Last night saw the premiere of a new slasher/psychological drama The Following, created and penned by Kevin Williamson (Scream series) and starring Kevin Bacon. I need a new show like I need 50 more cats terrorizing my apartment or like I need the most annoying sound in the world as my cell phone ring, but you know how giddy I get for slashers! With enticing commercials and two badass Kevins on board, I decided to bite and couldn’t be happier that I did.
Bacon plays Ryan Hardy, a former FBI agent who retires on disability after catching a serial killer named Joe Carroll. Carroll was an English professor who taught the works of Edgar Allen Poe and killed a slew of women in Poe’s honor…until he got caught. Unbeknownst to the FBI, Carroll spent hours in a prison library building a social network of fans, followers and copycat killers, all who will stop at nothing to help this looney-tunes out with his master plan. You can probably guess what happens next: they help spring him from jail, hell breaks lose, and Hardy is BACK ON THE CASE! :::Insert cheesy 80′s cop show music here:::
Now, I despise Law & Order-type procedurals. There’s zero characterization, barely any overarching story, and vapid-story-of-the-week bullshit in every episode. Whenever I see CSI or NCIS or any other show with a bunch of capitol letters in formation, I run for the hills. But The Following is sort of like an FBI procedural, meets 24, meets horror movie, and that, my friends, is something I can get behind.
In the pilot episode, there’s a ton of dead bodies, ample gore, and a juicy amount of backstory packed tightly throughout the hour. It periodically flashes back ten years prior, offering slices of Hardy’s life and involvement with the case. The stories of Dr. Sarah Fuller, the only survivor of Carroll’s bloodbath, and Claire Matthews, Carroll’s ex-wife, are sprinkled throughout as well. What should have felt like an over-stuffed first helping was actually quite well done and well paced – not to mention the two or three twists it dished out too.
What a joyous hour of fucked up television!
Williamson has been throwing nods in the press to Kiefer Sutherland’s hit FOX series 24 (supposedly the writer’s favorite show), and in some ways it did remind me of everyone’s favorite CTU agent, Jack Bauer. There’s a Big Bad who will remain the season’s arching threat, there’s plenty of agencies throwing their two cents into the case, an ensemble cast of supporting coppers, and Hardy – a damaged, maybe-alcoholic former agent with a dark past who just so happens to get sucked back in. As long as no one ever utters, “Just let me do MY JOB!” I think we’re going to be OK here.
I enjoy hating on FOX as much as the next guy, but the network could really use a big-scale action/horror series. The Walking Dead and American Horror Story have more than proved that Horror works on television and now every network wants a piece of that action. Although The Following may never replace the lingering feelings of abandonment left after Bauer went off-com, it has still nicely set itself up to become the next addicting and provocative action series on the air. And the horror flair is the icing on the cake.
Now let’s see if it can remain consistent…
Premature Grade (Pilot only): A-
You can catch an encore showing of The Following on Friday, Jan. 25th at 9pm on FOX.