Part II of my weekly ‘This Week In Horror’ column. For mini-recaps of ‘The Following,’ ‘Bates Motel,’ and ‘Hannibal,’ see Part I.
So. We have one show hitting its low, one show hitting its high, and one show choosing not to air itself for fear of making people upset.
What is so different between events on ‘Bates Motel’ spiraling out of control in a good way versus events on ‘The Following’ spiraling out of control in a bad way? There’s a fine line between brilliant chaos and just a chaotic mess.
‘The Following’ is filled with ineptitude on the part of the authorities, so shouldn’t one more act of ineptitude have been par for the course? To be fair, this is a show where there’s a cult of fifty plus homicidal maniacs wreaking havoc on the nation, responsible for the deaths of dozens of people, and yet the FBI repeatedly sends in one or two agents with no backup to apprehend suspects (usually unsuccessfully). As we witnessed this past week in real-life Boston, a mere two homicidal maniacs being responsible for the deaths of three people led to a city-wide lockdown, the mobilization of hundreds of police and the relatively swift apprehension (or deaths) of both suspects. The cult on ‘The Following,’ on the other hand, has remained at large for the better part of the season.
Perhaps it’s the real-world horror we as a country went through this past week that finally made incompetence of these fictional officers unbelievable. Why aren’t they doing more to protect their citizens? It’s as illogical as it is infuriating. Or, you know, perhaps it’s just a case of the straw that broke the camel’s back, and this was just one screw-up too many.
Conversely, the writers on ‘Bates Motel’ use increasing levels of chaos to tighten the screws on their characters, revealing as-yet-unseen depths to their psyches. As Norma’s world collapses around her and she finds herself uncharacteristically out of control of her own fate, she lashes out at the person closest to her: Norman. Their oedipal bond is no match for her desperation. Watching mother and son struggle viciously for control of her car as she raved over her boyfriend’s betrayal was both thrilling and heartbreaking. Seeing Dylan finally rise to the occasion and put his life at risk to protect his dysfunctional family was surprising and heroic. And Norma telling Dylan the truth about Norman killing his father was an unexpected revelation. These events gave the chaos in ‘Bates Motel’ a level of credulity that ‘The Following’ sorely lacked.
While ‘The Following’ and ‘Bates Motel’ were busy toeing the line of plausibility, ‘Hannibal’ was toeing a line of a different sort: the line between kid-on-kid violence (not acceptable for television) and skinning the flesh off rapists’ backs (acceptable for television).
I understand that certain topics may be more sensitive by nature than others, and I understand that there are many people in this country who may not want to watch an episode about children being murdered when the events of Sandy Hook are still so fresh in our memories. But is it really the job of a show about a cannibal to be “sensitive?” Aren’t there always going to be some people who are offended by any storyline you tackle? Shouldn’t we let audiences decide what is or isn’t too much by putting a disclaimer before the episode warning of its content? Isn’t seeing horrific real-life events reflected in the arts (however vaguely) an essential part of the healing process? After all, in the episode of ‘Hannibal’ that was aired, it wasn’t until Jack Crawford saw his own wife’s condition reflected in the horrific events he was witnessing that he could begin to repair his broken relationship with her. How interesting that they chose to cut an episode for being too horrifying, and replaced it with an episode that attempted to teach the viewer the potential value of witnessing horrific acts, and the growth that can stem from such experiences.
What did you think of this week in horror? Were you turned off by the cartoonish events of ‘The Following,’ or are you still along for the bloody ride? Did you find the twists of ‘Bates Motel’ compelling or are you hoping for more? Would you have wanted to see the cut episode of ‘Hannibal’ or do you think they made the right decision in skipping it? And which of these new terrifying shows do you think is the best? The scariest? Sound off in the comments!