Emma Lives!

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I swear I heard TV Guide’s Damian Holbrook utter the word “atonement” during The Following panel he moderated at this year’s New York Comic Con. I have to swear because the mention was so brief and the notion never really picked up.

Kevin Bacon did sort of say something about the personal consequences his character, Ryan Hardy, and Shawn Ashmore’s character, Mike Weston, cope with when they kill one of Joe Carroll’s followers. Where Joe and his followers seem unfazed by the lives they take, Ryan and Mike engage in a spiritual struggle to keep killing a hard personal choice.

I have to thank whoever did the programming at ReedPOP this year for scheduling some really fantastic panels on the last day of this year’s New York Comic Con (NYCC). Work out-of-town kept me from attending most of this year’s Comic Con. I got back Saturday night with minimal expectations about the last day of the Comic Con, so you can imagine my excitement when I learned The Following, Gotham, and Sleepy Hollow all had panels on Sunday. Sunday was Fox Day at the New York Comic Con. I couldn’t get into the Gotham panel but The Following panel before it and the Sleepy Hollow panel after it made up for it. Kudos to ReedPOP for the wristbands. I didn’t have to wait outside the panel room for an hour just to be turned away.

Because of ReedPop’s excellent scheduling,I was able to spend my Sunday morning with Damian Holbrook, TV Guide Magazine Senior Writer, Marcos Siega, The Following’s Executive Producer, Kevin Bacon, who plays former FBI Agent Ryan Hardy, and Shawn Ashmore, who plays Agent Mike Weston. Ben Kendrick at Screen Rant provides a well organized take away list from the panel, so I won’t. However, I will say that I am eager to see how a show about a cult of serial killers manages to tell its story without the “stabby stabby.”

I’m assuming the show is going to replace the physical stabby stabby with darker psychological stabby stabby. Kevin Bacon commented on Ryan Hardy’s descent into a deeper spiritual darkness going from Season One to Season Two. The trailer in Season Three makes it seem like with the capture of Joe Carroll and the final dissolution of his relationship with Claire, his former lover and Joe’s former wife, Ryan’s darkness has dissipated. Ryan is merrily toasting the future in the Season Three teaser clip they played.

It’s Mike Weston that’s portrayed as the new Ahab, chasing Mark Gray across the globe. The events in Season Two effectively portrayed Mike’s deepening dive into his dark side. Season Three hints at an investigation into the “unorthodox” methods Ryan and Mike used to obtain their information. I forget where I saw it or read it but recently I came across dialogue where a villain proclaims his superiority because he is unbound, where the hero is stifled by the tethers of morality and social duty. This fits the deeper psychological and spiritual darknesses that The Following is poised to explore through Mike in Season Three. Will he choose to continue to wear the collar of morality he wore in Season One or will he sink past his transgressions in Season Two and become as uninhibited as Mark.

Much to Kevin Bacon’s dismay, Marcos Siega let it slip that Mark’s savior at the end of Season Two is a woman — though not blond (he insisted). Emma was my first pick as his savior despite the show’s insistence that she is dead. Who is Joe Carroll without Emma? She’s his muse. Her intervention brought him from mere serial killer to celebrity cult leader. Her relationship with Joe was among the highlights of Season Two, as she went from fawning Joe Carroll fangirl to dutiful partner, worrying about his welfare and their future like the patient girlfriend of a man-child who flits from one shiny object to another. Despite the press, I’m hanging on to the belief that Emma’s death is the show’s best kept secret and somewhere in Season Three — maybe Season Four — she’ll pop up to the shock and delight of “followers” and fans alike.

I like The Following but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been confused and a little disappointed by their narrative decisions. I felt the end of Season One was a little too hokey for this day and age. It was OK with the narrative device of Joe’s demise but wanted some symbolism. It worked as setup for a second season — Joe Carroll Lives! — but didn’t work as a satisfying end to the first season, which should have been it’s primary purpose.

I wanted Season Two to be the battle of serial killers. Joe found fame in Season One. He hid from it in the beginning of Season Two. Then he came out of hiding. I wanted to see him fight to regain his fame as a new crop of serial killers chipped away at his infamy. I wanted a clash of serial killers and cult leaders: Joe Carroll versus the Murder Twins versus Micah and his Korban Cult versus the Church. Season Two wasted a lot of potentially interesting characters like Kingston Tanner and Mandy by simply killing them off.

Seasons One and Two are streaming on Netflix now. I’m looking forward to Season Three but am hoping they are a little more frugal with dispensing their characters and more mindful of concluding the various plots and subplots.

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