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Plot: Ex-FBI Special Agent Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) is called back to duty when convicted serial killer Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) escapes from prison. Carroll’s target upon escaping is Sarah Fuller (Maggie Grace), the one victim who got away. It is up to Agent Hardy and the FBI to find Carroll before he finishes what he started.
Out of all the new shows cropping up this year, The Following has definitely received the most amount of promotion. You hear about it on the radio, throughout various television commercials, and even on countless websites. Hell, I’m looking at a huge banner for it on IMDB right now! Kevin Bacon’s face is literally plastered on every single medium. With all of this marketing, I naturally had huge expectations for this show. The fact that it stars one of the most prolific actors in all of Hollywood generates both interest and excitement on its own. So did The Following live up to all the hype? In more ways than one, it definitely does.
First and foremost, I want to talk about the two leading actors Bacon and Purefoy. The Following is the first starring role for Bacon in a television series while Purefoy made his name playing Mark Anthony in HBO’s Rome. Both actors absolutely, and I apologize for the horrible pun, killed it in their roles. There’s a reason why Bacon is as successful as he is. He does an excellent job playing a former FBI agent who clearly has suffered a lot during his hunt for Carroll pre-arrest.
Purefoy didn’t get much time on the screen, primarily appearing in flashbacks throughout the episode, but his role as the main antagonist is clearly more psychological than physical. The way Purefoy moves and his influence over others with simple words is very similar to Hannibal Lecter, obviously made famous by Sir Anthony Hopkins. Sure, both Lecter and Carroll are more than willing to get their hands dirty, but their real weapon is their minds. I wouldn’t be surprised if some later episodes take pages directly from the stories of Lecter, maybe even using Carroll to help Hardy find another killer.
What I really liked in regards to the story is where the show got its name. Since Carroll has such a way with words, he is able to convince people to become his followers. These individuals will do whatever Carroll wants and share his love for famous author Edgar Allan Poe. Carroll bases his murders on Poe’s work and attracts people who also appreciate his work. The idea that Carroll has a wide array of followers hiding in plain sight ready to do his work is what makes the show so engaging. It really hammers home the idea that you can’t trust anyone. Even your closest friend could be hiding sinister desires. This episode alone revealed five devout Carroll followers, who are seemingly normal people living average lives. I hope this trend continues throughout the series because it definitely keeps it suspenseful.
There were also plenty of gruesome moments, which are obviously a staple of this type of show. I cringed on more than one occasion, and this is from the guy who writes weekly reviews for The Walking Dead. Viewer discretion is definitely advised, and if you’re squeamish I’d recommend skipping this show entirely.
Despite the positive, the show is held back by it’s extremely cookie cutter backstories and predictable events. Hardy is an ex-FBI agent due to internal issues and has developed a drinking problem. He prefers to do his own work and doesn’t trust other people. Carroll was a teacher who would occasionally target students that shared his same interests. He had a normal life with a wife and child, but killed in his free time. Carroll escapes prison by killing a guard and stealing his clothes. The list goes on and on. I really like the characters, but would have preferred some more originality.
Overall, FOX has a real hit here with The Following. I was fully engaged throughout the hour and am eager to see what happens next. Kevin Bacon is top-notch as always and Purefoy plays a great antagonist. I just only wish some events weren’t so obvious and some characters weren’t so predictable!