This is an updated version of a post that first ran in April 2013.
Over its first season, The Following did more to tarnish the FBI’s reputation than any real-life sexting scandal ever could. As Kevin Bacon’s Ryan Hardy and his band of brain-dead officers hunted for a cult led by the country’s most notorious serial killer, they consistently made stupid decisions and refused to do that which was obvious and logical. But without that incompetence the show wouldn’t have made it this far. And now that it has returned for a second season, things are only going to get dumber. Here, in chronological order, are all the absurd law enforcement fails on this show so far. (Please, feel free to remind us of any we have left out.)
* The prison housing Joe Carroll fails to notice his unfettered Internet access, provided by a guard he took under his wing, which allows him to recruit followers with his “47 websites and over a thousand blogs.”
* Prison guards say bye to “Pete” at the end of work. But “Pete” is actually Carroll, who hacked up the real Pete and stole his uniform. No one notices.
* With police surrounding her house and stationed outside her bedroom door, Shannon from Lost is pulled into a neighboring apartment through a hole in the closet. Her kidnappers cruise away in their SUV. No one notices.
* Ryan Hardy shows up a minute too late to save her life.
* Police tasked with protecting Carroll’s son Joey and his ex-wife Claire are sedated by the boy’s nanny, who kidnaps him.
* The FBI figures out that Carroll was murder-mentor to the guard who helped him escape. That guard somehow sneaks into Claire’s house and nearly succeeds in killing her, but Hardy shows up at the last minute to rescue Claire in her death trap of a home, which police should have removed her from hours before.
“The Poet’s Fire”
* The FBI is duped by Maggie, the wife of a murderous member of Carroll’s cult. She convinces them she’s a good guy in need of police protection. Then she stabs an FBI agent in the neck as Hardy waits outside. He busts in a minute too late.
* After a critic who wrote a bad review of Carroll’s book is murdered, Hardy recalls that Carroll wants revenge on him, the critic, and a college dean who denied him tenure. Good FBI agents would rush to go protect said dean. For this crew, it’s time to get lunch while he’s murdered.
* Hardy and his new BFF, a pint-size agent named Mike, drive from Richmond, Virginia, to New York in an attempt to save Hardy’s sister, who is being held hostage. Why didn’t they fly? Does the FBI not own helicopters? That’s a five-hour-and-38-minute drive according to Google Maps, which doesn’t factor in pee breaks or stopping at outlet malls.
* Mini Mike skulks outside the restaurant as Hardy and his sister are tied up inside. Eventually he decides to go help. It’s a minute too late to prevent Ryan from getting tortured, but just in time to prevent death, so half successful.
* With the location of Joey narrowed down to white houses with black shutters in Dutchess County, the police set off to knock on the door of every white house with black shutters in Dutchess County. Efficiency is frowned upon.
* Everyone completely fails to notice that Carroll is blackmailing and manipulating his lawyer, whose fingers he’s already cut off, despite her obvious terror every time they’re in the same room.
* A couple of cops follow Claire as she goes out to a local restaurant to make sure she’s not murdered in her tomato bisque. Good! But then she pretends to go to the bathroom and sneaks out the back to meet up with a minion of her creepy ex. Bad!
* Small-town copper Lopez is sneaking around the house where Joey and his captors are holed up. When a creepy dude emerges from around the corner, Lopez pulls his gun and then stands there until creepy dude steals the weapon gun and shoots him. Once again, Hardy shows up a minute too late.
* Just a ton of law-enforcement officials show up and surround the house, where Hardy is being held captive. Still, Emma is able to escape with little Joey and isn’t even confronted until she gets to the woods, where two followers kill some SWAT team members and send her on her way.
* Hardy escapes, but a SWAT team runs into the house and gets gunned down.
* No one realizes that Officer Marsden is a follower even though it’s completely obvious to us the moment she first appears. She ends up shooting Mini Mike.
“Let Me Go”
* In the pilot, Hardy spent some quality time with Carroll in an interrogation room and broke his fingers. That comes back to bite him here, as prison officials agree that probably wasn’t legal and allow Carroll to be transferred almost immediately, which doesn’t seem like the most prudent decision.
* Turns out the warden was helping Carroll move prisons because a follower had kidnapped the warden’s daughter. Hardy and Mike eventually figure out Carroll’s plan, though they are naturally a minute too late to stop him from escaping. The pair traces him to a mall, where he gets away after Hardy reaches his helicopter … a minute too late.
