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The Following Pilot Review

Does the New Fox Drama Deliver?

by James Chantrill

With all the advertisements, commercials and the general buildup of hype surrounding The Following, one has to question whether or not it deserves all this momentum.  Is The Following nothing but a balloon so filled up with hype and expectations that it’s about to burst, or will it live up to all the extensive publicity and promotion?

Producer Kevin Williamson, the writer that brought us the hit 90s slasher film, Scream, as well as multiple television shows including the monstrous hit, The Vampire Diaries, looks to stretch out his success with the new drama/thriller, The Following.  Williamson looks to be using the mysterious draw that mankind has had with cults.  History is full of prominent figures (ones that clearly had a screw loose) that had the ability to brainwash and program people on a mass scale. The Following puts a “What If?” scenario on display — asking the question, what if a serial killer had that ability.

The Following stars Kevin Bacon as ex-FBI agent Ryan Hardy, who is the flawed hero that has seen success in catching serial killer, Joe Carroll.  Hardy has a few issues, one being a drinking problem. When I say a little problem, I’m severely downplaying the issue.  Hardy is the alcoholic who chugs a bottle of water just to replace it with vodka so he can openly drink in public.  Not only does Hardy love the sauce a little too much, but he also slept with the serial killer’s wife, Claire, (Natalie Zea, Justified). Another problem that Hardy has is the fact that he is a semi-famous author of a novel he wrote about the experience of catching Carroll.  Hardy can’t accept the fame that the novel brought him, almost as if he doesn’t deserve it.  As you can tell, Hardy is the quintessential package of a flawed hero with a heavy heart.  The heart is a double entendre from his love interests, but also because when Hardy caught Carroll, Carroll stabbed him in the heart, leading to Hardy’s symbolic heart issues.

The serial killer, Joe Carroll, (James Purefoy, Rome), was at one time a brilliant college professor that taught literature and was fascinated with Edgar Allen Poe.  What makes Carroll such a threat is how charismatic he is and his ability to seduce people.  These abilities help him develop a “following” or a cult, but Carroll doesn’t like that term. He prefers the term, “friends," and that everybody needs “friends” as he tells Hardy in this week’s episode.

It starts with a shocking prison break where multiple security guards are murdered and left in a very bloody room (when shock is what you’re going for, you can never go wrong with copious amounts of blood).  While the serial killer, Joe Carroll, is driving away from the prison, alarms start going off as Marilyn Manson’s version of The Eurhythmics’ "Sweet Dreams" is played. At this point, the tone that this drama brings to the table is established:  one of shock, awe and intensity.

Soon afterward, Hardy is called in to assist with finding the fugitive, Joe Carroll.  While Hardy is at the police station, he meets one of his own “followers:” a young agent played by Shawn Ashmore (X-Men) who seems to have a bit of a man-crush on Hardy. While there, Hardy and the young agent give a detailed breakdown of Joe Carroll.

During the episode, we are shown four of Carroll’s “followers.” These four “followers” give us some of the most shocking parts of this week’s episode and also plant plot seeds that will assuredly carry on for the rest of the season. 

So, to address question that was poised at the start:  Does The Following deserve to have a “following?”  I whole-heartedly believe that it does.  Heavy drama riddled with a more-than-healthy amount of shock is a formula that is working for me.  Although, I will admit that unless you’re one of those morbid types, Carroll and his followers are at some points a little hard to watch. Even though I see a ton of potential in this show, The Following also has its fair share of clichés about a flawed hero protagonist and an evil villain antagonist. However, it doesn’t try to hide them under guises or cheap techy tricks. Rather, it embraces the clichés and pushes its own additional take on the Hollywood blueprint. 

With the stellar cast involved with this show, it's hard to not imagine a “following” after this week’s episode.  I could potentially see this show being the drama that Fox can use to help contend with cable’s heavyweight draws.  As for me, I will be one of the “followers” for the next 14 weeks.

Keywords: The Following review, The Following tv show, Fox The Following, Kevin Bacon the Following
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