It would be easy to write 1000 words on just how silly so many of The Following's plot mechanisms happen to be. Why is there not an EFFING MANHUNT for an ESCAPED SERIAL KILLER the minute Hardy learns what's up with the transport switcheroo? Why would Olivia, an obviously smart if not ambition-blinded young woman aid the escape of SAID SERIAL KILLER, who we'll remember preys EXCLUSIVELY ON WOMEN? WHY DID BONE, WHOSE NAME MIGHT ACTUALLY BE "BO" BUT "BONE" SOUNDS MORE MENACING, INSTALL HIS HOSTAGE CAGES SO CLOSE TO THE BATHROOM?! Like I said…easy.
But you come to realize, watching this show as we (me and DISH Hopper guy, and maybe my editor Shaunna) have this past month and change, that narrative dumbness can't be considered one of The Following's flaws. I mean it IS a flaw — a big one, in fact. But it's so big, so much at the core of what this show seems to be doing (and wants to be doing) that you have to look to it as more DNA than defect. No less than you can fault a scorpion for stinging the toad, you can't snipe at a dumb TV show for being dumb.
'The Following' Recap: Everyone Who's Anyone is a Follower!
…Of course you can't tell a TV recap to not be petty and reductive, either. Because then what would we talk about? It was I think Ke$ha, or maybe Edgar Allen Poe, who said it best: "We r who we r."
After ditching her shower sex partners/Follower colleagues Paul and Jacob post-farmhouse siege, Emma split with little Joey for some sort of gang safe house, one run by a dude named Bo. Proclaiming himself to be "not a part of Joe's club," as his neck tattoos bulge and contort, Bo seems like a guy you don't want to mess with or annoy. Joey pays no attention to this and really riles Bo up when he finds a woman locked in a cage. "You're not supposed to go back there!" screams Bo, who is so tired of jerks going into his room.
Back in the most minimum-security maximum-security prison ever designed, Joe has somehow finagled a meeting with the warden and other prison officials to secure a transfer to another facility. One where he won't be so callously disrespected and abused by unstable alcoholics like Ryan Hardy. "Sounds cool!" the officials basically stamp on his papers, and send him on his merry way. Everyone deserves a second chance!
'The Following' Recap: Hardy's in the House!
Hardy, like us, thinks the whole move is bulls**t — a cover, maybe, for the warden's daughter's disappearance from college (Joe's former college) earlier that morning. And wouldn't you know it? It IS. Using the power of video editing, the warden helps affect Joe's escape with his lawyer Olivia.
SIDE: Wouldn't it be sort of sweet and reassuring to start every episode in Claire's house, Hardy showing up with a cup of tea for Claire as he says something cute, like "did I interrupt something?" Immediate smooching, ease of indie rock usage — just a pleasant way to kick off 42 minutes in which someone inevitably gets shivved and plot points are discussed as META-TEXTUALLY as possible.
Olivia seems surprisingly calm for someone driving with a man whose entire serial killer background revolves around attractive, defenseless women. #YOLO? (She's dead three minutes later.) In the most fun scene of the episode, Hardy is forced to listen in as Joe murders his lawyer. "Tell him," Joe asks Olivia to say to Hardy, "that Joe Carroll is killing me and it's because of you. It's all your fault." The whole thing is made all the worse by Weston sitting there with that "everything cool, bro?" look splashed across his face, as though he can't hear the woman dying on the phone just a few feet away from his ears. This show, man. With the murdering and everything.
It's all preamble, of course, for Hardy and Joe's big halfway-point-of-the-season confrontation. Joe has acquired two new Followers, David (nebbishy dude) and Louise (ice cold blonde), who get the upper hand on Hardy. But Joe doesn't want his "protagonist" dead. Especially not in a parking garage. He spells things out: "I spent nine years in a jail cell concocting this story, Ryan. And there is so much more to come."
As Joe gets away in his helicopter, Hardy vainly fires 5-6 shots after him. Oh Hardy — forever chasing a guy you won't truly catch until the end of the series, which based on this morning's early pickup for Season 2 may be some time from now. But Hardy's not put out; he's energized. "We'll find [those Followers]," Hardy tells Parker and Weston, "and we'll break them. We've got to start doing things a different way." Which to comic book movie-trained ears everywhere, means — time to be BATMAN. Hardy questions the injured David…right in his leg wound. DIG, BABY, DIG. And you know what? He gets his answers.
