The Following started out by swapping 24’s terrorists for serial killers. It borrowed 24’s always on the go and over the edge lead, some of its style and its messy plots. And like 24 it worked. Unlike 24, it worked because of the characters.
Season 2 of The Following is just a mess. Joe Carroll’s Arkansas retreat was a ridiculous plot. There was nothing in his character that suggested he was religiously prone. All those episodes were out of character.
But that’s nothing compared to Ryan Hardy who is determined to catch Caroll and a new cult of serial killers on his own with only the help of his annoying niece whom everyone knows is either a walking corpse or a hidden cultist.
24 always had Jack Bauer go rogue in every season on the flimsiest of premises. The premise here is really flimsy even if you believe Ryan’s claim that he wants to personally kill Joe Caroll. Even though the show puts him ahead of the FBI, and this is a fictional FBI that can call up cameras everywhere in seconds, Ryan isn’t just incompetent, he doesn’t have a purpose.
In Reflections, the last episode, he tails a member of the cult, and then instead of following her back to the mansion, he abducts her at gunpoint and tries to get her to talk. By the end of the episode, he breaks into a woman’s home and instead of identifying himself as a Federal agent, something he was until recently, he blindfolds her and acts like an escaped bank robber.
None of that makes much sense.
In only a few episodes, Ryan has interrogated two cult members at gunpoint and let them both escape. Neither of them led him anywhere. He stumbles from one encounter to the next more from luck than skill.
And the whole rogue thing never made any sense. Even if he wanted to kill Joe, he would have more luck getting close to him by using the FBI than by building a wall of clippings.
The Following Season 1 worked because it was a duel between two relentless and competent men taking place in a metafictional content with new surprises always popping up. The Following Season 2 looks fantastic for being shot in New York locations that it makes excellent use of, but has reduced Ryan and Joe to unstable clowns rambling through a slow moving plot at whose center are two obnoxious twin serial killers and not much else.