Posted by: Beatrice Blythe on Jan 23, 2013
A while ago my sister and I decided that Kevin Bacon is awesome enough that he doesn't need his first name anymore. We refer to him simply as "Bacon". Like "Madonna" or "Sting". Needless to say, I was delighted to see that he'd been tapped to be a dramatic leading man, on broadcast TV no less!
FOX's The Following was advertised and hyped nigh unto death with interviews, making of featurettes, and wall to wall commercials. Honestly, I didn't need all of that. They had me at Bacon. Oh, and at James Purefoy. I love me some Purefoy. A lot of folks will recognize him from ... a bunch of random stuff. I remember him from various wonderful costume-drama-ish things he's been in over the years. In The Following he is our villain.
As far as villains go, I have to admit that Purefoy's Joe Carroll is a little cheesy. He is a literature professor who reeled his students in with his charismatic and convincing lectures and went on a killing spree 8 years before our pilot begins. He is a bit terrifying. But his literature idol? Edgar Allen Poe. *Yawn* Prepare for a plethora of Lighthouse and Raven references. They just can't be escaped, alas.
Kevin Bacon plays Ryan Hardy, the FBI agent who studied Carroll and eventually caught him only AFTER Carroll killed a whole lot of people. (14 or something?) Both men end up being rather obsessed with one another when all is said and done. Hardy eventually publishes a book about Carroll and the case itself.
8 years later, our pilot begins with Carroll escaping from prison in an extremely violent encounter. I soon discovered that most of Carroll's encounters are extremely violent. (One of the draws of this show is that it definitely pushes the boundary between what can and cannot be shown on broadcast TV. This ain't no cable show, but the blood flows rather freely.)
As Carroll escapes, we catch up with our hero, Ryan Hardy. No longer an FBI agent, he's a bit washed up and broken, which means he carries around a water bottle full of vodka. The FBI bullies him into coming in as a consultant to help them catch Carroll, who is now most definitely on the loose. Again.
Before you say "Wow. Sounds familiar. FBI. Serial Killer. Wake me up when it's over", don't forget the entire premise of this show. This particular serial killer possesses a personality so charismatic and culty that he has a veritable army of minions who are out to do his bidding. Throughout the pilot episode these folks turn up in a variety of truly alarming places. I was taken by surprise a few times to find out which people turned out to be part of Carroll's following. *shiver* Whereas Carroll himself is kind of corny in his literary symbolic crimes, his 'followers' are terrifying simply because we never know who they are until it's WAY too late. It gives Carroll an omnipotence that, while unrealistic, is deliciously scary. Well played, writers. Very well played.
In The Following I see potential for a good nail-biter of a drama. Bacon plays the broken hero role a bit understated, with glimpses of Hardy's obsession with this case popping up every now and then. Purefoy is perfect in the charismatic professor flashbacks and also in the present day full blown serial killer scenes. I have issues with a couple of the other FBI agents, but I hope that they will get less annoying as time goes on.
Be warned: This show is rife with disturbing images. I've heard some folks say that Criminal Minds gives them nightmares. If that's the case for you, I would pass on this one. In the pilot episode no less than 6 people die in completely horrifying ways. And yes, one or two of them were folks I was already attached to. Believe me, I've learned my lesson.
All that aside, I think the most promising thing about this show is that FOX will show fourteen straight weeks of episodes without a gap, at which point I imagine they will wrap the first season. Even if the show gets the axe at the end of this run, we'll at least be left with a nice tidy mini-series to watch on Netflix during chilly nights when we're craving Bacon. (Yes, I WENT THERE!)
The Following airs Monday nights on FOX at 9/8c.