A year has passed since the hit thriller’s season finale found rogue ex-FBI agent Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) finally capturing his nemesis Joe Carroll (James Purefoy). With Carroll locked up on Death Row and Hardy back with the FBI – and in a stable relationship with an ER doctor (Zuleikha Robinson) – new threats emerge that have Hardy, Mike Weston (Shawn Ashmore) and Hardy’s newly agented niece Max (Jessica Stroup) on edge and off balance. Unlike the known threat of Joe Carroll, each new danger is potentially more lethal because the FBI isn’t exactly sure where it’s coming from. But with psycho twin Mark Gray (Sam Underwood) still at large, Joe Carroll still haunting Ryan from behind bars, Carroll’s murderous mentor Dr. Arthur Strauss (Gregg Henry) in the background, and a new, meticulous chameleon-like killer (Michael Ealy) circling, Hardy soon realizes that Joe Carroll was only the beginning..
Watching 'The Following' over the past several seasons has been pretty frustrating as a viewer. It was one of those shows where it was blatantly obvious what needed to be done to make it a successful series, yet those behind the scenes kept tinkering with it – trying to make it more realistic, trying to make it less formulaic, trying anything and everything except what they should have been doing all along: just making it entertaining, and not worrying about how believable the plot might be. Sadly, this time around, they couldn't maintain the viewership to keep the series on the air and what was once a very promising show ends with Season 3.
While the showrunners' decisions this season had a lot to do with why they couldn't keep viewers interested, fans of the show themselves aren't totally absolved from blame. After the quite bloody (but quite fun) Season 1, there were a lot of complaints about how violent the show was and how stupidly some of the characters acted (something I was complicit in as part of review of the season as well). These, of course, were legitimate complaints, but also one of the reasons the series was so darn watchable week after week.
During Season 2, the showrunners made an effort early on to make their characters more realistic and to make the show a little less graphic, and the result was pretty dull television. It was probably at this point that the show lost enough viewers to warrant cancellation, but when your series has Kevin Bacon in the lead role, you want to do everything you can to give it a chance, which is most likely the main reason it was brought back for a third season. Sadly, the series just finds new ways to make the same mistakes all over again.
It's so obvious what makes/made 'The Following' appealing that I almost feel stupid repeating it, but it's this: having characters Ryan Hardy (Bacon) and Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) squaring off against each other – preferably together on screen at the same time. Yet, aside from Season 1, this series seemed afraid to show us what fans wanted to see the most (and even in the first season, the characters were rarely on screen together). Just like the beginning of Season 2, Carroll doesn't even show up this season until several episodes in and he's given very little to do. The highlight of Season 3 is an episode where Hardy and Carroll are in the same room together and just talk about the psychological effect they've had on one another, and it's one of the best scenes this series has to offer in any of its seasons…had the show been more about this than all the other distractions, it might still be on the air.
With Carroll safely behind bars this time around (he was captured at the end of last season), the first half of this season focuses on one of the surviving killers from Season 2, Mark (Sam Underwood),who has a vendetta against Hardy – and more particularly, Hardy's partner Mike Weston (Shawn Ashmore) – for killing his family. Then the show shifts focus to a new threat, a computer mastermind named Theo Noble (Michael Ealy), who was trained in the art of killing by the same man who had trained Carroll, Dr. Arthur Strauss (Gregg Henry). Theo is very much like Carroll in the way he's both intelligent and calculating, but he's no replacement for Purefoy in terms of on-screen acting, which makes one wonder why they just couldn't figure out a way to have Carroll be the main villain instead of Theo – again, probably not very realistic, but also probably what most fans really wanted to see.
There's also an interesting story thread this season about how all of Hardy's dealings with Carroll are impacting him to the point where he's concerned he might actually turn into a killer like Carroll. That's a fun idea, and one that is discussed in the scenes that Bacon has with Purefoy (both real meetings and ones that Hardy hallucinates and/or dreams about). But by the time the season wraps up, this concept has been forgotten, or at least watered-down to the point where it's no longer relevant. Once again, a missed opportunity by the showrunners.
