The Following is a show that I’ve been excited about for some time now. If you aren’t familiar with it, Kevin Bacon plays Ryan Hardy, a retired FBI agent who is called back to the FBI to help investigate the prison escape of his greatest nemesis, Joe Carroll, played by Rome’s James Purefoy. Carroll is a former college professor and failed author awaiting execution for the murder of 14 young women. As Hardy starts to piece together the clues left behind he realizes that Carroll is not acting alone, but in fact is amassing his own cult of serial killers that are more than willing to do his bidding. One thing that really sticks out about the show are the boundaries that it’s pushing. There were some very dark themes and gruesome scenes in play here and I think its great that they are pushing the boundaries on what you can and can’t do on a network show, the tone of the show screams this should be on cable, and I think FOX is taking a wonderful risk in picking this show up in general.
I’m not a big Kevin Bacon fan by any means, but he brings grit to his character while maintaining his investigator’s edge. I found myself engrossed by Ryan’s insights into Carroll, things that the current FBI investigators just don’t understand about Carroll, while still managing to slosh down vodka during the day just to cope with the mess his life has become. At first I was thrown off by Bacon’s casting in this role, but after watching him for the first half I think he was the perfect choice. I love the anti-hero with an unstable mental fitness a la Max Payne, and though not as gritty as Payne, Bacon has the goods. Purefoy also delivers in his role as Carroll, who is charismatic to say the least, and I almost see glimpses of his Marc Antony from HBO’s Rome when he is at his best. All the other characters seem to be just filling roles at this point, though I’m sure they will be more fleshed out as the series progresses.
The two exceptions to this were Carroll’s ex-wife Claire, who also has a romantic past with Ryan, and Sarah, the victim who years ago was able to escape Carroll thanks to Ryan’s intervention. Though she ultimately doesn’t make it, her character and her escape are integral to explaining why Ryan is as messed up as he is. Through flashbacks we get a small glimpse of how each of these ladies has impacted our main character, and I loved that. Flashbacks were used prominently to fill us in on even the subtlest of back-story, and they were used quite well to help tighten up the story.
Now the idea of a serial killer cult seems ridiculous at first, and truly some of it is, like two killers who pretend to be gay lovers for three years just to get close to a victim, but it also serves to up the ante as well. Everyone is a suspect now; it’s impossible to know whom to trust because anyone can turn out to be a member of Carroll’s cult. I think that will be one of the biggest payoffs for the show as long as it steers clear of things like the fake gay couple. Judging from the preview for next week it seems that some of these killers will also become fleshed out characters as well, which will also help to avoid too much serial killer of the week nonsense.
Overall I really enjoyed the pilot and I can see this blossoming into a very rich show. The story and format were tight, the acting was quite good and I am looking forward to more of this show. Sure, you could make the obvious comparisons to Silence of the Lambs here, and maybe at its most basic root that is somewhat fair, but The Following is looking to deliver something more than just that basic good vs. evil story. The Following is trying to suck you into a world that is deeper where everything is not always as it seems, and that’s something that I can admire. Fair warning though, this show is not for those looking for happy endings where everything works out for everybody. Instead it’s looking to give you a glimpse at what a network TV show can be if we just give them some leeway. One last note, as a Burn Notice fan, there is room for only ONE Michael Weston on TV.
4 out of 5 nerds
Follow Christopher on Twitter @AUDone44 and The Nerd @nerdfollowing