‘The Following’ Series Premiere Review – Promising Start to a Dark Ride

Published 1 year ago by , Updated January 23rd, 2013 at 8:58 am,

The Following Kevin Bacon The Following Series Premiere Review   Promising Start to a Dark Ride

Horror fan or not, TV and film expose us to countless murders on a regular basis. A bullet to the head here, a severed limb there; what’s the big deal? However, as it becomes increasingly difficult to shock in an industry oversaturated with senseless, flashy killings, we’re about to get a nice surprise from an unexpected place – FOX’s The Following.

The promotional campaign for the midseason starter suggests it veers more towards the police procedural side, but while The Following does involve the need to solve a case, it’s the killings and the murderer’s methods that have the most profound effect. Think you’ve seen it all? Just wait until you get a taste of what Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) and his cohorts are capable of.

The pilot opens with the college professor-turned-notorious serial killer making his stealthy escape from a high security prison. The next morning, Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) wakes up to the disturbing news – the man he dedicated years of his life to taking down is back on the loose. As the guy who knows Carroll best, the FBI insists Hardy come in to assist in the effort to bring him back in. Vodka-filled water bottle in hand, Hardy goes back to work with his top priority being protecting Carroll’s last victim, Sarah Fuller (Maggie Grace).

It is quite tidy and even tacky to need to bring back the former hotshot with a now stained reputation, but The Following goes on to earn it enough through Joe Carroll. Carroll isn’t just some axe murderer on the loose, eager to hack victims up at random; he’s a literary genius and, it turns out, intellectual prowess of that sort makes for a particularly disturbing breed of killer. As a man obsessed with the romantic period and specifically the work of Edgar Allen Poe, Carroll adopted the belief that art had to be felt and applied that theory to his own “art,” the murder of 14 female students. Not painful enough yet? Carroll took a liking to removing his victims’ eyes because Poe believed our eyes are our identity. So now not only is Carroll inflicting a nauseating amount of pain on his victims, he’s ultimately destroying who they are, an eerily more thoughtful form of mutilation.

The Following James Purefoy The Following Series Premiere Review   Promising Start to a Dark Ride

Further turning Carroll into an escapee vital to get back behind bars is his captivating persona. Carroll is strikingly akin to Hannibal Lecter. He doesn’t have a thing for chowing down on victims, but he’s brilliant, dangerous and, most disconcerting of all, a smooth talker. At the heart of The Following is Carroll’s effect on others and episode writer and show creator Kevin Williamson sells Carroll’s powers of persuasion so well that the show goes on to earn every act of outrageous violence while also suggesting the wrath of Carroll knows no bounds.

But, of course, we do have Ryan and while he isn’t a particularly inventive main man after episode one, Bacon offers up a solid enough performance to make him feel like a real person, albeit a very washed out and tired looking one. The ease with which Ryan tracks all of Carroll’s moves is eye roll-worthy, no pun intended, but Williamson’s knack for slipping in additional exposition via exceptionally well-placed flashbacks helps open Hardy up just enough to suggest there could be loads more to explore in the coming episodes.

Unfortunately that same tactic doesn’t work as well for Natalie Zea who plays Carroll’s ex-wife, Claire Matthews. Even with the opportunity to get a peek at Claire’s life with Carroll pre-killing spree, current Claire functions more as a set piece, specifically a fairly forced attempt at infusing the show with a little romance. Having seen the first four episodes, I can confirm that Claire’s situation does heat up down the line, but still, the character remains reduced by the far more profound things happening around her.

Kevin Bacon Natalie Zea The Following The Following Series Premiere Review   Promising Start to a Dark Ride

The more striking leading lady of the pilot episode is Grace’s Sarah who makes for an ideal victim #1 for the show. Again, Williamson’s flashbacks come in handy to give a notably well-rounded view of Sarah for just a single episode. After showing us her reaction to the news of Carroll’s escape, Williamson goes on to both justify why Maggie was once a fan of her professor and then why she’s so horrified he’s back on the loose, and boy does she have a good reason to be.

