By Austin Keller
Don’t get me wrong, I am an avid fan of Fox’s first season of The Following. The show brought a new spin to the typical procedural crime drama; dedicating half, if not most of the show developing the criminal characters and making them indispensable to a week-by-week plot. The Following was heavily serialized, and gained much controversy over its glorification of violence, especially murder and suicide- making them seem honorable, or even sometimes a viable act. The Following, in short, was a two-sided story about Joe Carroll, a convicted serial killer who escaped prison to use his cult-like fandom to wreak havoc on the east coast, and Ryan Hardy, the cop brought back from retirement to solve the case.
The first season was brilliant. It was different, dark, and edgy. The Following did what very few crime shows are capable of doing: it made you feel pity for serial killers. You hated that you loved them as they did horrendous things, and at times, you rooted for them, cried with them, and felt despair if they were killed. On a weekly basis, the show threw (admittedly unrealistic) plot-twists at you, and kept you on edge. Who was going to die next? What was going to happen? The show wasn’t afraid to a kill anyone off, and it truly was a thrill ride to watch, and kept you dying (pun intended) till next Monday when you got your fill of the gruesome, Poe-inspired, psychological thriller.
Unfortunately, due to low ratings (and pretty terrible reviews) Fox decided to nix The Following after its third season. After its cancellation, The Following’s cult fandom (again, pun intended) made petitions and pleas to companies like Netflix and Hulu to pick it up for at least another season. When I read the articles announcing The Following had ended, I was actually happy. Why would I be happy that a brilliant show got cancelled? The answer is simple; The Following got really, really, REALLY horrible.
As audiences braced for the highly-anticipated second season, they were pleased when it started off strong. It continued the story of Carroll and his surviving cult members, along with Ryan Hardy and his team. The two plots paralleled each other in rebuilding and moving forward from the aftermath of season 1’s ending. The new batch of characters were just as interesting, if not more so, and season 2 started in a new, yet welcomed direction.
However, around mid-season the show lost its way. The Following lost touch with season 1’s pivotal concepts. Carroll’s obsession with Edgar Allen Poe (the basis for season one) abruptly ended, and instead Carroll randomly hated religion. The Following became a cliché cop drama, disposing of any/all criminal characters and putting the cops on a heightened level. They took their strongest characters (Emma Hill, played by Valorie Curry) and killed them off for a cheap shock value, and then disposed of all (except one) new characters. Season 2 ended with only 4 original main characters from the first season, however, one character was written off in a non-death format. Season 3 only got worse as it introduced yet another new batch of characters, predominantly killers, and then one by one killed them off. If the producers of The Following wanted an anthological show, they should’ve made it one.
Season 4 would’ve been the same cut-and-dry formula season 2 and 3 used, thus I was uninterested for a fourth season. Season 3 at the time of writing was slated to be put on Netflix three whole days ago, and Netflix has yet to add it. As the time passes, it looks less and less likely that The Following will be picked up for a fourth season – and I’m content with that. The once brilliant show got really awful, and because of that, it should be buried in a pile of other dead shows never to see the light of day again.