Headlights illuminate a creepy, Dragon Tattoo Swedish rape mansion-style gate. And soon the mansion behind them, where a crowd has gathered for the arrival of this black SUV. Joe steps out. And we realize — it's Follower HQ. Charles Xavier's School for the Gifted, absent mutant powers and plus switchblades and dog-eared Poe paperbacks. Emma gives Joe a great big hug. So wonderful to see you!
And then the kicker: Joey. Who has never actually seen his father in person before. "You're my dad." he surmises. "Yeah, I'm your dad." Niagara Falls. CREDITS.
[Image Credit: FOX]
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I need to admit something: were it not for these recaps, I wouldn't be watching The Following. There are other shows I could say the same of (COUGH Revolution) but there it's a different sort of disconnect, one in which the show just isn't any good. You watch hoping it will be, sure, give it a few episodes to find its footing…only to be continually and consistently burned. The Following isn't that. Maybe it's not the finest show on television, but quality — of writing, of acting, of direction — isn't the issue, at least for me. And, like you, I'd wager, I'm intrigued enough by the show's central premise to want to see how this all pans out. I'm engaged.
I'm also sort of deeply disturbed.
Maybe that's the point? A show about a serial killer and his gang of serial killer acolytes should be off-putting; shocking. It would be weird to tune in to find Hardy and the whole FBI gang ragging on each other for their dating foibles, or trying to get a cupcake business off the ground. Innocents being punched, stabbed, and lit on fire definitely makes sense. But it's just very, very unpleasant to watch.
RELATED: 'The Following' Recap: Followers Makin' Moves
The final scene of last night's episode really sealed the deal for me. Hardy, having just witnessed an FBI partner stabbed through the jugular and the assailant get away, heads to Claire's place to check in. Turns out she's finally heard from her son, Joey…in the form of a sadistic QuickTime movie where his captors teach him how to kill an insect, and then a mouse. Joey questions the need to suffocate a living thing in a mason jar, but that doesn't matter -- he's being indoctrinated into The Following, his innocence a silly trifle. "Hi, Ryan!" Emma has him say to the camera, very much intending for this video to reach Hardy.
Our discomfort is clearly the point. We're supposed to want these grinning psychopaths dead, maybe in as grisly a fashion as they've so far dispatched victims on the show. Minutes earlier Jordy, the captured prison guard who'd nearly killed Claire last week, intentionally chokes to death eating the gauze from his arm sling. First question is: WHY IS NO ONE SURVEILLING THE SERIAL KILLER PROTEGES THEY HAVE IN CAPTIVITY. Second question is: really?!? Sh*t, dude. And his horrific end came moments after Paul (revealed to be for real gay fake gay dude) slammed a pretty convenience store clerk's head into a car and tied her up. Ten minutes after Ryan shot another Follower to death. And of course twelve minutes after the aforementioned FBI agent jugular stabbing. I guess what I'm saying is you CAN have too much of a good thing?
…All of which is beside the point, as you came here for a RECAP, not a sermon, and my landlord keeps asking for RENT. We all have our cross to bear (something I hope will not become a plot point this season). So let's suck it up and talk excessive, desensitizing violence!
'The Following' Recap: (Really) Bad Teacher
Last night's episode began with a little preamble to the previous week's ending, with our Poe mask-wearing murderer performing "The Raven" for a nearby, rapt audience. The Following, of course, asks that we suspend a lot of disbelief. But the notion that crowds gather for poetry recited by mentally ill people wearing the creepiest masks ever manufactured is…wait, that actually makes sense. Anyway, says Weston later, "it's very common." Okay!
Hardy, Weston, Parker, et al go to investigate our Follower of the Week's* house and discover his terrified wife holed up in a closet, brandishing a knife. At HQ, she reveals that he'd joined up with Carroll's band of misfits a few years earlier, after he'd been laid off from a job. He stabbed her, viciously, when she'd asked for a divorce. Or so she says. Via flashback, we learn a little more about the Follower meeting space the FBI had uncovered last week. Ever had a clubhouse or been a member of a secret society? It's basically that — super-chill, murder-happy, etc. Everyone just having a rad time. Before Hardy can trace another lead and/or secretly take down another vodka shot, fire guy has killed again — this time the Dean of Winslow University, who had declined to give Carroll tenure some years back.
*let's make this a thing. Everyone on board? DISH Hopper guy? Cool!
Meanwhile Emma and the not-gay gay neighbors continue their squabbling, made worse by flashbacks that reveal that maybe the not-gay gay neighbors are gay, or at least discovered some unexpected sexual chemistry during their time together. Anyway, Paul is tired of being neglected. So he does what anyone in his position would do, which is come on to a nearby convenience store clerk before taking her hostage in the house where you're also housing your cult leader's son. DUH. In a show where college Romance professors are basically Professor Charles Xavier, this makes all the sense in the world.
