that’s because it has way more characters to kill off). No wonder the conservative critics hated it; and parents of impressionable children; and liberal types; and lots of other people. But, what the heck? It had a following all of its own.
In a world where they cancel Constantine and The Following, but they renew Gotham, you start to wonder if the real following have already taken over the networks. I mean, Firefly got cancelled. So did The Borgias, and Dracula (although Dracula was pretty awful, even if it looked good).
In my mind, there'd be a one off TV special set years from now. Max and Mike are married with kids and have left the FBI. Gwen has raised baby Ryan and he’s going to join the FBI, setting that up for a really cheesy “The Following 2: Son of The Following” in about twenty years time). In a cantina somewhere in Mexico, an old and grizzled Ryan (who’s by now killed off that corporate secret society of psychos he went underground to get and we’d have seen in Season 4 – yeah, thanks Network for spoiling that ever happening) sits drinking all day and playing Russian roulette with his imaginary friend Joe Carroll. In the final scene, Joe has his turn, pulls the trigger and it's an empty chamber click before passing the gun to Ryan (who looks like an emaciated version of Father Christmas, rather like Kevin Bacon just wearing a white beard). As Ryan takes another drink and puts the gun to his head, we move out through the dirty windows of the cantina and into the Mexican desert (they have deserts in Mexico, right? Or is that Nevada? Not to worry, well fix that in post). Then you hear a single gunshot and we cut to black. Seriously, this script just writes itself. The End. That would be a proper finale. A David Lynch directs “The Following” kind of finale. The finale we'll never see.
Goodbye The Following. RIP. For all your flaws, I'll miss you. And I won't be the only one.
David Paul Hellings
Images: IMDb & Deadline.com