Three episodes of the third season of “The Following” were provided for review purposes prior to broadcast.
“It’s happening again, isn’t it?” asks a character of Kevin Bacon’s Ryan Hardy towards the end of The Following‘s third season premiere. The “Well, duh” isn’t explicitly stated within the show, but no doubt you’ll provide your own. Taking place a full year after the events of season two, the show picks up at Agent Mendez’s wedding, where we discover Mike and Max have separated and Ryan has a new girlfriend. Then someone mentions Joe Carroll’s imminent execution, a mysteriously ominous caterer makes a move, and The Following is back to its darkly cynical slice of confusingly watchable schlock TV. Those expecting a massive reset this season will be in for a torture warehouse-size disappointment, but anyone totally game with this show’s very particular set of cat-and-mouse mechanics will still find a lot to like in season three.
After the wedding, the show introduces yet another coterie of young, hot psychopaths (one of which is played by Weeds‘ Hunter Parrish). After a string of expectedly gruesome murders that re-create some of Ryan and the FBI’s less favorable moments over the past few seasons, the gang discovers a particularly disturbing connection between the new murders and one of the villains of last season.
The premiere sets itself up as a reboot of sorts, which the cast and crew have promised in numerous interviews, and I’m not entirely sure it works on that front. There are your usual micro-flashbacks and details are strung along in regarding the events of the last two seasons, but something about it feels sanctioned off, a for-fans-only sort of thing. It doesn’t feel like the kind of show you can just jump into on a whim, all dregs-of-humanity doom-and-gloom, and enjoy. Two seasons of palate cleansing had me all but mumbling “meh” at a poor newlywed’s tragic slaughter. It’s still fun to watch these characters hunt the new crazies, who all still share previous followers’ penchant for stabbing, despite a slight amount of diminishing returns this go-round.
Decidedly absent from the season’s opening hours is Carroll himself. The show pivots slightly, setting up a season arc that has the main characters battling their past actions more than any actual knife-wielding stab-happy Poe-obsessors. Though that may sound like it’s a change of pace, it really isn’t. The protagonists in-fight in the FBI central command, they raid abandoned buildings far too late, the villains ironically call one another crazy, and Kevin Bacon still doesn’t age. It’s all well and good, it goes through the paces of exactly what the audience for this kind of show wants, but, for a season that’s already stuck a 6ft man in a 2ft box, there just isn’t very much shocking material here yet.