Monday, February 3, 2014

REVIEW: 'The Following' Reveals Why Lily Gray Survived the Attack on the Subway in 'Trust Me'

FOX's The Following - Episode 2.03 Trust Me

Ryan continues his search to find the correlation between the recent tragedies in New York City and Emma and the existing members of the Havenport cult; the FBI becomes increasingly aware of Ryan's undercover agenda; and a shocking event leads Joe to put a new plan in action.

For some reason, I'm still watching FOX's The Following. I stuck with its entire first season despite the many different ways it topped itself with its own stupidity. The first season was crippled because of the lack of a coherent plot. Most of the time it felt like the show didn't know what it wanted to do with these characters. Because of that, they over relied on meaningless shock violence that served utterly no purpose than to shock and disturb the audience. There was no deep meaning to what happened to those characters or the chooses they made. They found more and more ways to make the FBI seem dysfunctional and it was just laughably painful to sit through.

Then, why am I back for the second season? I'm still not sure. I'll chalk it up to the tremendous amount of talent in the cast and creative team. I want to see if the show can finally figure itself out. The first season was consistently operating on a D-level. So far, in year two, it's operating on a C-level. That's progress!

Additionally, the plot this season feels like it has been thought-out better than it had been before. There are still some pretty big incredulous moments - and moments of needless violence. But the show did actively set itself up for success. Whether or not it can fulfill that promise in the end has yet to be seen.

The biggest improvement though has been in the handling of the Ryan Hardy character. Season 1 Ryan was a collection of characteristics but he wasn't a character. He was walking around and reacting to things but none of it meant anything. By taking him out of the FBI, it opens up a new level of depth to the character. Now, he's on a personal mission - not just going along with things because some serial murderer is overly fascinated by him.

After being publicly mocked by everyone last season, the FBI is more efficient this season. They found people who can use technology and then use it to track people. They found the house with the remaining members of the Havenport cult in "Trust Me" and executed most of them but still got one in custody. That's totally a win for them. However, the FBI as an organization led by the Valerie Cruz character is still pretty toothless when it comes to the more meaningful and deep stories. Three episodes in to the season and she has already told Ryan about three times how he needs to stop interfering with their case. She threatens to arrest him every time. And yet, nothing ever comes from it. She tells him to stay away from Lily and he goes straight to her! The biggest retribution he gets is Mike coming to him to show him a video. Ryan needs to deal with the consequences of his actions.

And then, there's the stuff with the fully-alive Joe and his new family in the South. James Purefoy has always been campy in this role - which the writers aren't sure of how to tell a story without his presence being physical felt. Nothing embodied the campiness more so than when he tried during a Southern accent last week. He was trying to live a reformed live with Judy the local prostitute - a very thankless role for the always stellar Carrie Preston - and her daughter, Mandy - played by Tiffany Boone. Basically the show was marking time with the character until he could make his grand return to killing with the rest of the cult. It wasn't really interesting or deep. It didn't highlight anything new about Joe Carroll that would help us understand his psyche. While I saw Mandy killing her mother and leaving town with Joe coming, I don't understand or believe she would have done that. Mostly because the show didn't put in the time and effort to show how much she loves/needs Joe. She said she did but nothing really happened onscreen until that moment.

But "Trust Me" is all about the reveal that Lily Gray survived the attack because she is actually a member of the new cult. Not only that but she is the mother of creepy twins Mark and Luke. Connie Nielsen has been a fine addition this season. However, I didn't want a full season of her being victimized or attacked or her flirting with Ryan Hardy. This reveal adds a new layer to her as well as Nielsen's performance. The chase sequence was a very well executed and tense action piece. And it didn't require anyone to be screaming, running around in the dark or coming at a female with a knife. I don't quite understand how she outran Ryan when he was running and she was just walking while cleverly changing her outward appearance. But it was an effective sequence. And once again, just enough for me to tune in for one more week.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Trust Me" was written by Alexi Hawley and directed by Liz Friedlander.
  • Why did we have Ryan walking through his apartment in the dark with a gun only for it to be a dream or just Mike, if not to close the episode with there actually being a threat there?
  • I spent the first two episodes trying to remember why the French lady in the cult looked familiar. And then, it hit me - she was the French lady on Last Resort. Dang, I miss that show. Here, she just speaks French and complains about wanting to kill the guy - which unfortunately she doesn't get to do.
  • Trying to explain the dead remains of Joe in the lighthouse is just so unnecessary - and too reminiscent of the world of Season 1. I don't want to be reminded of those plot points!
  • Like Purefoy, Sam Underwood has been too campy for me in his portrayal of twins Mark and Luke. He also hasn't done a whole lot to best distinguish the two from each other. Luke is the douche one and Mark has the bangs. His scene with Emma was intriguing - but that mostly came from her end.
  • Ultimately, The Following just doesn't know how to do an episode without victimizing a white female. It was Connie Nielsen for the first two weeks and Carrie Preston tonight.
  • Jessica Stroup wasn't in "Trust Me" but she's been a good addition this season too as Ryan's niece, Max. If Ryan can't be given any consequences, maybe she can as the result of his actions.