The Following is an American television drama series starring Kevin Bacon and created by Kevin Williamson (Scream films, The Vampire Diaries). It premiered January 21, 2013 on Fox. It also stars James Purefoy (Rome) and Natalie Zea (Justified).
In Entertainment Weekly, features TV writer Melissa Maerz wrote in a preview article, "Purefoy plays Joe Carroll, a former college professor who taught the works of Poe and killed young women in the gothic hero's honor—until he got caught. Since then he's been spending hours on a computer in the prison library, building a social network of copycat killers who hang on his every command. When the series begins, he's just escaped from death row with help from those followers, and the FBI calls in former agent Ryan Hardy (Bacon)—who brought down Joe the first time—to consult on the case." Natalie Zea plays the woman both Hardy and Carroll love.
- Kevin Bacon as Ryan Hardy, a former FBI agent who retires on disability after catching Joe Carroll. Hardy is called back to service when Carroll escapes from prison.
- James Purefoy as Joe Carroll, a professor of English literature and a serial killer. While in prison, Carroll forms a cult of followers online, before escaping from prison to execute a plan of revenge focused on Hardy.
- Natalie Zea as Claire Matthews, Joe Carroll's ex-wife, who also had a relationship with Ryan Hardy.
- Shawn Ashmore as Mike Weston, a young FBI agent whose hero is Ryan Hardy. Weston makes a study of Joe Carroll while in training, and is the team's expert on the case.
- Maggie Grace as Dr. Sarah Fuller, the only survivor of an attack by Joe Carroll, when she is rescued by Ryan Hardy.
- Nico Tortorella a Will Wilson
- Jeananne Goossen as FBI agent Jennifer Mason
- Valorie Curry as Denise
- Adan Canto as Billy Thomas
- Kyle Catlett as Joey Matthews
- Annie Parisse as Debra Parker, an FBI specialist on cult behavior, called in to head the investigation of Carroll and his cult.
My review is only mildly spoilery and involves only the details of the set-up to the ongoing events of the series in case other haven't seen it yet, but please feel free to use spoilers from now on while discussing the show.
This aired last night in the US and Canada, and airs tonight in the UK and at various times in the next few weeks in the rest of Europe and elsewhere.
I've been looking forward to seeing this ever since watching the previews and reading the positive reviews, and it didn't disappoint. The show is certainly not for children or the faint of heart, however, as it is extremely gruesome and violent and genuinely scary in parts, the latter of which is rarely achieved on television or even most horror films, where the outcome is usually so predictable you rarely are shocked by anything that happens. It's not a procedural in the vein of the CSIs
where an equally gruesome murder will be surrounded by goofy dialogue and character moments; the show is (at least during the pilot) pretty relentlessly dark, disturbing, and humorless. This is more in the style and tone of Silence of the Lambs
and while I mean that in a good way, it's not going to be everyone's cup of tea. It has the all the self-awareness, inside references, and lampshade hanging of Williamson's Scream
series minus the humor (though the inside references are literary --Edgar Allan Poe-- this time rather than horror films), and in a fantastic sit-down between the primary protagonist and antagonist, Carroll basically spells out to Hardy that they're writing the sequel to their original thriller together.
The casting and production values of the show are exceptional, and raise the bar above most other TV dramas. Bacon gives an outstanding beat-down and on the ragged edge performance as Hardy, who seems very much inspired by Will Graham from Thomas Harris' Red Dragon
(adapted as Manhunter
and the later Red Dragon
), especially in his backstory and ongoing consulting with while simultaneously outsmarting each other relationship with the sophisticated Lector-esque killer. Carroll stabbed Hardy as Hardy was rescuing a potential victim (Maggie Grace) nearly a decade go, and Bacon shot and captured Carroll, but needs a pacemaker to survive now. Hopefully the weakness during any exertion or stress that his heart condition causes Hardy is not something that will be forgotten after the pilot. Purefoy is pure evil with none of the pretense of making us try to sympathize with him or understand his motives many other shows attempt, but it's easy to see why someone would be compelled to admire or follow such a charismatic figure if they were disturbed; so it's not difficult to believe he could start a Manson Family-like cult following, even if his method of doing so online while behind bars stretches credibility a bit. Natalie Zea from Justified
does a great job as Carroll's ex-wife, a fellow professor who had a relationship with Hardy during the search for or after Carroll was caught and may have fathered a child with Hardy or Carroll (it's briefly implied that Carroll is the father, and I don't know why you'd tell your son that a serial killer is his father if he wasn't, but I have a feeling given his age that his parentage will come into question later). Maggie Grace as Carroll's only surviving victim manages to be sympathetic and not annoying like she was in Lost
. She's Carroll's unfinished business, much like Poe's The Light-House
, and Carroll escapes from prison in an attempt to finish what he started with her and begin a new game with the washed up Hardy. And Shawn Ashmore gives a chilling performance as Iceman, trying to stop Bacon's Sebastian Shaw from creating a mutant empire in the ruins of a human apocalypse (sorry, I've got nothing -- he did a good job as an FBI profiler and fawning expert on both Carroll and Hardy).
I've left the major spoilers out of my review, but I will say that there were three pretty big "holy crap!" moments in the show, both from being immediately frightening and dramatically shocking in a "I can't believe they did that" sort of way (in one case). Like I said before, when they're searching some dark rooms, there are some genuinely scary moments, which is pretty impressive since you know something is coming but still don't quite expect the way it happens. I highly recommend the show for people who don't have a problem with a dark and rather depressing story that still manages to be dramatically compelling and interesting. But I wouldn't recommend it for people expecting a CBS-style procedural with humor mixed in with the darkness. If it maintains the tone of the pilot, it's going to go to some pretty dark places, both literally and figuratively.
This was one of the better TV series pilots I've seen in a long time. I give the pilot episode an "A" and look forward to seeing where the series goes from here.