Because horror-on-TV is the new trend (thanks to “The Walking Dead” and “American Horror Story”), there’s quite a bit I’d like to check out these days (i.e. “Hannibal” and “Bates Motel”). But, somehow it’s “The Following” that has managed to slip into our busy viewing schedule. And after 13 episodes, I think it’s stuck there for a while.
Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) is a college professor-turned-serial killer who takes his ‘work’ very seriously. At the show’s start, he’s incarcerated for murder (obviously) but has managed to cultivate a pretty massive following from inside the prison walls. So, things start happening on the outside — weird messages, suspicious and gruesome murders. Uh oh! The FBI can’t handle it — so, what do they do? They recruit Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) — a former FBI guy, alcoholic and Joe Carroll expert. Cut and dry, right? Well…
Hardy was the one to initially stop Joe’s serial killing and put him behind bars. Hardy also managed to sleep with/fall in love with Joe’s ex-wife, Claire (Natalie Zea). Way to go, Hardy — you got the bad guy and the bad guy’s girl! Anyway… Joe’s had time to think about all of this and he’s hatched an elaborate plan. So, there you go.
Upon first impressions (first few episodes), I was pretty put off by the whole Poe connection. See, Joe is a literary professor and has a hard-on for Edgar Allan Poe. Poe this… Poe that. It became pretty trite and eye-roll-worthy. As the story continued, the writers clearly lessened the Poe stuff quite a bit — PHEW. It’s interjected every so often — for continuity, I suppose. Need another cliche? The whole cop-as-an-alcoholic card gets played all too often. I get it — but I could really care less about this personality trait.
Also: In the pilot, the main female FBI agent (Jeananne Goossen) was pretty annoying. You couldn’t really connect to her… which is probably why she only lasted the pilot. Enter “Law & Order”/”Person of Interest” vet Annie Parisse.
Kevin Bacon. He’s probably one of the main reasons I began watching the show. He’s got credibility — and I like him (Tremors, anyone?). And as the show has progressed, I like him even more. He’s the type of character you can get behind because he really has nothing to lose (it’s established that he’s basically a cursed, unlucky bastard) AND he always has a — to quote Curtis Armstrong — “what the fuck” attitude about his methods. SPOILER-ish: He’s also the type to shoot anyone, no matter what. So, if you’re a bad guy and you’ve come across Ryan Hardy, you better throw your weapon and drop to the floor. Hardy won’t flinch in shooting you… in the head. It’s become a bit of a joke in my house.
The following — no wonder it’s the title, right? It’s clear that the best characterization and drama comes from inside the following — particularly from Emma, Jacob, Paul & Roderick. Some are clearly evil, while some may waiver — and one may even be kind of a ‘good’ guy?? No real spoilers here… but I’ll say this, there’s sex, death, betrayal and love — all within the following. It can be quite interesting and creates quite the little guessing game for the viewer.
Joe Carroll (as a joke). We’re led to believe that Joe is this charismatic intellectual who can charm the pants off a bunch of lost, soul-searching folks. Well, at one time he may have been this man; however — whether it’s intentional or not — Carroll’s become a bit of a joke. A few minor spoilers here. As part of a running ‘gag,’ we’re led to believe Joe is a bad writer. His novel was panned by critics and he’s in the process of writing his next one (based on the events of his aforementioned plan). What’s more, there are episodes in which he has some off days– and Kevin Bacon’s Hardy doesn’t mind throwing a few quick-witted quips Joe’s way — which ultimately leave him hysterically flustered (and kind of stupid).
It’s hard to find a show (or movie) that is nearly trite-free; but, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy those that aren’t. Even with its storyline/character semi-flaws, “The Following” is quite enjoyable to watch. It leaves you guessing quite a bit of the time and it isn’t afraid to show a little blood and bone. Watch for Kevin Bacon and stay for the following.