By Joe Hadsall
Globe Features Editor
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Cable One and AMC figured out their contract dispute in time, so I didn't miss an episode of "The Walking Dead," and I read on Tuesday that the final season of "Breaking Bad" wrapped up shooting this week.
I will be glued to the TV next Sunday for the "Dead" finale, and will withhold all my thoughts about the current season until then. I might even organize something publicly and meet with a few fellow fans to break down the impending disaster. And that will tide me over until "Breaking Bad" starts this summer, and the next season of "Dead" resumes in the fall.
But that doesn't mean there's not decent TV on in between. Note that I said "decent," not great. I'm following two shows specifically -- "The Following" and "Revolution" -- and, while good, neither has risen to the level of quality that "Dead" hits during its bad, boring, Laurie-is-a-bad-mother, why-do-Rick-and-the-Governor-keep-talking-so-much, where-are-all-the-zombies-in-season-two episodes. I imagine that the first episode alone of "Breaking Bad" will outdrama and outintensify the entire season of "The Following."
Still, the shows aren't bad. Plenty of spoilers about the two shows follow, so beware:
A long time ago, an FBI agent puts a Poe-obsessed serial killer behind bars, writes a best-seller about him and sleeps with his wife. So, when killer Joe Carroll manages to escape, he exacts a slow form of revenge against agent Ryan Hardy. And part of Carroll's plan is to write his own book -- in the form of a bunch of new murders.
First off: There are a lot of murders. This show is downright messy.
We're 10 episodes into this series, and so far Carroll has demonstrated that he can maintain a network cult of fellow murderers, who help enact his master plan. He has been captured, escaped again and joined up with his followers in a mystery house. His lackeys have managed to kidnap his son and wife -- and proven surprisingly savvy at advanced criminal techniques. They count a sheriff among their numbers and have a lot of mercenary-like experts at their disposal -- enough to make the FBI look like bumbling idiots.
Their numbers are so prolific that it seems the entire country was full of Carrollites. Every episode's revelation of a new acolyte, prisoner or blackmail recipient got tiring pretty quick.
In spite of their proficiency at infiltrating law enforcement, the cultists are a hot mess. None more so than the characters of Emma, Jacob and Paul, a disturbing love triangle with a lot of romance and trust issues.
But Kevin Bacon, as Ryan, is pretty awesome, even when the actors around him are floundering. He plays Ryan with a great amount of emotional baggage, balanced with the apathy of someone who is just sick of all the crap.
And finally, the show is giving some victories to the good guys -- more so than the first seven episodes. Ryan and the FBI were able to take out several of Carroll's followers. One agent resisted torture and kept the location of Carroll's wife, Claire Matthews, secret. And in Monday's episode, agents were also able to deduce that they had been hacked by the cult early in the game, so that they had actual advance warning to move Matthews to safety.
One of Ryan's better moments happened at an outdoor masquerade festival. In pursuit of a cultist who had an innocent victim, Ryan is stopped by another cultist and holds her at gunpoint with the whole "stop or I'll shoot" bit. The cultist, a particularly annoying character named Louise, gets that smarmy eyebrow going and says, "I don't think you have the guts to ... " She's interrupted by Ryan shooting her dead. Nice.
Overall, the show's mystery is compelling enough. I'm watching because Ryan channels "24"'s Jack Bauer without the irritating exclamations. His character has real damage and real personality.
And the specifics of how Joe has worked so many people to his side are interesting and curious enough. The show has five more episodes this season and has been renewed for a second season. The big question: What will happen in the finale?
Will Carroll get away in a "The Killing" style bombshell, ticking off viewers? Or will he get got, leaving writers to think up a more improbable, messed-up cult story?
As long as Bacon signs on, I'm in.
On the same night but on a different channel, "Revolution" has started the second half of its first season.
In a nutshell, the power is off. Most of it, anyway. A few select smarties have these little silver things that provide enough power to fire up iPhones or rocket launchers -- you know, whatever is handy.
Charlotte Matheson, who watched her father get killed, rescues her brother from the captivity of the Monroe Militia and finds her mother is still alive. She is helped by her uncle, Miles Matheson, who turns out to be Monroe's former partner in wartime.
Charlotte's mom made an amplifier for one of the pendants, so now Monroe has two working helicopters and a notion of taking over the entire former U.S.
Back in September, I wrote about the show and its tendency to reveal way too much too quickly. I stuck with the show for two reasons: Giancarlo Esposito is awesome, and the plot slowed down with its meta crap and focused on the relationships of the characters and the lives they had before the power went out.
The season resumed Monday, and it kept up the same slow pace. The gang of rebels found a bigger group of rebels. Miles and Charlotte's mom stole a rocket launcher and a pendant from another guy, who is tied to a new bad guy named Randall, a creepy old spook who wants to help Monroe.
The rebels took out the two helicopters with one rocket -- more plausible in the show than it sounds -- and lost Charlie's brother to gunfire. Afterward, Charlotte's mom -- played by "Lost" alum Elizabeth Mitchell -- mourned the loss of her son, then carved a chunk of him open and pulled out a little blue blinky gadget.
So, I'm hooked for now. The story is moving at a good pace and isn't terrible. I'll keep watching.