The Following has been on my radar since FOX broadcast the first commercial for the show earlier this season during American Horror Story. Kevin Bacon has always been a respectable actor to me, Kevin Williamson has always had a special place in my heart, and horror has ALWAYS been an easy sell for me. This week, my anticipation finally culminated as the pilot aired Monday night. After all the hype, was it worth it? I’ll say, “yes.” An unemphatic “yes,” but a “yes,” nonetheless.
The series’ first hour was jam-packed with lots of information and lots of backstory. I’ll try and keep it simple stupid without losing you or giving you too much detail: We’re introduced to Ryan Harding (Kevin Bacon), a former FBI executive who had a lot to lose when the hunt for sadistic serial killer Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) years ago left him drained and scarred—literally. He now seeks solace from a bottle. Harding gets a call from a former FBI colleague indicating that Carroll has escaped from prison and, judging by the fact that he killed five prison guards on his way out, has resumed the hunt for innocent blood. So, Harding agrees to help the FBI to re-trace Carroll, and, in the process, is brought back in touch with Carroll’s ex-wife (Natalie Zea) and the woman who was his last attempted victim. Harding is determined to keep these women (and Carroll’s young son, Joey) safe, but is clearly not prepared for the memories and emotions of the past to resurface.
First off, the acting on this show is superb. Bacon is perfectly cast for the role, and my bad for preliminarily thinking he was going to come across as miscast. Purefoy didn’t get much of a chance to show just how sick and twisted he can be, but you get the sense that he’s going to have lots of fun playing Carroll in the coming weeks. Natalie Zea was pretty good, too, as the killer’s ex-wife, Claire. A guest role for Maggie Grace, as one of Carroll’s survived victims, was also notably strong (I always thought she was solid on Lost, but couldn’t buy in to her performances in either of the Taken films).
There are also really good atmospheric moments (mostly seen through flashbacks during the pilot), but I get the sense that Williamson, who serves as writer and producer to the show, is conflicted as to whether to craft a pure horror (the frequent attempted jump scares felt straight from a 90’s slasher flick) series or a straight crime procedural drama. In fact, the first 45 minutes or so felt like this was a rehash of Criminal Minds or one of the Law & Order programs. It’s shot like one, too, and, frankly, I wish it were a bit darker (like, literally…as in reduce the lighting used on set to give it more of a grey, gritty feel ala The Walking Dead or American Horror Story).
The last ten minutes or so, however, was really what hooked me and guaranteed my tuning in next week. Several big twists were revealed. Someone that seemed to be a series regular was knocked off in a brutal way. (Were y’all just as BLINDsided, no pun intended? Haha.) Two characters who seemed very inconsequential ended up having a big part in moving the series along. And the meaning behind the series’ title was revealed—not to signify Harding’s years of following the killer, but, instead, to represent the cult following Carroll has garnered around the country. These three points in the last few minutes were what transformed a standard, run-of-the-mill crime show into a quick, unpredictable, and unforgiving thriller for me. If the show can keep this up—and go more into the psyche of Carroll ala Silence of the Lambs—it can count on my view every week.
Are you going to be “following” this show every week?