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Recap and review of The Following Season 1 Episode 15The Final Chapter

For the penultimate episode of The Following‘s first season, “The End Is Near” plods to such an extent that it undermines the very purposeful, urgent story at its center. It’s a race against time that doesn’t, at any point, feel like a race against time, as there’s too much of a leisurely pace to the episode. While things definitely pick up in the last ten minutes, it feels like too little, too late. However, if the show is attempting to parlay the momentum of the closing moments of the episode into next week’s finale, then maybe it’ll prove to be a wise choice to take a more measured approach to its storytelling, yet I don’t see why this couldn’t have been a wall-to-wall thriller, as the show’s better episodes have tended to be. The Following is not a show that can thrive on character or on atmosphere. For the show to be interesting in any way whatsoever, it pretty much has to bring the white-knuckle thriller aspects to the fore.

That said, while the last third of the episode ratchets up the tension, the show still has a huge problem in how it luxuriates in over-the-top, borderline cartoonish violence, continuing to lack the understanding behind what makes violence effective in drama. It’s never the violence itself, but the gravitas with which it’s imbued. Violence doesn’t really mean anything on this show because it’s treated with such a cavalier attitude, yet the show continually wants us to be shocked by it, offering buckets of blood in lieu of solid storytelling. However, I promise this is going to be the last time I harp on the show for its violence, for one, because next week is the finale so I won’t really have many more opportunities to talk about it anyway; and secondly, because it’s clear that this is just what the show is, and it’s never going to change, nor does it have any interest in changing.

If nothing else, the show has stuck to its guns, and there’s something begrudgingly admirable about that. And, to get into the episode itself, tonight featured the show’s first use of violence that actually proved to be genuinely shocking and story-driven, the death of Jacob (Nico Tortorella). It’s a scene and story arc that’s so well-constructed, I’m almost willing to forgive the insurmountably depressing conclusion to the episode, in which Agent Parker (Annie Parisse) is buried alive.

The episode is divided between three major stories: Carroll (James Purefoy) holding Claire (Natalie Zea) hostage at the residence of the Grays, Vicky (Joanna Rhinehart) and Phil (Kelly AuCoin), whom he also takes hostage with the help of Jacob and Emma (Valorie Curry). Meanwhile, Ryan (Kevin Bacon), Parker and Weston (Shawn Ashmore) prepare to storm the mansion, only to track a gathering of followers to the local evacuation center. During all of this, Jacob is having a crisis of his own, as he realizes that he doesn’t want to die for Joe. He wants out of the cult, and he wants Emma to come with him. These three intersecting stories work well enough when they aren’t stuck in first gear. Claire’s story, for instance, allows her character to develop through action as opposed to exposition, such as when she shows her resiliency by using a wine bottle to attack Joe, before stabbing him with a fork in the same place she stabbed him last week, reopening the wound.

This moment of action also allows Claire to display her heroic tendencies, as she releases the Grays from their restraints and ushers them on to safety before being recaptured by Emma and Jacob. Unfortunately for Claire, her heroism gets her placed on a boat with Carroll, who ferries her off to her doom — because he can’t just kill her, he has to make sure there’s an audience. Carroll’s desperate craving for attention is actually one of the subtler character traits they’ve given him, and it makes his erratic nature regarding Claire logical, in its own weird way.

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