On the police front it’s just more of the same all around – a slew of nameless cops walking around in uniforms or suits blathering average procedural jargon. The only one who stands out is Shawn Ashmore’s Mike Weston, but it’s only because he’s very clearly meant to stand out. He’s one of the youngest of the bunch and a big fan of Ryan’s so Mike follows him around like a puppy dog. Like Zea, the character doesn’t really amount to much in the premiere episode, but unlike Zea, Ashmore is charming enough to get you to cut poor Mike some slack until the character develops more in upcoming episodes.

Kevin Bacon Shawn Ashmore The Following The Following Series Premiere Review   Promising Start to a Dark Ride

But again, it still all comes back to the violence. Every element of the show, successful or not, coalesces around the slew of grueling imagery and wildly inventive kills. The carnage is so well done, it steals the spotlight with ease, making certain unoriginal characters and dialogue passable. Cinematographer David S. Tuttman nails the tone, heightening unease with the ideal implementation of handheld work. He uses the technique just enough to put you in the room with Ryan, but keeps it stable enough to highlight plot points with a degree of control, giving those kills more weight. The editing department takes it from there, amplifying the terror through pitch perfect cuts and a few especially unsettling jumps to commercial breaks.

Clearly the big draw is the show’s power to give you the creeps. As someone who’s devastated over her waning interest in the once beloved American Horror Story, The Following is slipping in at the opportune time to encroach on that territory. Should the show bring its run-of-the-mill good guys up to the level of its serial killer, we could wind up with a dark, enthralling duel – but until then, the sampling of freaky vicious scenarios is more than enough for me.

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The Following airs Monday nights at 9/8c on FOX.

Follow Perri on Twitter @PNemiroff.

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  1. This clearly borrows from Clint Eastwood’s Blood Work, in that Bacon’s character, a detective, has a heart condition (Eastwood’s character had a heart replacement) and is attempting to hunt down a serial killer(s). Having said that, I liked it, but it does seem like it is going to be far fetched.

  2. BTW, Its Hannibal Lecter (according to Thomas Harris’ books).

    When I saw the trailer, I had the feeling it was going to be a Lecter/Will Graham type story. I missed the first 15 minutes tonight but Fox is repeating on Friday so I’ve set my DVR to record.

    I liked Purefoy in “John Carter” and Kevin Bacon can be VERY good or very bad depending on the role, so I’m hoping the writing and directing lets these 2 really shine. Maggie Grace is just annoying so I can’t say I’m happy that she’s in the show.

  3. I watched the show. Bacon is good. The first fifteen minutes is a great build up. And Maggie Grace is surprisingly good in this.

    I’m just happy Kevin Williamson bounced back into horror so quickly after Scream 4.

  4. Very cool episode. Only worry is that the elements that were very good wont be the focus of the series. From the promo it seems the show will be different than this first episode.

  5. Surprisingly positive for a show that sounds so derivative of Silence of the Lambs (Red Dragon, rather), Copy Cat, and Blood Work.

  6. Had a Se7en/Silence Of The Lambs feel. I enjoyed it.

  7. You’re joking, right? I thought this first ep was a pile of drek–and I usually like actors Kevin Bacon and James Purefoy. I had more than enough of the shaky whip-pan camera angles, the over the top thing with the dogs (really–???)

    Following will gain anything but. Won’t last a season.

    • It had the best numbers of any Fox debut this season – you not liking it doesn’t really mean it’s doomed.

      • Darren, you mad, bro?

      • Alcatraz had similar 10m viewers pilot but ended up with just over 4m for the finale. It is FOX – so don’t be surprised if it gets canned once the season is over or shifted to a doomed time slot for an inevitable axe.

  8. …I was so hoping it would be absolutely fantastic, especially with two great leads…..but an average script will always undermine a great concept….want to see great scripts, Justified, Boss to name two that make it look effortless!

    It should have been great…..shame on the writers!

  9. We watched the first (pilot) episode and won’t be on board for the rest of the season. It’s one too many serial killers with mindless groupies who do the bidding of a madman. We quit ‘Criminal Minds’ because it was too graphically mean-spirited; we just want to be entertained with resolution in a single show or two. The acting is fine but this world doesn’t need the characters presented in this show.

    • Youre saying you want episode plot resolution after only 1 or 2 episodes? I call this the CSI syndrome were veiwers have been conditioned to have a 60 minute attention spans and quit watching if the spisode isnt a self contained story with a conclusion every week. Its called serialized storytelling and I think a season long story arc is far more enjoyable

      • Same here, I prefer long, drawn out plots too.