RELATED: 'The Following': James Purefoy on Serial Killers, '70s Porn, and Kevin Bacon's Entrails
But before you can say "vodka breath," we're back to Hardy and Co. watching over the fire starter's wife. Who, we'll soon learn, is NOT the innocent she'd proclaimed herself to be but as big a Carroll-head as the next freakazoid guy or gal. She kills the FBI agent assigned to watch over her. Hardy, who'd been stationed outside with Weston, clues to what's going on and corners her in the backyard. Her husband materializes almost out of thin air, coming at Hardy with a knife. Hardy shoots him. In the confusion, though, the wife escapes. And if these promos for next week are to be believed, that was not for the best.
So there, in just about 1000 words, is everything you could need to speak intelligently about the plot of last night's episode as well as the spiritual costs of indulging in such excessive violence. I think Dr. Do No Harm said it best in the promos for his hit NBC show, Do No Harm: "LET'S HAVE SOME FUN."
(Please be safe and good to one another.)
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S7E5: This week, Weeds is trying something it's never tried: going back to square one. Of course, it takes the entire episode to get there, but we get there.
The only problem with going back to square one is that whereas we had sympathy for the widow and mother of two navigating the bleach-blonde, soulless valley of Orange County wealth back in Agrestic, this new Nancy garners little more than groans and furrowed brows. Sure, she went to the clink for Shane, but couldn't we argue that her actions put him in the position to behave so badly in the first place? On second thought, that's a much larger can of worms. However, if we take this episode and the last two seasons into consideration, it's hard to find sympathy for our favorite pot-dealing mom from the suburbs.
"Fingers only meat banquet." -Doug
"You just titled my book." -Steven Haven
This episode, Nancy is trying desperately to keep Jill from taking Stevie as her legal son. Jill calls for a custody hearing in Oakland, Calif. and Nancy's lawyer gets her 48 hours free of probation so she can go. She takes Silas as a character witness, completely shirking Shane's attempts to be helpful and thank her for going to jail for him. Instead she takes his student loan money and flies to California, insisting he stays. It makes sense, but it sure as hell isn't motherly. Of course, the episode keeps us waiting (with not-so-baited breath) to see if Silas will say something great about her to the judge -- of course he does.
"I can't be polyamorous with Bubbie." -Andy
While Nancy's climbing gates in California, Andy and Doug are getting into their own troubles. Doug accidentally does his job correctly and finds out his brand new shiny Wall Street company is cooking the books. His boss takes him out for a rub and tug to ease the pain, but as depraved as Doug can be he's a good man and it doesn't sit right with him. Obviously they have to do something with Doug's storyline besides give him a job and make Nancy his assistant, but the big-city-financial-institutions-are-corrupt-and-there's-nothing-you-can-do-about-it storyline is so tired. We get it, the country is in some serious trouble thanks to practices like this, but I'm sure most of us come to Weeds to escape that. I suppose we haven't encountered this homoerotic rub and tug ritual before, but I think we could live without it.
Finally, we have Andy, who's trying to make it work with Maxine and Charles, the polyamorous duo. He seems perfectly happy until, whilst smoking pot with Charles and talking about the many men that came before him, Andy witnesses Charles' cancer symptoms take hold (and at first things the poor old guy is dead). He wrestles with it, but eventually walks into the apartment and finds Maxine reading The Raven to Charles and breaks up with her. He makes the excuse that having a dying man around reminds him of Bubbie, and I'm sure it does, but something tells me he was also not so keen on the fact that he's literally just one of many men who've filled the void in Maxine's life. He was starting to have a little slice of happiness with her, but he can't be happy when he knows he's just some guy. Also, this scene would have had a lot more weight if Andy didn't say the terrible line, "I hate death and Poe, my thing is life." It's of the cheesier lines we've heard on this show, and that's saying a lot. (Though it certainly helps my theory that Bubbie isn't the thing keeping him from staying with Maxine.)
So now that the show finally made it full circle -- across the country, down to Mexico and right back to Heylia's doorstep -- are we excited? It's a bit of a precarious place to be, because something this reminiscent of older episodes could require reminiscence of older Nancy. But will we even recognize original Nancy against who she's become? Do you think bringing Heylia back is going to be good for the show? Am I the only one hoping this could mean more Conrad?
The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.