After two so-so episodes, it looks like “The Following” might finally be showing some signs of hope. The Feb. 4 episode, called “The Poet’s Fire,” featured some interesting development in the characters that follow Carroll, which was not present during the first two episodes. There was also something in this episode that was surprisingly missing from the previous two: a sense of humor. Since this is kind of a satire on people’s worship of serial killers, and it was created by Kevin Williamson (“Scream”), it was weird to not see that latter part in either of the first two episodes. Williamson must have been trying to get his footing correct before going down that route.
The show still suffers from predictability, though, and the fact that “The Raven” is the most cited Edgar Allan Poe work by the killers. This episode opens with a street performer giving a dramatic reading of “The Raven” whilst wearing a Poe mask – the same one Hardy found in the house during last week’s episode. When the street performer sees someone he recognizes, he approaches the person, douses him in flammable liquid, and lights him on fire. The man behind the mask is named Rick, and he is a follower of Carroll’s. The person he set on fire was a literary critic, who gave the most scathing review to Carroll’s book, “The Gothic Sea.”
In flashback sequences, Rick visits Carroll in prison and says that he can’t see himself using knives to kill people; it makes him uncomfortable. His main thing is fire, and Carroll says it is OK for Rick to use fire as his method of killing people. The people Rick is targeting are those who destroyed Carroll’s professional career. First, it was the book critic. The next target is the Dean of Literature at the college where Carroll taught, who refused to give Carroll tenure. The third and final person is Hardy.
Hardy and the rest of the FBI agents discover that Rick is the person they’re going after next, and they start tracking him down. They find that Rick has an estranged wife named Maggie. Once they figure out where she lives, they go over to her house. When it appears empty at first, the detectives begin investigating. Maggie comes screaming out of a closet, trying to stab Ryan with a knife. It turns out that she and Rick have been separated for six months. She wanted a divorce, and he didn’t. According to her, Rick didn’t take that too lightly and stabbed her. Maggie fears that Rick might be coming back any moment and will harm her more. She goes with the detectives back to the headquarters.
Emma, Paul, and Jacob are still taking care of Joey, and Paul seems to be growing more and more jealous of Emma. He gets angered and decides to go for a drive, even though his face is all over the news, as are the faces of Emma and Jacob. He meets a cute girl named Megan, and the two begin to get a little frisky. She tells Paul that sex is out of the question, and Paul seems OK with that. However, he takes her head and bashes it into the car several times before taking her back to his hideout.
In flashbacks, the viewer is shown the first time that Paul and Jacob decided to go undercover as a gay couple. At first, they seem a little nervous about sharing a kiss, but they were able to get through it. As time progressed, Paul seemed to develop some serious feelings for Jacob, and it kind of seems like Jacob developed some for Paul, too. The one flashback just showed it briefly, but it didn’t indicate if it went further than that moment. That could be saved for another episode.
Maggie doesn’t give the FBI much information, and they don’t see her being too useful anymore. They send her home and have Agent Reilly as her escort. Hardy is ordered by Parker to get some sleep and sober up, while Mike is ordered to keep an eye on him. Without her knowledge, the two decide to stake out at Maggie’s house.
Parker goes to interrogate Jordy about the case. He is recovering from a gunshot wound sustained in last week’s episode, and there doesn’t seem to be anyone watching him. He tells Parker that Maggie is part of the cult, too, but the information doesn’t get to Reilly, Hardy, or Mike in time, and Maggie takes a knife to Reilly's neck. Reilly later succumbs to his injury.
In a flashback, we see Rick stabbing Maggie, but it turns out to be a practice session gone awry. Rick is trying to see how he can handle stabbing people, and he accidentally stabs Maggie a little too deeply. She was rushed to the hospital for her injury. Later in the episode, in present time, Rick makes his first kill with a knife by stabbing the professor who refused to give Carroll tenure.
Rick and Maggie meet up at the house. As Hardy looks for the two, he comes across Maggie by herself. She stops, but she keeps looking behind Hardy. When Rick comes from behind and tries to attack Hardy, he is taken down by Hardy’s gun. Maggie escapes. It’s unclear if that was the plan all along, or if that is just how it went down.
Back at the hospital, Jordy is still unsupervised. He takes a piece of his bandage and starts to unwind it with his mouth. He gets just enough in his mouth to choke himself to death.
The final scene shows Claire and Hardy watching a video that Claire received in an e-mail. This last part shows that “The Following” just might get much darker and more twisted as it progresses. The video shows Joey being taught by Emma and Jacob on how to kill. First comes a cockroach, and then comes a mouse. It will be interesting to see how Williamson and the rest of the crew take the series after leaving the viewer with one of the creepiest televised moments in recent memory – especially for a broadcast television show.
It’s unclear if “The Following” will overcome its cliches and predictability. The show has offered some surprises that keep the viewer interested, but it has yet to be determined if this will become a show that can continue past one season. There is still potential, and this third episode showed that it could possibly get better, but it looks like the viewer will have to wait and see if that will happen. It’s still not completely considered a “must see” series, but it is one worth giving a watch.
Grade for “The Poet’s Fire:” B+
“The Following,” which stars Kevin Bacon and James Purefoy, airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on Fox.
Click here to read a recap of the pilot episode.