Television, The Following, "The Poet's Fire"

What, they're not just going to title each episode a chapter number? Would make it so much easier for viewers to catch up if they fall behind.

Wow. The episode begins the way the previous ended: with people in Poe masks setting fire to a guy buying a hotdog. What we didn't see last week: the really terrible dramatic interp of "The Raven." I've judged UIL tourneys in which middle school students have done better.

Best line: when the FBI cult expert remarks that Carroll wants his followers to exact revenge on his critics, Hardy says, "Yeah, that could take a while."

Enter Rick, another "kill club" member. Apparently our flame-throwing Poe. He's told Carroll he wants his "chapter" to be about revenge. Namely, Rick wants to take revenge on Carroll's detractors (critics, the dean who denied Carroll tenure).

Also enter Rick's estranged wife, the FBI's only tenuous connection to Rick, and therefore others of Carroll's cult, and finally little Joey.

Still, the whole "it's all for you, Ryan Hardy" schtick is getting a bit wearing. The "I'm helping you write another book, Ryan" thing . . . It can only hold up for so long. It makes sense, of course: Carroll must be terribly irked that Hardy's book did well while his own "masterpiece" was panned and ended up in the remainders bin. And to think Hardy stood on Carroll's shoulders to reach such heights! So Carroll wants in on the next big thing, wants to write the story himself, even as he pretends he's just helping Hardy out. So yes, I "get" it. But the constant references to this metaphorical book make it less impressive and/or interesting.

Meanwhile, the upshot of The Following is mostly an abiding sense of frustration at how badly botched the case has been by the FBI. And how obnoxious the little teeny bopper cult members are. And how the real story here seems to be an extended kidnapping search. I really wish they'd just find the kid and get on with things. But if the whole story is going to be about finding the kid . . . Sigh. Didn't Ashley Judd already do that? And get cancelled?

I want to continue watching (and hopefully liking) this show. But some of the dynamics are going to have to shift for that to happen. What started out as very promising is beginning to slide down that slippery slope. I'll give it some leeway, since it's difficult to maintain truly high quality indefinitely. But there is a threshold. Dip below it too often, and you'll lose your audience.

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