'The Following' Recap: Season 1 Episode 4 "Mad Love"

By Chris Baggiano,
Joe Carroll is starting to run out of followers

Another week, another murder attempt and another one of Carroll’s minions dispatched; at this rate on The Following there won’t be any followers left in about five weeks. This week’s episode delivered more of the same as the audience was given more backstory on Ryan and Jacob while also having to deal with the fallout from Ryan’s killing of Rick and Paul’s kidnapping of Megan, the convenience store clerk. By the end “Mad Love” seemed a very thin episode that didn’t move the plot forward while also failing to develop anything of major interest.

The FBI is hot on the trails of trying to figure out who Maggie truly is after duping Debra in last week’s episode and getting away from Ryan after Maggie killed Riley, the FBI agent. Ryan visits Caroll in prison to get a few facts on Maggie and Joe is more than willing to brag about his most interesting follower. It seems Maggie was a serial killer in Arkansas before ever meeting Carroll, which made Caroll quite fond and interested in her. His playful interest seemed to be a good sign that Maggie could become a very intriguing character for episodes to come although that clearly will not come to pass.

While the FBI actually is shown doing some detecting work, spearheaded by Mike, Ryan receives two calls from the yet to be introduced Jenny. He answers the second call only to be swiftly greeted by Maggie. It seems Maggie had found and captured Jenny, revealed to be Ryan’s sister, and Maggie wanted to make a trade of Jenny’s life for Ryan’s. Ryan is willing to comply to Maggie’s demands of his coming alone but is promptly stopped by Mike (still desperate to bond with his idol) who shoehorns his way into the operation and promises not to tell Debra.

In any case Ryan allows himself to get captured by Maggie only to find out that she plans on killing him in front of Jenny. She places magnets around his pacemaker and defends her decision to go off Carroll’s script because she would only be disabling the pacemaker, allowing Carroll’s original stab wound to Ryan’s heart to be the manner of his death (actually one of the most clever bits in any episode of The Following thus far). As Ryan is about to die Mike saves the day and kills Maggie. And there goes perhaps the most interesting character on the show not named Joe Carroll.

What is most unfortunate about the whole Maggie and Jenny kidnapping story is that it was completely contrived. Maggie’s “improvisation” was misguided and clearly more for the writers’ need for serialization than anything else. Not only did Maggie kidnap a character the audience had no clue existed but she did it as revenge for Ryan killing her husband, Rick. While that is all well and good, the very little bits of Maggie that were actually shown didn’t make her seem like she was a girl who wanted quick revenge and the fact there wasn’t more time spent with Maggie and Rick means the emotional devastation Maggie was feeling seemed more shallow than it should have been.

The stakes for Ryan never really hit home either because the audience was only introduced to Jenny in this episode. While The Following did a good job giving an explanation to why Jenny and Ryan were incredibly close the full emotional impact was not realized due to her character just being introduced. What makes this entire plot so contrived and ultimately worthless is that Jenny seems like she could disappear for quite some time, if not forever, meaning all of the time setting up Ryan’s relationship with her through flashbacks were basically filler. The only truly relevant information coming from the flashbacks was the reason for Ryan breaking up with Claire as he wanted her to be able to move on from “the most horrific moment in her life,” despite his “love” for her. At the end of the episode Ryan rejects Claire’s attempts to feed him and rekindle some of their past.

The main bit of gossip on the farm happens to be Paul revealing to Emma that Jacob had never actually killed anyone before (despite the flashback where he tells his fake story to the group). This means Emma assigns the task of dispatching with Megan to Jacob in hopes of popping his murder cherry. Ultimately he can’t do it and he tries to let Megan run free but Emma and Paul recapture her and keep her alive in order for Jacob to get another chance at killing her. This helps Emma and Paul smooth their jealousy over as they connect through Megan’s recapture, ending in a few kisses and a clothed shower. The showering Emma and Paul immediately forgive Jacob, clearly shattered that he let Megan go, and they all embrace.

The wrinkle that Jacob has never killed anyone, the only member of the group who hasn’t, is intriguing. In a flashback Carroll is nonplussed by Jacob’s inability to kill and gives him some encouragement that he’ll do it when he’s ready. Because of this fact, Jacob’s reasons for wanting to join the group so fervently and his general backstory make him the most interesting follower of the bunch. Hopefully a slow reveal of his motivations and his initial desires to be a follower of Carroll will help flesh out his character.

Every week The Following continues to try and play up the typical beats of the serial killer horror genre. The settings for the unfulfilled kills of Megan and Jenny were meant to seem very creepy and moody but ultimately felt cliché. Likewise Paul’s nonchalance and “wit” towards Megan regarding her death seemed more trumped up than an actual character trait. Paul’s character was not pretending but instead this exchange was thrown in to make him seem crazier. Maggie’s monologues (aside from the aforementioned defense of her not following the plan) also felt forced in order for her to seem menacing.

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