Going into tonight’s premiere of what is arguably the most anticipated new thriller on television, The Following, I was wary of being too excited. Shows like this can often times garner so much attention that when they air, the results are less than anticipated. Thankfully, FOX’s serial killer drama (created, produced and written by Kevin Williamson) held up to its end of the deal.
Moments of shock, revulsion and wonder blended together to make the beginning of a potentially enthralling series about how the minds of killers and their followers really work.The Following was capable of making me cringe and lean forward in my seat all at once.
Kevin Bacon plays Ryan Hardy, a former FBI agent living in Brooklyn with a pacemaker and several bottles of vodka whose career and life were ultimately ruined by his pursuit of Joe Carroll, a charismatic college professor turned serial killer. When Carroll, played by James Purefoy, escapes from his death row cell and continues his killings with the help of some very dedicated followers. What follows is an hour of puzzle-solving, racing against the clock action with the devastation only a skilled serial killer could create.
One of the most questioned aspects of the show was how much gore was going to be displayed, considering its primetime slot. But it was tastefully handled (as tastefully as murder can be portrayed, anyway) by using quick shots rather than lingering on any of the brutality and focusing more on the big piece of the puzzle that Carroll was leaving behind. Watching The Following was similar to watching an episode of the CBS hit Criminal Minds in this regard.
Sure, there were moments where The Following didn’t shine as brightly as one might hope, particularly in the predictability of some of the characters story lines. Some were obviously fated to meet a terrible end and others were immediately recognizable as being on the wrong side. Every series has these moments that are hopefully worked past in the first few episodes, and FOX has given Williamson and his team 14 episodes to get it right.
But the gem of the show rests on the shoulders of Carroll’s followers, who manage to blend themselves into everyday society and still give off the vacant, spooky feel of someone who’s maybe not all present. You can feel the brainwashing hit you. This ability to keep people wondering about the specifics of those outside of Carroll himself will be what keeps The Following from turning into just another show about a serial killer.