FOX’s provocative and terrifying new serial killer drama delivers its second episode, which is neither provocative nor terrifying.
Let’s bitch it out!
I have to applaud FOX’s marketing department for successfully creating such positive buzz over Kevin Bacon’s mid-season offering. But after only two measly episodes, my high hopes have all but vanished as the series settles into a badly written drama filled with characters I don’t care about. For a show that trumpets itself as being “unlike any other,” The Following sure has a long laundry list of tired clichés begged, borrowed and stolen from countless other crime dramas.
Let’s start off with our protagonists, shall we? Although Bacon is by far the best actor of the bunch, his character Hardy, fits squarely into the cookie cutter tortured hero role, complete with disheveled hair and the crumpled suit and tie. Aside from a drinking problem, there’s nothing particularly complex about him – he’s just obsessed with catching Carroll (James Purefoy), the serial killer who got away.
Speaking of Carroll, he has yet to demonstrate that he’s anything more than a handsome face with a charming English accent and a surface understanding of Edgar Allan Poe. The biggest problem with Carroll is that we’re not afraid of him and we absolutely should be. I simply don’t feel invested in Carroll’s endgame, which means I’m reluctant to tune in week after week.
“Chapter Two” attempts to introduce more layered secondary characters into the fold by giving us brief back stories behind Carroll’s core followers, Emma (Valorie Curry), Jacob (Nico Tortorella) and Paul (Adan Canto), but it’s all a missed opportunity. I would have loved to see how Carroll was able to seduce his devotees, but instead all we get is Emma in a bad wig looking doe-eyed at Carroll as he flashes her a smile at a book signing. If we’re meant to buy that Carroll’s “followers” are willing to kill in order to “feel alive,” then we’ll need to know far more about what made them so susceptible to manipulation in the first place. Sure, Emma has mommy issues, but who the hell doesn’t? I find it hard to believe that low self-esteem and a schoolgirl crush are casual factors in the construction of a serial killing apprentice (if this is the case I know a ton of serial killers!).
The business with Jacob is equally tiresome. We’re not privy to how Carroll manages to lure him in – we’re just supposed to buy that Jacob will do anything for his master, including pretending to be gay for years and doing the horizontal mambo with a girl he has zero chemistry with. For now, these followers only exist so that Carroll can continue sitting in jail giving his best Hannibal Lecter impression.
On the flip side, the FBI agents aren’t doing any better in the character development department. Gone is the shouty/pouty Jeananne Goossen as Agent Mason is replaced by Agent Parker (Annie Parisse), head of the bureau’s “alternative religion” department. I doubt viewers would have even noticed Goossen’s departure as the two agents function in exactly the same role – they keep ‘hot head’ Hardy in check while spewing out horrendous expository dribble. Check out this gem:
Carroll’s using Poe’s work as a religion. He’s speaking to people through Gothic Romanticism. There’s pathology to today’s internet techno-bred minds. He’s created a vacancy in our humanity.
I think the English student in all of us just died a little. Give Parisse an Emmy for getting through such dialogue with a straight face. And poor Iceman (Shawn Ashmore) is quickly starting to inhabit the role of FBI tech guy who pushes the narrative along by pulling up all-too convenient surveillance footage. Throw in Billy Brown’s “Forever Mike Anderson” (of Dexter fame) as the guy who’s always just a step behind, and we’ve got a roster of superfluous law enforcement archetypes that add nothing interesting or original to a series that is supposed to be ‘groundbreaking network television’. I’ll give this one the requisite four episodes before permanently deleting it off the DVR schedule, but I have yet to see what makes The Following so unique that it warrants sustained viewing.
- Why is it that every serial killer feels the need to map out his or her insanity on perfectly good walls? Haven’t these people ever heard of a notebook or a website? Although this week it is Carroll’s disciples who are responsible for diminishing the resale value of real estate, you’d think that followers of a man as ‘brilliant’ as Carroll would be more subtle in their psychosis.
- The interrogation between Claire (Natalie Zea) and Carroll is another missed opportunity. Instead of capitalizing on the potential of portraying Carroll as the master manipulator, all he does is ask Claire about her sexual escapades with Hardy. Zzzz.
- The meet-cute between Emma and Jacob was anything but:
JACOB: Joe said you’d be my type.
EMMA: What’s your type?
- There is one good scene in the episode: The flashback to Hardy and Claire’s first kiss. It feels completely organic and adorable, contrasting nicely with the bleak reality of the present. Double bonus points since it follows directly after the horrendous first meeting between Emma and Jacob, which helps to cleanse the palate (in all honestly it doesn’t, but it’s a nice try).
- Much like David Sims over at the AV Club, I can’t help but laugh at the ominous follower in an Edgar Allan Poe mask. I know it’s meant to be terrifying, but the wisps of curly hair, debonair mustache and trademark baggy eyes just don’t read ‘menacing’.
What did you think viewers? Has The Following cast its spell over you, or are you hanging out with me in Eye-Roll Central? What do you think Carroll’s endgame is? Do you think Claire’s son will have a larger role – maybe even being one of Carroll’s followers? Sound off in our comments section below.
The Following air Mondays at 9pm EST on FOX.