Watching “The Following” is a little bit like watching a horror movie where the heroine runs up the stairs instead of out the door… which is oddly appropriate. Kevin Williamson’s “Scream” series mocked horror tropes while embracing them, and “The Following” takes a similar stance on the craft of writing and the archetypes and cliches that Edgar Allan Poe originated.
Often driven by emotion instead of training, Ryan (Kevin Bacon) tends to make rookie mistakes here and there: showing up alone to meet a serial killer in an abandoned lighthouse at night never did anyone any good. Still, despite our occasional shouts at the television as Ryan goes left when we know he should go right, the series’ first season ended on a deeply unsettling — and, thus, extremely satisfying — note. “The Following” didn’t necessarily turn out to be the show we expected it to be, which isn’t a bad thing.
So often on television, before characters get killed off, they’re given a round arc, a clear journey that comes to an end. On “The Following,” characters like Roderick, Paul, Jacob, and even the lead serial killer Joe (James Purefoy) get killed off before we’ve learned all there is to learn about them. It makes the deaths feel all the more real, and sometimes even more resonant, since we’re left hanging on a limb.
In tonight’s Season 1 finale, Ryan seemingly breaks his “death curse” — which Joe calls the “most interesting thing about him” — by saving Claire (Natalie Zea) from the wrong end of Joe’s ice pick. Of course, it’s too late for Debra (Annie Parisse), who dies before Weston (Shawn Ashmore) and Ryan reached her coffin in the woods. But ultimately, it seemed that good triumphed over evil as Joe died in an explosion just as he and Ryan had their final showdown.
But it wasn’t the final chapter, after all. Just as Claire and Ryan were getting cleaned up and ready to enjoy their first meal together without Joe’s shadow looming between them, they were interrupted by his former girlfriend (turned killer follower). She used one of Ryan’s own steak knives to gut Ryan and stab Claire in the spine.
So who was left alive to see Season 2? We’ll assume that Ryan survives this one, since it’s unlikely that FOX would let Kevin Bacon go once they’ve got him in their clutches. Claire is a toss-up — losing her would be a huge blow to the show’s romance factor, but it would also serve as the ultimate fuel for Ryan to stay on the hunt. Plus, we’re not sure Kevin Williamson is willing to let Ryan off the hook for his death curse just yet. We’ve lost Debra, and Joe — if the dental records and early DNA matches are to be believed. (We’re a tiny bit skeptical. There could be a follower in the coroner’s office.)
That leaves us with Weston still kicking — though, likely a little scarred after watching Ryan execute a follower who pissed him off. Little Joey is still alive, though if Claire doesn’t live, he’s probably a non-factor. And, of course, Emma (Valorie Curry), devastated by the loss of her mentor and lover and religious figurehead, is on the run from the law.
What did you think of Season 1? Weigh in below with your overall thoughts and predictions for Season 2.