A man murders 6 guards in under 2 minutes at the penitentiary he was held at, just 2 months before his scheduled execution. He casually drives out of prison in a guard’s uniform because that’s the kind of badass that we ought to believe he is. And Kevin Bacon is the guy to track him down.
So should you watch The Following?
This show is an intense affair, I’ll give it that. It bangs out the action like a major shot of adrenaline to the chest. There’s hardly a quiet moment to really explore the kind of man Ryan Hardy, Kevin Bacon’s character, is, but it’s understandable because it seems like they want to punch the viewer out with all the smartness a bestselling psychological book thriller can offer a person while they still can. (You never know with networks nowadays.) We’re talking flashbacks to thoroughly bloodied crime scenes, hardcore mindgames, nerve-wracking situations, and very nicely executed twists of fate. Bam, bam, bam, blow after blow.
The beginning of The Following gives me flashes of The Killing. The panning closeups, cold environments, the multi-episode arc it seemed to be building as its first pieces were laid down. Hardy’s an ex-cop, and we get glimpses of what his chasedown and eventual conclusion of the Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) case has turned him into – boozing, a book deal, an empty life. Now that Carroll’s escaped, he’s thrown into the mess all over again.
Most of the time we’re diving headfirst into the cat-and-mouse pursuit, so his personal story gets the shaft for the time-being. This is okay for now because the pilot is 80% goose chasing; Hardy gets back into his old obsession of bringing Carroll to justice; Hardy charges into things like an angry bull; Hardy tries to stay ahead of the game while Carroll makes it supremely tough for him.
Don’t get me wrong. Bacon and Purefoy play off each other very well. Their relationship vibes sort of have that Sherlock-Moriarty dynamic where Carroll is so mad and opposing that you feel he’s always a step ahead. Cocky and surefooted. Undefeatable, even. And Hardy is much, much easier to tear down than Sherlock. What I love is that Carroll can be in cuffs during interrogation and still be effectively menacing – scary even, when he divulges the first details of his grand scheme, and all Hardy can do is feel like a total fool, clueless about the next step and frustrated about the lives he could’ve saved up until that point. Both actors are very talented (and attractive, yes, and for once Bacon is not a predator jerkface of some sort) and it’s obvious that they’ll be taking turns carrying the show on their backs. Carroll appears to be more interesting for now, but we’ll see as the show goes on.
With all extremely intelligent, sinister murderer archetypes, Carroll is every bit the charming, snake-toothed mastermind obsessed with Edgar Allen Poe’s fixation on beauty and death. Formerly a professor teaching the works of Poe, he looks upon his gruesome handiwork as the ultimate fan tribute. Why couldn’t he just write some Poe fanfiction, right? He’s clear on what he wants – to create his own masterpiece involving the mental and emotional torment of Hardy.
And what’s gripping charisma without some crazy devotees? Through the power of the internet and media machine, Carroll’s infamy has reached superstar status among the sea of misguided souls looking for a greater purpose – hence The Following. We don’t know how many people are out there who’ve already signed up to his cause, but after realizing this, I suspect that they might not take the focused “one case only” direction and do a “killer of the week” type of procedural. To which I beg, PLEASE, no. God knows that there are enough shows with cops in it that hide their leading plotpoints under a plethora of cases with little relation to the overall development. Anyway. I wouldn’t be surprised if Purefoy gleans the fangirls off of early Eric Northman or Dexter’s fanbases from this outing, his confidence is sexy.
Honestly, I like what I see so far. My expectations for it aren’t as high as the people who expect a 40-minute Se7en, because I sense that there are good character developments in store for everyone as more episodes are aired. It’s just that they needed to bait people with something they can sink their teeth into. I was chilled by Carroll’s Charles Manson-like hold over people, and how incredibly possible he made his big elaborate scheme seem. I don’t mind at all that The Following plays out as both as a very nuanced crime thriller and a good ol’ slasher flick. I just hope that it goes deeper beyond racking up dead bodies and build on what could be a really complex relationship between Carroll and Hardy.
The supporting cast didn’t have enough time onscreen for me to judge their relevance or performance. Mike Weston, the student who idolizes Hardy for his literary work on Carroll, is the young gun with blue eyes (played by beloved Iceman Shawn Ashmore), there’s a strong woman who’s like a cross between Olivia Munn and Natalie Dormand (I don’t even remember her name), and Billy Brown, who played Detective Mike Anderson in Dexter. They make up the team that’s usually on the scene, and I’d really like to see more from/of them. That OliviNat chick is hot.
So is it really worth it to invest your time in The Following? I would. I like what Bacon and Purefoy bring to the table. They’re intense, emotional and volatile – like either one could explode at any time. I especially, and think most importantly, that the concept of an obvious sociopath being glorified and gathering a bunch of crazies to conduct city-wide mayhem within an implied ticking down to something huge is truly interesting. And if it can be more than a week-to-week catching of psycho killers, I reckon that it’ll be a very nice addition to my roster of Monday episodes to catch.
Not bad for the guy who created Vampire Diaries, right?