By Evangeline Jennings
I almost gave up on House of Cards after the threesome scene towards the end of the eleventh episode. Not because it was out of character – way too risky – for Lord and Lady Macbeth but because it was a deliberate and overt statement about their always increasing levels of depravity and corruption. Especially when juxtaposed – as it was – against the more explicit red hot Rachel-on-Lisa action that followed immediately after.
Girl-on-girl, the writers were saying, is exciting and voyeur-worthy, but the Veep and his wife sharing their bullet-catcher? A man kissing a man kissing a woman? That’s just plain wrong. Unnatural. How much worse can these people get?
Being shy and retiring, I’m not sure what sexual buzzword defines whatever that was between Francis, Claire, and Edward Meechum*, but I’m absolutely sure that ascribing a “controversial” sexuality to Francis and Claire was intended to say ‘Look, these people are even corrupt and wrong in bed’. Which is, in fact, an attack on everyone who shares that sexuality.
Using sexuality as a measure of character is plain wrong. Portraying lesbianism as glamorous soft porn in direct contrast to the Veep’s character-defining bisexuality is also wrong. I would say that episode left me with a bad taste in my mouth, but I know exactly what joke you’d be tempted to make.
So. Yeah. I might have given up on House of Cards, but the next show I watched was The Following. And that reminded me why I need television as generally deep and satisfying as True Detective and House of Cards.
It’s unfair to make my dissatisfaction with network TV all about The Following, but not very unfair. Because what started last year as a show with real potential has become as camp as a field full of tents and after the laughable lie it told us about Joe Carroll’s death has become so ridiculous we’ve started a Following drinking game. Oh yes.
We play with tequila slammers and drink once for every time:
- Ryan Hardy demonstrates that he is a Damaged Good Guy. Usually by pulling a straining-bowel face to demonstrate inner turmoil but also by ranting or doing something unspeakably stupid.
- Ryan Hardy minces through a building with his gun held up by his eye.
- Ryan Hardy’s tricksy heart plays up at just the worst time. To be fair this hasn’t happened yet, but we all know it will. And when it does we’ll be drinking big.
- Ryan Hardy is foiled by an apparently defeated bad guy.
- Someone in Law Enforcement who isn’t Ryan Hardy does something Ryan Hardy-level stupid. Like going down into the basement all alone in direct contravention of orders.
- The FBI tells Ryan off for interfering in the investigation, but lets him go again anyway because – face it – they’re really shit at this serial killers lark and need all the damaged good guy help they can get.
- Joe Carroll appears on screen. That’s all. He doesn’t have to do anything except be Joe Carroll. James Purefoy is basically playing him as a pantomime dame who once saw Silence of the Lambs at the midnight show. He’s behind you, Clarice.
- A character dies midway through an unfulfilled arc. See, for example, FBI Agent Debra Parker, whose parental and culty issues were never resolved. See also Giselle. I mean, who the fuck was she? The most one-dimensional character in TV history? And wasn’t it obvious to everyone that Emma should have killed her?
- There’s a ridiculous twist. If you called it before it happened, you can drink twice or not at all, according to taste.
The only character I even like in The Following is Mad Emma. There’s something magnetic and truly damaged in Valorie Curry’s performance – no matter how bad her lines. If they kill Emma off, that’s when I’ll stop watching. In my pretty fucking far from humble opinion, the best thing they could do with The Following is finally let Ryan and Joe get a room together, and then have Emma slaughter them both. Without its two stars, it could be a much better show.
I’d also like to see a web-only spin-off in which Emma’s hair and Joe’s beard run off together and murder their way across the USA.
*I say “whatever it was” for a reason. It wasn’t entirely clear if Claire joined Frank and Edward in bed or if she merely conspired at their union and gave it her blessing.