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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Following: “Family Affair”

Illustration for article titled The Following: “Family Affair”
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Hello, everyone.

David Sims here, your weekly reviewer of The Following. Sometimes, there comes a time during my contemplation of this television program that I realize I am watching a show where the majority of screen time is handed over to demented, heartless serial killers. These characters are given the kind of perfunctory plots a lot of TV shows give such characters: romance, rivalry, mommy issues, the works. Sometimes, I catch myself feeling for these characters! For example, this week, Emma got a phone call from Joe, finally confirming that he was alive, and was overjoyed to hear his voice. Good for Emma, I briefly thought, before realizing what a stupid thing was happening.

For its second season, The Following has decided to focus even more on its serial killers, and less on the FBI agents trying to take them down. This is a largely wise decision. The FBI plots are super-boring, in that they rely on the oldest, lamest cop show tropes in the book and also make our heroes as incompetent as possible to stretch a plot over 15 weeks. Yes, every week we must suffer through Ryan’s rogue behavior, where he breaks every rule and we root for him all the way. We must also suffer through the FBI’s tut-tutting, even though they have nothing better to offer in terms of taking down Joe Carroll’s serial killer cult.

The problem is that everything else is serial killers. Serial killers, wherever one looks! There’s Joe, of course, original-flavor Joe, so scary and intense last season with all his plans. This week, it becomes achingly clear that season two Joe has no further plans. He is truly winging it. We see him visit old friend Jana (played by Leslie Bibb) who expected him long ago; he says he was detoured, which I assume refers to his depressing jaunt in the bayou? Considering he could have stayed in an actual house with someone he actually knew, this makes his little affair with Carrie Preston make even less sense.

The Following is pulling a dirty trick in its second season—it’s trying to make us like Joe Carroll (and Emma) by making their second-season imitators even creepier by comparison. Sure, Joe was motivated by love of Poe and hatred of Ryan Hardy. He was an evil creep who got off on murder! But still, when his new young charge Mandy proposes offing Jana for no particular reason, he cautions her that killing should only be done if necessary, not indiscriminately. Yes, Joe has always had an faux artfulness to his murdering, but still, it makes me queasy watching him equivocate and moralize on the topic.

Meanwhile, Lily (Connie Nielsen) and her band of weirdos get creepier and creepier. We get some backstory: raised by a rich man, she’s a billionaire, which unfortunately will give her the unlimited means and influence to get away with a lot of stuff, a cheap plot device for the show to explain away why Lily isn’t easily traced to her giant mansion in the countryside where she lives with a bunch of people who are off the grid. There are the twins, and another set of twins, and some other wayward folk, all born without a home and love, she explains to Emma, trying to gain her sympathy.


Don’t trust her, my pink-haired friend! It’s an evil trap, probably? Lily also enjoys undressing in front of her twins and chatting to them obliquely about whatever grand ultimate plan they have up their sleeves, which I’m sure won’t be revealed for another three months or so. Now, Joe seemed to recognize Lily when he saw her at the end of the episode, so maybe there’s more to come here. But right now, it feels like an internal battle of serial killers is being set up. And that’s not something I’m too interested in. Because I’m sick sick sick of being told to root for one-dimensional sociopaths.

There are a bunch of wacky twists this episode, which was largely slow-moving and dull. New character Jana is… the sister of the FBI agent on Ryan’s ass. Who somehow talked Jana out of being in the force anymore? Meanwhile, the show is clearly trying to make Max and Mike a thing using the most stilted awkward dialogue possible as he tells her to tell Ryan to back off. Instead, she and Ryan hunt down Frenchie to Grand Central Station and engage in the most boring chase imaginable, which involved a lot of walking and peering over the heads of crowds.


In the most ludicrous moment of the episode, Ryan pulls a gun on Gisele on the train platform, and she cries for help, and Ryan gets tackled by a couple folks. Very gallant, but I’m pretty sure that would not happen. Guys wielding guns tend not to get tackled by complete strangers in New York City, where, you know, cops and stuff exist. Gisele’s foolproof escape plan was the stupidest of them all. But she did it. But Max is on her tail! Oh, what will happen? Can this show just be an episode of True Detective next week? I’d really prefer that.


  • The FBI uses Windows Phone technology to track criminals, which maybe explains its poor success rate.
  • This show is the champion of weirdly stilted New York dialogue. “Have whoever’s bringing the warrant take 8th. Much less traffic this time of the morning,” a lawyer lady snarks. This is New York. No one talks about 8th Avenue like it’s the freeway.
  • Lily shows off her mansion to Emma. “See that dramatic contrast between shadow and light?” God, I hate that everyone has a secret mansion on this show. WHY CAN’T THE COPS FIND IT?
  • Joe is a good fake dad. “Do you like apples?” “They’re okay. Do you have any candy?” “The apples will do just fine.”