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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Following 1.9: All in a Name, or Metaphor in the Service of Murder

You've got to hand it to The Following.  In addition to being one of the slickest, sickest shows about serial killers ever on television - which is to say, quite good, excellent, if you like this sort of theme in your fiction - The Following also gets the highest marks for sheer creativity in the kind of killings that Joe and his following dish out every week.

In episode 1.9 on last night, it's any woman in a given area with the same name as Joe's wife - Claire Matthews - who becomes the victim.  Why?  Joe's way of punishing Ryan, who slept with Claire.   I have to admire that kind of ingenuity in coming up with insane reasons to kill.

And the show continues to plumb the dark machinery of the arch pyscho Joe and his followers.  When one of them, bent on killing a Claire Matthews, is challenged by Ryan's point that she's not the Claire Matthews who is the inspiration of this chapter in Joe's murders, the psycho follower chides and proclaims to Ryan that this Claire Matthews is "a metaphor" for Joe's wife.  So in addition to these brutally bizarre killings, The Following enlists literary theory in its arsenal.   Which is well motivated, seeing as how Joe is a professor of English and a devotee of Poe.   Or, to paraphrase the poet Robert Browning, one's murderous reach must exceed one's grasp, or what's a meta for?

Joe's machinery is, of course, the darkest and most complex of all.  At the root of it is the deep satisfaction he gets from being party, direct or indirect,  to a killing.   But closer to the surface, we see him serving as a sensitive, responsive, helpful mentor to the troubled souls who come to him for guidance.   It's this mix of insanity and compassion that make The Following so compelling.

In addition, we're treated to an every changing variety of psycho followers in every episode.  In this sense, The Following is like Criminal Minds on speed, or compressed, or - again, if you like this sort of crime and horror - a big step forward and much better.

See also The Following Begins ... The Following 1.2: Joe, Poe, and the Plan ... The Following 1.3: Bug in the Sun ... The Following 1.4: Off the Leash ... The Following 1.5:  The Lawyer and the Swap ... The Following 1.7: At Large

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