* The FBI follows Carroll’s helicopter on radar. Until they lose track of it.
* Hardy and fellow FBI agent Nick Donovan sit calmly and watch Carroll’s follower David eat a suicide pill before they can extract any information.
* Roderick, another follower, is shown in 2004 visiting Carroll in prison and admitting that he actually committed a couple of murders that Carroll was charged with. Is anyone in a uniform interested in listening to the conversations of America’s most notorious serial killer?
* Just as a handful of followers are about to kill Mike, Hardy shows up and starts shooting. A few unimportant bad guys die, but the important ones evade the bullets and run to the SUV waiting for them. FBI agent Parker starts shooting at the car’s tires, which would have been more effective if she’d done it when no one was driving the thing. What week of FBI training covers disabling the getaway car? Week five?
* Donovan gives away Claire’s location in protective custody when he makes an encrypted phone call to the agent protecting her. Roderick “deciphered that encryption,” allowing him to figure out that she’s in Huntington County, Pennsylvania. The FBI is hacked, and it doesn’t look too hard.
* Two new followers use that information to track Claire down. Hardy saves her at the last second, but let’s go ahead and call it a failure to leave Claire in a public hotel, where apparently anyone with a machine gun can bust in and start shooting.
* Hardy hides Claire in the house of a friend who’s in witness protection. They soon figure out Claire has been tagged with some sort of tracking device, which tells them that followers are on the way. Do they then put the tracker in the garbage disposal so it’s harder to find them? Nope!
* Hardy’s friend in witness protection is shot because stupid Hardy decided to use his house as a hideout. Stupid. And then Claire is kidnapped because she’s stupid. Everyone’s stupid.
“Whips and Regret”
* The FBI cuts a deal with Haley, the head of an S&M club, to help them take down a follower. They even come up with a safe word so they can rescue her if she’s in danger. Then she yells the safe word, and they’re like, “Naw, let’s let her get kidnapped and see where this goes.”
* Hardy, Mini Mike, and Agent Parker chase down a lead without backup despite the fact that the number of times followers have gotten the jump on them could be the subject of its own article. Carroll and follower Jacob get the jump on them. These three deserve everything that happens to them.
* Mike recognizes Roderick, the very man who nearly killed him a few episodes ago, at the police station. He pulls his gun, but Roderick isn’t scared. He walks away, Mike chases him with gun drawn and a roomful of cops tackle the little fella. Roderick is free.
* State troopers stop Roderick at a road block. He gets out of the car and shoots them. He’s free again.
* Ryan steals the hat and jacket off a nameless, faceless FBI agent, puts them on Roderick, and smuggles him out of the police station through an unstaffed, unguarded door out of which any criminal could walk.
* Follower Jacob disappears into the woods and a whole army of cops can’t find any trace of him, even though the ground is covered in snow and Jacob presumably can’t fly.
* A young woman with that dead-eyed follower look comes to the police station and says she’s a follower. The cops hesitate, then they believe her, then she jumps on Nick’s back and stabs him in the eye.
“The End Is Near”
* Outside the police station, teeming with media, Joe sees a creepy guy and a creepy girl exchange furtive glances. This is when we know she’s bad. Ryan, however, watches idly as the girl quotes poetic nonsense to and then stabs a news reporter. This is when he knows she’s bad.
* In a town known to be teeming with crazed acolytes of a serial killer, no one bothers to cross reference the people in the evacuation center with the recently unearthed photos of people who visited Carroll in jail.
* Despite all the talk of road blocks, Joe & Co. drive to an escape boat, presumably on roads.
“The Final Chapter”
* Ryan finds out where Parker is buried. Time to rescue her, but first he must drive. No helicopter or radio call to someone closer. A federal agent moments from asphyxiation does not get those luxuries. Naturally, when Ryan arrives at Parker’s grave and digs her out, he’s too late.
* The police think Joe is dead because his body was floating in the water after the boathouse explosion that ended the first season. He’s alive. Not only was law enforcement deceived by the fake body with faked dental records, but they let the dangerous cult leader escape to freedom despite police blanketing Havenport.
* Despite having Carlos held hostage at the end of a gun, Ryan allows himself to get conked over the head. Carlos escapes.