Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) finds himself in the wake of a horrific new murder spree. The FBI calls on Ryan and Agent Mike Weston (Shawn Ashmore) to speak with the lone survivor, Lily Gray (Connie Nielsen), in order to help them solve the case. Ryan is reluctant to re-engage with the FBI, but finds a valuable ally in his niece, Max Hardy (Jessica Stroup), an NYPD cop working in the Intel Division. As the investigation proceeds, Ryan crosses paths with several complicated individuals, including Luke (Sam Underwood) and Mandy Lang (Tiffany Boone), which furthers his suspicion that the reign of terror of serial killer Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) and his follower, Emma Hill, (Valorie Curry) is far from over.
Ask anyone who sat through all of Season One of 'The Following', and they'll no doubt tell you just how frustrating the series could be. While it certainly had its moments of both entertainment and terror, the characters were consistently making stupid decisions just to serve the plot, rather than having any logic behind them. From the get-go, Season Two seems determined not to make those mistakes again…and, surprisingly, the series gets kind of dull for a while. Later on, the show goes back to just being crazy-fun again, and things get a whole lot better. Take that as a lesson learned. 'The Following' just isn't that good unless it's willing to throw plausibility out the window.
Season Two of the series picks up right where Season One ended – resolving the cliffhanger that closed out last season. Once viewers have learned everyone's fate, the storyline jumps ahead a year in time. Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) is now a recovering alcoholic attending AA meetings and he's also teaching at a local college in New York City, asking his students to pick out clues in crime scene photos. Season Two also introduces us to a brand-new character, Ryan's niece Max (Jessica Stroup), who is a detective for the NYPD and winds up making goo-goo eyes at Ryan's former parter, Mike Weston (Shawn Ashmore) for much of the season (and the feeling appears to be mutual).
We're not far into Season Two before another cult-like killing takes place – this time by a pair of guys wearing masks of Joe Carroll (James Purefoy), the notorious – and believed deceased – serial killer that Ryan spent most of Season One tracking down. Viewers soon learn that the killers are a pair of twins (both played by Sam Underwood) who will become two of the main antagonists this season. To say any more about them or their backgrounds would be giving too much away.
Of course, it is perhaps no surprise that Joe Carroll is still very much alive, as is one of his top 'Followers', Emma (Valorie Curry). Joe has grown a beard, changed his identity, and moved in with a family, but it isn't long before the urge to kill is too large to resist. Which brings me to one of the biggest issues I had with Season Two of 'The Following'. For those who remember Season One, Joe Carroll was a former college professor who was obsessed with the works of Edgar Allan Poe. All of his murders connected in some way to Poe's writings, and the delusion that Joe had that he could write works just as meaningful. This year, the showrunners decide to abandon the Poe concept completely and turn Joe into just another standard serial killer. We're told it's because Joe realizes that he's not the writer he thought he was, so he tries to devise a new game plan for himself. While this certainly does make Season Two much different than Season One, it also makes Joe a much less believable sociopath, as serial killers very rarely change their modus operandi.
So, now that Joe needs new 'Followers' to help him kill, he and Emma join a cult run by the charismatic Micah (Jake Weber). At first, it looks like Joe is willing to play second fiddle to the cult leader, but we soon realize it's all part of a plot to turn Micah's followers into his own. It's not long before Joe has a whole new group of loyal people and, as for the ones who don't want to follow Joe…well, you can probably guess what happens with them.
While Season Two is very different in style than Season One, it makes many of the same mistakes – the most important one being that it spends far too many of its 15 episodes separating the characters of Ryan Hardy and Joe Carroll on screen. If we've learned anything from two seasons of this show, it's that 'The Following' really clicks when Kevin Bacon and James Purefoy share the screen together. Thankfully, the writers figure out a way to put these two together in the last couple of episodes in a story twist that may not be all that plausible, but certainly makes the ending to Season Two devilish fun to watch.
