Going into the season finale of The Following, I had a lot of reservations.
The series off in a thrilling manner, pitting good vs. evil... revealing the scary possibility that followers were everywhere... showing us that Poe masks were crazy creepy... and teasing Joe Carroll's master plan, which involved his mass cult of killers and his nemesis Ryan Hardy; it was all a fantastic way to suck viewers in. And Kevin Bacon and James Purefoy have been outstanding.
But in the back half of episodes, the show began to tread water in this never-ending cycle of rescuing Joey... fighting random followers... and Ryan never being any step closer to catching or facing off with Joe.
Sure, Ryan Hardy remained a bad ass, but the elements that had accompanied the darkness of the episodes weren't as horrifying after awhile, even if they continued to be graphically violent.
At the same time, Joe's big plan turned out to be an obsession with Hardy and completing a novel that starred the flawed ex-FBI agent as the titular character. And Joe couldn't help but want to talk about this chapter, the next chapter, the ending, motifs and everything that really tried to spell out whatever was going on.
Heck, there was even a discussion about a fitting ending or a predictable one. Are the writers trying to constantly hint at the events on the show through literary terms?
The problem with "The Final Chapter" was that it found a way to conclude certain aspects - giving us some scary, riveting and edge of your seat moments - but it also made you scratch your head and wonder how it all came down to this ending in the first place.
Things got off to a running start from "The End is Near" and trying to rescue Debra in the coffin. So was it necessary to kill her off?
I know for Ryan and Mike it was another frustrating and sad moment of losing to Joe yet again. And, at the same time it was wild, but believable, to see Ryan straight up kill the one-eyed follower (speaking of one eye, whatever happened to the FBI boss after getting stabbed?) and storm off with a vengeance to face Joe, even if that's what he normally does.
Yet, when you think about it, we really only got one flashback of Debra's life as a cult member herself before simply becoming a sidekick to Ryan. Unfortunately, the lack of development for her (why must they kill of characters we have barely scratched the surface on?) made me forget her death when Ryan and Joe finally got to meet up with about 15 minutes left in the episode.
Sorry, Debra. RIP and all.
I was enthralled by the back and forth between the two characters, less because Joe was trying to write his final chapter, but more because there was a feeling that only one character could make it out alive. And I've been dying to see these two together without something in between.
I loved Ryan getting under Joe's skin by calling him "second rate" and a list of other disparaging comments. Not to mention, the great fight sequence, although I wish Ryan would stop running into really dark places without a flashlight or backup.
There was something rather chilling of watching Joe and Ryan duke it out as the flames erupted around them, keeping the characters more in the shadows than the light. More so, I really did feel that the lighthouse was a fitting place to end Joe's chapter or story.
Because he did die, right? He's not going to come back next season as some silly surprise. I mean, that house exploded.
Of course, the finale couldn't be without its last minute twist and it was a good one, even if it wasn't overly shocking. I had forgotten completely about Molly. It would certainly have been a bold and unpredictable move to actually kill Ryan, although it would probably also kill the show, but I knew his stabbing was a mere flesh wound. After all, Joe stuck around for a long time after getting stabbed with a knife and fork.
Now, will Claire actually die or make a miraculous recovery? I think it would be far more interesting to pull Ryan's love away from him right after he believed he had won. It would be far more tragic and propel him even deeper into a darkness that he might not be able to escape from. If anything, it just adds to the point that Ryan, despite everything, can't be victorious.
But even with the stabbing ending and the decent pieces throughout, it's hard to believe that a show about a group of followers ended up focusing on an obsessed Joe alone.
Not to mention his sadistic stabbing of some random character named Neil. I half thought maybe he was a new bad guy, but nope, just a dude for Joe to kill. C'mon, Joe, you used to be so composed.
Really, it was as if the followers dissipated into thin air. Yes, they are everywhere, but you can't use that as an excuse to not have them involved anymore. And, sure, Emma was around and it seems might be out for revenge next go around, but even she didn't have much to do except sport some new bangs.
While the ending found a way to be poetically simplistic in the final battle between Ryan and Joe, it's as if everything else along the way was a ridiculous detour. Did a lot of the middle events like dealing with Roderick, kidnapping Joey, the crazy Poe website or the militia have any real influence on the final outcome?
I guess at least Ryan Hardy was able to get his man in the end, even if I'm still frustrated by a lot of the things that went on throughout.
I have no idea what the show is going to do for season two, but hopefully it decides to spend some more time exploring other characters and not killing them off too soon, doesn't follow the same pattern except this time with Emma and also gives the show a purpose beyond some guy building a cult but really just wanting to write an amazing book.
I'm still willing to to see what the series tries next time, but if it doesn't give the story and characters some real meat and explore something different, The Following just might lose its own followers.
Sean McKenna is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow him on Twitter.