Remember the The Following‘s pilot, when a really evil, highly intelligent man slayed several prison guards in his intricately planned scheme to break free? Remember how shocking it was when one of his spindly limbed female followers showed up and shishkebabbed her own eyeball just to ensure that a note of terror would ring in the FBI’s ear for as long as her idol was alive?
That version of The Following was scary because it gave off a sense that nothing was safe, that evil was better, smarter and faster than us, and that it lay in wait absolutely everywhere: In short, there was no haven from The Raven. This week’s season capper is just as expertly acted (if not more so) than the season premiere, but the fright it conveys is derived from jumpy moments of shock instead of the all-encompassing dread the series so beautifully built in its first outings.
Will that type of fear be as compelling in the series’ second season? And will our protagonist even be around to find out? Let’s review what went down in the season finale, “The Last Chapter.”
DEB IN A BOX | As Ryan’s peering out the sheriff’s office window, a kid wearing a Poe mask approaches the building and is stopped by an officer. For reasons I cannot fathom, no one makes the twerp take off the rubber mask until Ryan and Mike come outside – and even then, it doesn’t happen fast enough. Guys, this is the exact mask you saw in the followers’ hideout! Who’s to say that’s not just a really short insane-o? When the mask comes off, the kid inside tells them a woman named Emma gave him $20 to wear it to the station. Ryan finds a number written on the inside; when he calls it, Debra answers, because the followers left her a cell phone when they buried her alive.
She, understandably, is NOT OKAY about being interred by nutjobs in the middle of nowhere. Ryan asks a series of soothing questions to try to discern her location; Mike guesses she has, at best, five hours’ worth of air. Hardy, Weston and some backup ride off to where the followers’ car has been found. Soon after they arrive, though, Ryan realizes it’s a set-up… and that’s when Alex the follower begins shooting at the group. Hardy eventually creeps up on the sniper and stops him, then informs Captain Turner (you’ll remember him as the man who did not want Ryan connected to the case in any way) that they’ll transport Alex in their car. Unspoken by Ryan: “Because we’re going to beat the poo out of him until he gives up Debra’s location.” Actually spoken by Turner: “Do what you need to do.”
TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE | Once they get him to an abandoned warehouse or something of the sort, Alex’s “I’ll never tell” ends the moment a lead pipe hits his legs and Ryan’s thumb enters his eye socket. (Ick. I will never get used to the eye trauma on this show.) Alex sings like it’s the Knockout Rounds, and as Ryan and Mike are on their way to the location he gives them, they talk to Debra again. She weakly asks her colleagues to tell her sister and parents that she loves them, then tells Mike “you’re a good man, don’t lose that” and informs Ryan “This is not on you… I am not your fault.” Mike is nearly crying as he promises that they’re almost there, which makes me love him all the more.
At the site, Alex watches while Mike and Ryan dig to save Deb. (Side note: Did anyone else think, from the way things were going, that this was going to be a fake-out site, with Deb actually languishing elsewhere?) But no, she’s actually in the crate – and she’s not breathing. For the love of God, will someone call for an ambulance or backup or anything? I’d settle for a well-outfitted AAA truck at this point. Ryan does about two seconds of CPR on his boss before deciding it’s a lost cause. Both men weep as Alex watches with a smile on his face, calling Deb’s death a “bummer.” His snarking is the only incentive Ryan needs to walk over and put a bullet through the acolyte’s forehead – woah – and then (nicely) threaten to shoot Mike if he tries to follow. See, the followers slipped a copy of Joe’s manuscript into the box with Debra, and Ryan knows exactly where he’s going.
TO THE LIGHTHOUSE | After a brief rendezvous with Emma that ends in him being drugged, Ryan wakes in a house near a lighthouse on the small island where Joe is keeping Claire. Earlier, we saw Joe’s ex needling him about his literary overkill (“It’s a motif, Claire” was my favorite part of that exchange) and meeting another captive, a poor guy who was hired to bring a boat to the island and then was hobbled so he couldn’t run. I’d care more about getting you that guy’s name if Joe hadn’t stabbed him violently in an odd bid to make Claire realize that she wasn’t responsible for the deaths of Joe’s college-student victims. “I earned them. I own them. They are mine,” he asserts.
Anyway, Joe’s still drinking and taking pain pills as he quizzes Ryan on when he first fell in love with Claire… and somehow turns it that Ryan was kinda sorta in love with Joe, too. It’s an interesting hypothesis, and not without basis: Whether it was romantic or just brotastic, Ryan looked quite happy the night that Joe invited him in for a drink, remember? I just wish it had been explored more before Joe was a sweating, half-drunk, whacked out loon with a gaping wound full of silverware festering underneath his natty turtleneck.
There’s lots of back-and-forth and Claire-threatening before Ryan manages to grab Joe’s gun and chase him out into the night. The men eventually do battle in a boathouse full of combustible materials; soon after a bullet pierces a fuel tank, the structure is aflame. Joe and Ryan exchange one last look before the place collapses, ostensibly killing Carroll. Yay?
The next morning, Mike and the FBI are on the scene. Dental records and DNA say the partial remains that have been recovered are Joe, but both Claire and Ryan look wary. He takes her back to Brooklyn, where they’re allowed exactly one relieved kiss before Molly breaks in and slices Ryan, outing herself as a follower as she tells him “You were always my chapter.” Claire exits the shower and finds Hardy gasping for air on the floor… then soon she’s down beside him after Molly stabs her, too! And… bloody scene!
Now it’s your turn. What did you think of the episode? Are you wondering what happened to Ryan’s alcoholism and heart problems? Do you think Ryan and/or Claire will make it through to Season 2? And the biggie: Is Joe really dead? Grade the episode via the poll, then sound off in the comments!Follow @kimroots