There are still big lags as the season unfolds, however, and while I still recommend picking up Season Two, I'm sorry to report that it's not much better than Season One, and arguably a little worse. The main reason you'll want to add this to your library is because of Bacon and Purefoy, who are often much better than the material they've been given. Shawn Ashmore – who I haven't talked much about here, but whose character goes through some significant developments this season – also does a great job, and if you liked his character last season, you'll be happy to hear he gets much more screen time and attention in Season Two.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
Season Two of 'The Following' slashes its way onto home video in a Blu-ray/DVD/UltraViolet combo pack that houses seven discs (three 50-GB dual-layer Blu-rays and four dual-layer DVDs) in an oversized Elite keepcase, with three plastic hubs to hold all but the fourth DVD, which is placed on the inside right of the case. An insert with the code for the UltraViolet version is included, along with a tri-fold that lists all the contents of each disc, along with a brief synopsis of each episode. The keepcase slides inside a cardboard sleeve, whose front and back cover match that of the keepcase slick (with the exception of a UltraViolet banner on the back cover that doesn't appear on the slick).
Neither the Blu-rays nor the DVDs are front-loaded with any trailers or advertisements, just the standard WB logo before going to the main menu, which is another standard-looking Warners menu with a still image (the same as on the box cover) and selections along the bottom of the screen. One of my biggest peeves about the menu on each Blu-ray is that it lists all the episodes and all the bonus features on the set, rather than just those on the disc you happen to be viewing. The DVDs, on the other hand, only list what is available on that specific disc. The DVDs, by the way, are also available in their own stand-alone release, minus the Blu-rays and UltraViolet code. There is, however, no stand-alone Blu-ray release.
The Blu-rays in this set are region-free.
The video quality of Season Two is pretty much identical to what viewers were treated with in the first season. Once again, the season has been shot using Arri Alexa HD cameras, and once again everything is shot in and around New York City. While details are impressive throughout, the transfer falls just short of reference quality thanks again to the fact that the showrunners insist on using mostly natural lighting in the majority of scenes, which means that many indoor and nighttime shots are a little darker than they would be with proper lighting. The ol' handheld (i.e., "shaky-cam") process is on full display here as well, to the point of annoyance at times. If you're the kind of person who gets a little queasy when watching programs with this shooting style, you may want to bring a vomit bag to your viewing of Season Two. The series also continues its obsession with really close-up shots of the actors' faces. This does show how much detail can be made out in the HD transfer, but it's also a shame that with such great locations, the directors didn't take better advantage of their surroundings.
While detail is great throughout, black levels once again suffer a bit due to the series' intentional use of dark and dimly lit sequences. So while Season Two suffers from crush the same way Season One did, almost all of it is intentional by the show's creators and not the fault of this transfer. They want us to get lost in the darkness along with the characters, so I didn't take points off my video score because of this fact.
Other than those caveats, this is an excellent transfer of the series. I didn't pick up on any noticeable instances of aliasing, banding, haloing or the like, and both contrast and overall color (including skin tones) are consistent throughout (both within the episodes and from episode to episode).
The primary audio track for each episode is an English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track that is really enjoyable for a television series. Dialogue is crisp and clear throughout, and there's ample use of both LFE as well as ambient noises in each and every episode. The rears are fairly active as well, with some nice moments of directionality that give listeners an immersive feel. Balance is well done and there's no evident glitches in any of the tracks that I could detect. While the audio isn't quite one that I'd rank as reference quality, it's pretty darn close.
In addition to the lossless English track, Warners has also provided both French and Spanish 2.0 Dolby Digital for each episode, as well as subtitle options in English SDH, Spanish (Castilian), Spanish (Latin), French, Dutch, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish.
If you enjoyed Season One of 'The Following', chances are good you'll enjoy Season Two as well. Although it tries to be different in Season Two, the series winds up making many of the same pacing problems and leaps of logic that the first season had. Still, there's no denying the appeal of leads Kevin Bacon and James Purefoy, who always seem to transcend the sometimes sloppily written material. 'The Following' still is far from a great TV series, but there's enough enjoyment to be had here that this set is still worth adding to one's collection. Recommended.