First Impressions: The Following [TV Pilot]
The Following is one of those shows that you're nervous about watching because it had such a striking and enormous ad campaign. With its shocking but vague teaser, it could lead some viewers to feel that it is either all-action, or is just poorly written and that small snippet was the only marketable aspect. Thankfully, neither of those seems to be the case.
Fox's newest sees Kevin Bacon as an ex-FBI agent, Ryan Hardy, who is called back into work after a notorious killer of women has escaped from jail. The convict, Joe Carroll, played by James Purefoyhad, has such an obsession with Edgar Allen Poe's works that he would always gouge the eyes out of his victims, paying tribute to works such as The Tell-Tale Heart. Looking into how Carroll escaped, the FBI discovers that he had a network of people who followed his views and would do anything for him.
About half way through the show, I knew I was hooked. It kept me at the edge of my seat and everything seemed so methodically planned out. The references to Poe, as well as subtle nods to classic movies such as The Silence of the Lambs only make it more fun. This is a show focused on tight storytelling, which was what sealed the deal for me. There were, at times, leaps in logic that makes you question some actions, but they can easily be forgiven because they do, in one way or another, make sense.
The function of a pilot episode, especially when it comes to crime drama, is to have an attention grabber from the very beginning, and if a woman stripping butt naked in the middle of a crowded building, having "The Raven" written on her body, and then stabbing herself in the eye doesn't grab your attention, then you are truly dead inside. And that's barely ten minutes in. By the end of the episode, I was completely hooked by Carroll's villainous monologue.
That's another great aspect about the show: Carroll. It is clear that Purefoyhad has delved deep into his character, giving it his all, and loving this role. Because of that, we have an amazing antagonist that is filled with passion and feels like an actual person. It’s clear to see how such a man can have enough influence to have a woman kill herself or to have a cop become his student.
The same cannot be said for Hardy however. There is no denying that Bacon does the role well, but it is obvious from his introduction that he is just another stereotypical cop. You know the one: a rough looking alcoholic who plays by his own rules and can seem to blow up at any minute. We've seen it more than we can count; and it’s the only thing in the show that can be deemed "predictable."
The Following seems not to shy away from the subject material, and instead embraces it. It's a bit surprising to see this show airing on Fox instead of a channel like FX, if anything, for the dark imagery (and even actual images) that it showcases. While there are a few clichés, it introduces what can only be described as a tight, well developed story. This simply being a "prologue" to the much bigger narrative, it is one that is filled with promise and tension.