Well folks, after sixteen long episodes we finally find ourselves at the end of The Following’s first season. Looking back on it, I suppose we should have seen this coming. The show was always been one of short bursts; a few good episodes followed by a stinker. We had those good shows leading up to the finale, so it makes sense that the final outing would be a let down. That would be enough to leave us disappointed but Kevin Williamson wasn’t content to leave it there. Instead, what we’re handed is the sum total of all that The Following has ever done wrong shoved into a single episode. To top it off, “The Final Chapter” also features some of the most unbelievable crap we’ve seen yet. Yeah, it’s that bad.
I’m a firm believer in finding the silver lining, so before I break down where this episode went wrong, let’s talk about what it did right. For the most part, it put a bow on the major events of the season. Joe Carroll seems to be dead, Hardy gets the girl, and his following is in shambles. Emma is alive and as a series favorite I’m glad she’ll be making a return for season two. If it’s even worth watching, which I can’t say I’m sure about.
Now we get into the gray.
Let’s begin with the Debra Parker. At the end of episode 15 she was left buried alive in the woods. I enjoyed seeing Hardy and Weston go off the wall and beat the suspect in an ethically muddy but well portrayed moment of desperation. I also thought her Annie Parisse did a good job of acting out her panic. What I couldn’t buy into, though, was the minutes-away death scene. How poorly written. It was so cliche that the whole goodbye sequence was entirely wasted. It should have been meaningful and sad felt forced. They also got rid of one of the only three law enforcement characters that was worth caring about. I guess there’s a Start Over button in store next season.
And how about this: Hardy shoots a captive in the head and nobody cares. How utterly unbelievable. Apart from Weston’s shock, there is no follow-up, no questions, and no cover-up. Don’t worry, Hardy. Generic cops 50-60 have your back. On the other hand, with law enforcement so inept as The Following’s, maybe they didn’t notice the body three feet from the grave.
The time before Hardy arrived at the lighthouse was thoroughly entertaining, however. The way Carroll murdered his captive was Purefoy at his best, but when Hardy arrived, everything went downhill.
Which is tragic, when you think about it. This whole damn series was built up for the final confrontation. And what do we get? Cliched and predictable drivel. I didn’t expect this going in, but maybe framing the show around Joe’s new novel, an admittedly poor writer, wasn’t such a good idea. Williamson handed the reigns over to his character and, surprise surprise, poor writing followed. Everything that occurred between Carroll and Hardy in this episode could have been pulled from a B-movie. Fight, fight, fight. Carroll gets the upper hand then loses it. Hardy gets the upper hand. Escape to the boathouse. Fight some more!
The boathouse sequence is what gets me. They grapple and shots go off. The stray shots both hit explosive barrels… because of course there are explosive barrells. Doesn’t everybody keep 55-gallon drums of gasoline in their boathouse? And then Joe falls in the flames and sits there until he dies. I wondered, though, if they insinuating that he got pinned under that fallen beam. After five rewinds, his leg sure doesn’t look pinned. In other words, we went through this whole season for Joe to sit in fire and say “whelp, thems the breaks!”
The ending moments weren’t terrible but the cliffhanger was telegraphed from a mile away. And, again, no sense. I like that Molly stabbed Hardy and Claire as a set up to next season, but pray tell, how did she get in the apartment? Hardy and Claire had no idea where they were going and the FBI didn’t know they’d need a hotel room until shortly after Joe died. Without Roderick gathering info, how would Molly — or any of the followers really — know where they were sent? Especially far enough in advance to hide in the apartment. I call shenanigans.
Looking back on the whole season, I don’t regret watching it but this finale really typified the core problem of the series: It doesn’t know what to focus on. Sometimes it feels like a great thriller. Other times it’s an unbelievable mess. It brought up plot threads that were totally unfollowed-up on (Hardy and Parker’s personal histories). When there are so many good shows on TV (Hannibal, Bates Motel, Game of Thrones), you have to question, why waste your time on a show that’s so inconsistent? When The Following was on, it was great, but it always stumbled to minute it seemed to hit a stride. That it’s worst point would come as the season finale beggars belief. Season two has a lot to prove and, at least for this viewer, it needs to start with a great first episode, because is S2E1 doesn’t blow me out of the water, I’m dropping this show like a hot potato.