Finally, there might be some of you out there wondering if Season 3 leaves viewers with an unresolved cliffhanger or if the show wraps up nicely in the final episode. Without giving away any spoilers, I'll say it's pretty much a mixed bag. While the series ends with the fates of most of the main characters known, there's also some ambiguity about what might be next for them – particularly the Ryan Hardy character. I won't say the ending is completely satisfying, but there's no 'huge' cliffhanger here that will leave you frustrated that the series will not be continuting.
Season 3 has a lot of problems, but there's still a good bit of entertaining television here, particularly if you've been following (pardon the pun) this series from the beginning. In retrospect, it's probably the least of the trio of seasons, but fans will want to make sure to check it out if only to get some closure with these characters.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
Unlike the first two season releases of 'The Following', this time around Warner Bros. is not including the DVD versions with the Blu-ray release. That means that this season comes in a standard Elite keepcase rather than the slightly larger keepcase that was used for prior releases. The first two 50GB dual-layer discs of the set are contained inside on an attached plastic hub, while the final disc is on a hub on the inside right of the cover. There are two inserts in the set – one containing a code for an UltraViolet digital copy of the season, and the other a single-fold list and synopsis of all the episodes and extras on this release. The keepcase slides inside a sturdy cardboard slipcase with artwork that matches that of the keepcase's slick.
There are no front-loaded trailers on any of the discs, whose main menu is of the standard Warners' design, featuring the still image seen on the box cover, with menu selections running horizontally along the bottom of the screen.
The Blu-rays in this release are region-free.
Like prior seasons of this series, each episode in Season 3 was shot digitally on Arri Alexa equipment and is presented in its original television aspect ratio of 1.78.1. Also, like prior season releases, this set provides viewers with a pretty pleasant viewing experience.
Keeping with the visual style of Seasons 1 and 2, the series often tries to use as much natural lighting as possible in many of its scenes. While this makes outdoor shots (particularly daytime ones) have some wonderful 'pop" to them, many of the indoor and set scenes look a little flat and occasionally have noise creeping in. The same can be said of darker and/or nighttime scenes where black levels do occasionally suffer from some crush. But when scenes get the right amount of lighting, they look great and the level of detail in both facial features and backgrounds is pretty amazing.
Once again, the series makes large use of the 'shaky cam' style of shooting, which can be distracting at times, as one can imagine how much better/aesthetically pleasing this series might be if they would just lock the cameras down. I detected no serious glitches in the image, such as aliasing or banding. I did rate this transfer slightly lower than the two previous seasons, but only because there seemed to be less outdoor action this time around, and hence more instances of flatness and minor noise creeping into the many indoor shots. However, viewers should rest assured that this release's video quality is more or less on par with the prior two seasons.
The featured track for each of the 15 episodes on this release are English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio ones that come across as pretty solid, if not quite spectacular. As you can imagine, there's a lot of gunplay and action spread across these entries, and the tracks provide some nice directionality and even a sense of immersiveness in some of the more active scenes. A big chunk of the episodes are also just characters talking to one another, and there's no issues with the dialogue, which is crisp and distinct, even if it's primarily all up-front.
The tracks also contain their fair share of ambient sounds to keep things interesting, although I didn't notice quite as much LFE use this season as I had in seasons' past – which, of course, have more to do with what's going on in the storyline than any fault of the audio. Everything here is nicely mixed, and I didn't detect any problematic glitches in any of the tracks (other than some occasional ADR, but that's probably a credit to the clearness of the lossless tracks that such looping is noticeable).
In addition to the English lossless tracks, audio is also available for each episode in Dolby Digital 2.0 in French and Spanish (Castilian). Subtitles are available in English SDH, French, Spanish (Castilian), Spanish (Latin), Dutch, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish.
It's a little frustrating that the cast and crew behind 'The Following' couldn't see the mistakes they kept repeating season after season, and this time around cancellation couldn't be avoided. While Season 3 isn't totally dismissible and certainly has its entertaining moments, it's probably something only loyal followers are going to want to catch up on. This one's for fans only.