        I also don’t understand the line about not needing characters like that in the show in this world.

        Guess what? They exist already somewhere.

        Anyway, so it premiered in the UK last night (it’s now 5:40am so..) but I couldn’t watch because the UK premiere of the American Horror Story episode “Continuum” was at the same time so I’m hoping for a repeat before the next one.

        It looked good in the commercials though and I liked Purefoy in Solomon Kane so by the sound of it, he’s equally enjoyable in this too.

        Another Brit actor that could break out big in US TV then?

  10. I was thinking of The Mentalist throughout the episode. Purefoy has followers that do anything for him, just like Red john.

    • So….like the Manson Family then? Or did Charlie get that idea from a TV show?

  11. IMO this really should have been a 2 hour premiere or at the least 90 minutes…
    Everything felt so rushed. There wasn’t any time for anything to sink in.
    So I was a bit let down overall but that doesn’t mean I’m going to quit on the show after one episode. I’m a big fan of Williamson and the premise of the show is interesting enough to warrant a few more viewings.

  12. And nobody complains about the over-the-top annoying-as-hell narration… I hope the narration was only for the first episode..if it comes back I am done…it took away from the suspense, especially when it would announce things that are just about to happen…I wish it was like a DVD and I could remove the commentary…

    • Tuned in for episode 3 and was pleasantly surprised so I had to go back and watch the first 2. The plot has a lot of potential and should turn into a hit. Thought the performance of Purefoy was outstanding as he truly makes the show. Definately will stay for the first season.

      For the people complaining that the show is too gory and inhumane: it’s a TV show! I don’t know how someone can ‘cross the line’ in a TV show but whatever. And the gay comment was just rediculous.

  13. I enjoyed the first episode, despite being wary of the Thomas Harris-like characters. I mean, this stuff is pretty derivative, so I just tried to go with it and see if it was entertaining, which I found it to be. As far as the “eye-rolling” ease of how the killer was tracked by Bacon: the killer wanted to be found, so that was easy to accept. We’ll see if this can keep my attention. I do kind of doubt it, but I’ll give it a chance to find some originality. If that doesn’t materialize soon I’m checking out.

    Someone mentioned annoying narration? Did I blank on that, or is someone else confused?

    • I was baffled by that comment as I don’t recall any narration either.

  14. IMO the pilot was very, very average. The dialogue was one cliche after another. The gore was off-putting. The machinations of the killer (and corresponding idiocy of the cops) were beyond far-fetched.

    That said, the setup is kind of interesting, so I may give it a chance to improve.

  15. i think the narration negacrowbar is referring to is the new service where they tell you what’s happening this is intended for blind people

    • Well how do I turn that off?

      Crap, I thought it was the episode…lol…it was friggin’ annoying as Hell…

      That was what the DVR recorded…Ill have to watch it Friday to see it in a new light…

      Thx for the heads up…I was like this friggin’ sux…I wish she would shut up…

      He walks in the door..He looks at the girl..she has no eyes…he gets hit with a peice of wood…lol

      • it depends on the tv you have but it’s almost always the sap button or alternate audio

        • LOL!

  16. it was a nice enough pilot. I’ll watch the next couple of episodes to see if I’m hooked or not

  17. Saw the first episode, wasn’t bad but we’ll see where it goes after a few episodes. Hopefully the story develops to more than chasing a serial killer because that usually doesn’t deserve much more than a movie, not necessarily a tv series.

    Also, it’s Aaron Ashmore in this one, not Shawn. Easy mistake to make though since they’re twins.

    • Probably should recheck that, its Shawn Ashmore.

      • My bad, went back and checked again. Could’ve sworn the credits said Aaron Ashmore. Probably just saw the Ashmore and made the assumption.

