The final fight between FBI agent Ryan Hardy and serial killer Joe Carroll

The saga of FBI agent Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) comes to an end in this third and final season of The Following. Fox’s show about a cult of serial killers has chewed through more plot twists in its three seasons than most shows get through in eight seasons. Season three changes focus as cult leader Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) was captured in season two. Joe is biding his time in a maximum-security prison in season three, waiting for his scheduled execution. A new threat arises in season three to Ryan and his team of FBI agents, a killer more devious than Joe Carroll.

The Following has always had a highly serialized narrative. Its main strength was avoiding formulaic procedural action by replacing it with a sense of over-the-top twists and suspense. Season three picks up from the fall-out left behind at the end of season two. Lunatic killer Joe Carroll, Ryan Hardy’s nemesis, has been captured and waiting execution. Agents Mike Weston (Shawn Ashmore) and Maxine “Max” Hardy (Jessica Stroup) continue to hunt for killers Dr. Arthur Strauss and Mark Gray, former associates of Joe Carroll.

The on and off-again relationship between Mike and Max is a recurring element of this season. Aside from Ryan’s strained relationships with various women, The Following has avoided spending much time on domestic drama in the past. Season three sees more of it as Ryan strikes up a new, healthy relationship with a doctor, Gwen (Zuleikha Robinson). Can Ryan hold on to this relationship before his duties as a FBI agent and the toll it takes threatens everything he loves?

Replacing Joe as the show’s main villain is a new serial killer, Theo Noble (Michael Ealy). A disciple of Dr. Strauss, the killer that taught Joe Carroll everything he knows on killing, Theo is a different kind of serial killer than what we’ve seen before. He’s a computer genius with incredible hacking skills. Theo has used his abilities to create several false personas, living a completely normal life during the day. To his credit, Ealy invests the role with a quiet sense of charisma and intelligence. Theo is a calculated, rigorous serial killer that prefers to remain in the shadows, unlike the brash Joe Carroll.

Joe Carroll is still around most of the season, causing mayhem in prison. James Purefoy continues to chew the scenery as Carroll. He seems to relish playing the maniacal, self-absorbed serial killer. Kevin Bacon turns in another tortured, anguished performance as Ryan Hardy. Much of season three examines the psychological toll his hunt for Joe Carroll has caused over the years. Carroll believes he’s finally gotten inside the head of Ryan Hardy and the killer may be right.

The writers keep springing surprises at regular intervals, but the formula has grown stale.

Season three repeats the high-stakes drama and action of earlier seasons. What has changed is less focus on Joe’s cult of serial killers that follow his every word. The narrative focus definitely shifts to Theo, a killer that prefers working alone. Gone are the teams of killers waiting to pop up at every turn. Maybe I’ve grown bored of this show’s formula but season three felt more predictable than prior seasons. The writers keep springing surprises and shocking deaths at regular intervals like in the prior two seasons, but the formula has grown stale. A crisp performance by Michael Ealy as the new addition to the cast can’t save season three. I grew bored with it by season’s end.

Fox canceled The Following midway through season three when ratings took a severe hit. The fifteen episodes wrapped most of the season’s continuing story-lines by the finale, though it ends in a way that could have easily been carried over to another season. If you have been watching since season one, this season is probably worth it to see the ultimate fates of Joe Carroll and Ryan Hardy. It appears the producers ran out of ideas by season’s end, which makes it a good thing Fox didn’t drag the show on for another season.


The Following Season Three Blu-ray screen shot 2

The fifteen episodes of season three are included on three BD-50s. The Following has always had a gritty aesthetic for network television, softer and less colorful than most TV fare. WB replicates the broadcast presentation with a flawless transfer, retaining the native 1.78:1 aspect ratio in 1080P video. Some might complain about the AVC video encode, averaging under 15 Mbps per episode. That compromise doesn’t significantly impact the video quality outside of a few moments. Some stray compression artifacts are introduced and detail is generally underwhelming for a new production.

The gritty texture is maddeningly inconsistent from scene to scene. Most exteriors and some interiors have solid definition and fine detail. The color palette always remains somewhat limited but isn’t overly darkened. The night scenes are cloaked in much rougher clarity with their reduced shadow delineation and heavier grain. It is a rough aesthetic that reduces picture quality. This inconsistency usually doesn’t interfere with the video’s steady contrast and black levels.

The Following has never really looked like anything else on network television. That conscious aesthetic choice reduces its video quality on Blu-ray. This is ordinary Hi-Def video with average definition and sparing moments of better clarity.

Video ★★★☆☆

The 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack is an excellent effort for a television show. This is a show built on action as much as anything else, and its sound design definitely delivers an immersive, high-impact experience. The lossless soundtrack provides thump when necessary and some fairly convincing surround elements, including gunshots and startling noises. This is not a theatrical soundtrack in terms of sound design but on par with other action shows from network television.

French and Spanish dubs are provided in 2.0 Dolby Digital at 192 kbps. The following subs display in a white font: English SDH, French, Spanish (Latin), Dutch, Spanish, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish, and Spanish.

Audio ★★★★☆

WB goes all out for this final season, loading it up with more special features than most shows receive. An UltraViolet copy is include which can be redeemed on VUDU or Flixster, for the entire season in HDX. It comes housed in a slipcase and includes a handy episode guide. Be warned, the episode guide does have spoilers. WB has dropped the DVDs that came with prior seasons.

This is a strong batch of special features, including a short spoof that features cameos by Dean Winters and Kyra Sedgewick, Bacon’s wife.

When Heroes Lie (09:33 in HD) – Kevin Bacon, Shawn Ashmore and Jessica Stroup explore the darker side of their characters’ heroism in this featurette. We get a lot from Stroup on her characters’ relationship with Mike in this piece and everyone is fairly thoughtful discussing the events of season three and their path to this point.

Evil Has Many Faces (10:44 in HD) – Decode the personification of evil in Joe Carroll, Mark Gray and Theo Noble with the actors that play them. The one glaring absence from this featurette is James Purefoy.

The Art of the Crime Scene Photo (04:15 in HD) – Producer Marcos Siega talks about the impact of real crime scene photos in this shockingly graphic, gruesome featurette. This is not for the faint of heart.

Ryan and Romance (02:02 in HD) – Kevin Bacon recaps the women in Ryan’s life over the series.

The Following: Funny and Die (08:04 in HD) – A cute parody with Kevin Bacon and Dean Winters as they spoof the show in this short.

New York Comic Con Panel 2014 (28:34 in HD) – Kevin Bacon, Shawn Ashmore and Marcos Siega talk to fans about the upcoming season three. Given the limited number of cast members, this was less jovial than most cast panels I’ve seen for other shows.

Gag Reel (04:21 in HD) – Bloopers and other flubs.

Unaired Scenes (All in HD) – Eight of the season’s fifteen episodes have brief unaired scenes. They play separately from the related episode, which makes them much less useful to fans. Most are lightweight extensions that were properly cut for time.

Extras ★★★★☆

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.


Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.

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