FOX’s much hyped serial killer drama The Following finally premieres, but does the pilot episode live up to the promises of its marketing campaign?
Let’s bitch it out…
In word: no.
Though the pilot gives some glimpses of intrigue, overall, the series doesn’t seem to be as unique as its PR department would have us believe. The claim, “it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen on television” is grossly exaggerated, although there are moments where the show tries to push its network boundaries. Aside from some uncomfortable glimpses of dead bodies and the occasional implied dog mutilation, however, much of the pilot exhibits no more gore than we see on any other network procedural.
Even if the overall structure of the series feels slightly formulaic, the acting roster deserves accolades. As expected, Kevin Bacon as hero Ryan Hardy, delivers a believable performance as the troubled ex-FBI agent thrust back into the case. Bacon shows his experience by embracing just enough nuance and angst that we can’t help but root for him as he desperately pursues newly escaped serial killer, Joe Carroll (James Purefoy). Unfortunately in the pilot, we don’t get as much cat and mouse between our two leads as we need and their interaction is relegated to the episode’s final scene. This is clearly the episode’s strongest moment, and in order for show to succeed on a go forward, we’ll need more taunting between Bacon and Purefoy STAT. Everything else just feels like filler.
Purefoy doesn’t get near enough screen time to truly inhabit his role as the deliciously evil “cult” leader who seduces his ‘fans’ to become serial killers in their own right. There’s simply not enough of Carroll working his magic to believe that he could manipulate his “followers” to carry out crimes on his behalf (especially crimes of such a brutal, perverse nature). As a result the pilot ends up being just okay rather than must see TV.
The Following explores an interesting concept, no doubt, but since we learn about it as Hardy puts on his detective hat, the execution is a bit pedestrian. There just isn’t enough investment – character or emotional – when things are merely explained rather than shown to us. Take the episode’s opening scene: incredibly economical and intense because we see Carroll escaping, rather than just hearing about it after the fact.
With the abundance of quality dramas filling the premium cable channels, network television is fighting an uphill battle if they want to compete. Truly, we need to see a show “unlike any other” and I’m not convinced that The Following deserves this title. Aside from Bacon and Purefoy, every secondary character feels as if they’re just in service of moving the narrative forward, failing to contribute any kind of intrigue in their own right. The sole exception is Carroll’s ex-wife Claire (Natalie Zea) who gives us glimpses into a potentially complicated relationship with Hardy.
The incompetence of the police force on network television continues to baffle me. Why is the police department (and in this case, the FBI) so incredibly incompetent that they constantly need to rely on outside consultants to do their jobs for them? (cough *Elementary* cough). I will say that Shawn Ashmore’s Mike Weston may eventually develop into an interesting secondary character, but for now he functions as Hardy’s only ally (the rest of the FBI is quick to write Hardy off as a “fallen star”). Was I the only one left slack-jawed when Claire told the FBI agents that she would only speak to Hardy alone? Umm…aren’t you guys the friggin’ FBI?! Why are you allowing this potential suspect to call all the shots? Terrible.
It therefore comes as no surprise that even with a swarm of police officers, detectives and FBI agents, Carroll’s last victim Sarah (Maggie Grace) is kidnapped and subsequently killed right under their noses. Hardy, of course, is the only one to discover she’s missing and the only one smart enough to figure out where Carroll is holding her. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised since crimes are only solvable by the hero that ‘plays by his own rules’ (groan).
Bottom line: if this drama truly wants a rightful place at the water cooler, it has to deliver more unexpected moments, and like the other missing elements on the show, there just isn’t enough evidence that The Following can do this based on its pilot.
- The dime store literary analyses provided throughout the show is pretty laughable. I understand that not everyone has a background in English Literature, but are we really meant to believe that a mastermind serial killer would use such tiresome allegories and metaphors to drive his crimes? Perhaps an elementary school English teacher, but a College professor? Highly doubtful.
- The biggest surprise of the pilot is that they kill off Maggie Grace. I thought for sure we’d be subjected to a long, drawn-out search for her. Golf clap for exercising some efficiency.
- Speaking of Maggie Grace, I wonder if she’ll ever shake off the typecasting that she got from the Taken franchise. I will say she’s definitely grown since her Shannon days.
- I can’t say I was impressed by Carroll’s ultimate plan to make Hardy take on the “role” of tortured protagonist in his little mind game/novel-come-to-life. It just seems incredibly hokey. There’s an opportunity for the show to go into meta territory, but I’m not convinced it’s smart enough to acknowledge this potential.
- I can see the fake-outs of who is secretly a “follower” acting on Carroll’s behalf getting really boring, really fast. If we don’t have any investment in the characters (such as the gay neighbours and the babysitter), then do we really find it all that shocking when their duplicitous nature is revealed? Answer: Nope.
What did you think viewers? Does The Following leave you wanting more? Do you think the show will be able to chart a more original path once it gets going? Sound off in our comments section below.
The Following airs Mondays at 9pm EST on FOX