  18. Meh. It started out okay, but went downhill very quickly. Won’t be watching any more episodes.

  19. I really like this show. I am wondering why Joe took his son unless the little boy is Ryan’s son.

  20. The one flashy performance of this show was that of Purefoy who I must say, stole the episode in those last 4 minutes. I thought the show was pretty well done up to that point and then when he and Bacon spoke I saw one of the best acting jobs on network tv in recent memory. Purefoy’s Carroll left me with wanting to see more of him. They had not fully revealed what type of villain (is he the main antagonist? or is he an anti-hero?) Carroll was until the end of the episode and when they did I was sold on the show. This show is very much a cable-esque program in almost every facet (can’t swear on network tv) from the violence to the serious nature of the show. I expect Bacon to evolve his character in the pursuit of other criminals. The best story arc for this show is to revolve around capturing the followers of Carroll (either one or two main antagonists each season like Dexter). Should it follow this pattern, the show will achieve massive success. I hope that the show continues to be aggressive and push the boundaries of network tv. The long term implications of this series could mean better network television programming if it succeeds and we could see a shift towards more adult-oriented, serious programming once again.

  21. While I ordinarily wait to see the second episode of a series before committing, I’ll say that I’m a big enough fan of James Purefoy to tune in for the first season. That said, I’d truly like to believe that there are agents more qualified to handle a manhunt of that magnitude than the (junior?) agents assigned to the case prior to Hardy’s involvement. What if Hardy had refused to answer his phone? I wouldn’t have felt safe knowing public safety was in the hands of the rather lackluster trio of agents as shown thus far.

    I liked the mood of the pilot and, perhaps it’s just me, I was glad to see they didn’t make the twist reveal that Maggie Grace was the follower (and not just the double victim). The concept is interesting but the Scream-esque splatter and carnage are over-the-top. I appreciate the set-up that this season/series is a novel of sorts and will unfold slowly but there’s no shame in letting the audience fill in the blanks.

  22. Jezz they just wont leave Liam Neesons kid alone!

  23. “Hello Cla- I mean Hardy, it’s good to see you again.”

  24. One of the best pilots I have seen in a while. Its only recent equal, IMHO, was the pilot for “Last Resort”…

  25. I love drama series & Kevin Bacon but this pilot was outrageous! I only watched the 1st 15′ & the scene w/ the tortured German Sheperd was cruel & totally uncalled for!!!! We WILL NEVER WATCH THIS SHOW AGAIN. We strogly feel the ASPCA should do something to stop scenes like these to air again. There has to be a limit. What’s next? R they going to show a rape happening there on the screen? Or a baby being dismembered?
    Tasteless. Inhumane. There are lots of excellent shows on tv (Law & Order SVU, Criminal MInds, etc.) that are great BUT they never everrrr show something so cruel. It is a cheap imitation of these shows, they went way too far. Such good actors & plot will go to waste ’cause they crossed the line. There r no words to describe this appalling disgusting attempt of a drama/horror or whatever it is they were trying to do. What a pity & what a waste!!!!

  26. It could have been a great show, it has great actors, but scenes way too gross like the one with the dogs, why so explicit?
    so unnecessary, even if you rate it PG14, I agree there has to be limits. No one wants to see such a thing!

  27. The Following is lazy story telling. They can just make up past story events to fill in or develop the main time story. LOST did it well because the main story was not lazy and was original.

    I found the show a bit of a cliche mismatch of shows done in recent memory/now. The heart beat sound is the biggest thriller cliche they could have done that annoys me in potential great parts. The song at the end was awfully edited as it was too forced with it’s lyrics to drive the story.

    Very far fetched. The dog part was a Dexter moment condensed into 2 mins and Bacon’s characters unnecessary overreaction after 2 cops got killed and the kidnap just made me laugh out loud due to being misplaced melodramatics. Just felt too squeaky clean and convenient storytelling.

    Willing to give it a go but if its just a follower as a case of the week, every week nonsense, I will find it tough to keep with it.

  28. Someone need to shut this show down.. there are enough killings and kidnapping going on this world. This show is just creatin more crimes n homos. The disgrace to see homos kissing n r children and teens r watchin it.. jesus is coming soon get ur souls rite.. christ paid a cruel price on the cross for our souls.

  29. I feel this show is pretty good and was looking forward to watching it.
    Not so much after watching a few episodes. I’m concerned with the PG-14 rating. What I saw in the last episode bothered me. 14 year olds are in their sexual development years, they really should not be subjected to the mixing of sexuality and brutal torture leading to a climax of death. We get murder in shows, and sexuality. That’s ok I guess, but matured adults should be the only ones allowed to view “The Following”
    THEY NEED TO UP THAT RATING TO ADULTS ONLY!

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