By Jay Krieger
The first episode of Fox Network’s “The Following” does exactly what a pilot episode should do – captivate the audience. From the opening minutes, viewers are shocked and appalled, while also being intrigued.
Kevin Bacon stars as Ryan Hardy, an FBI agent that brought down the notorious college professor turned serial killer, Joe Carroll (James Purefoy). After eight years of incarceration, Carroll manages to escape death row and is now on the loose; thus the FBI reaches out to Hardy to assist in re-capturing Carroll.
Sounds like a pretty standard plot so far, right? Here’s the catch – while in prison, Carroll managed, through utilizing the internet and visitors while incarcerated, to create a cult of followers. This subsequently spawned a group of serial killers that are willing to carry out his orders. If not taken with a grain of salt, this part of the story will make or break a viewer’s overall opinion of the show. If you can’t get past the unlikely premise that while on death row, Carroll had access to a computer and visitors, then you’re likely to disregard “The Following” completely. But for those who, like me, can look past this, I really did enjoy the plot for what it was and will continue watching.
An element of the show that I felt stood out from other Fox shows was a level of tension and graphic nature not typically found on network television. In the first few minutes, we see Carroll’s bloody handiwork in all its horrific and brutal detail. Later in the episode, we see a body with its eyes carved out. Generally, I’ve got a pretty strong stomach, but the fact that this level of gruesomeness is on network television caught me off guard. The amount of graphic content makes me, while slightly unsettled, intrigued to see what other atrocities will happen in the rest of the season.
My biggest fault with the pilot was Kevin Bacon’s character. While I feel Bacon’s portrayal of Hardy is well done, Hardy being an alcoholic ex-agent that’s obsessed with his last case is less than original. I’m hoping as the season progresses that his character develops into something more than just a drunk. The scenes where Hardy and Carroll are interacting with one another are when these characters flourish. The dynamic between the two feels natural as the viewer can feel the tension and history between them. James Purefoy’s portrayal of Carroll as a sadistic, yet an intellectual and articulate serial killer is bone chilling. Every scene he’s in captivates the audience.
I’m optimistic about the rest of the season, but then again I can’t see the show lasting for more than one season as its premise is one that could very easily grow stale if give an extensive run. But, with that said, if the writers are able to present a clear and concise story for the remainder of the season, and provide the same level of tension and gruesomeness throughout, I think “The Following” will be one of the best television series of the new year.