At long last, Fox is premiering their new drama series The Following. The trailers and other promotional content released over the last few months have promised something thrilling, suspenseful and dark, and the pilot episode delivers just that, in addition to serving as the start of what could be one of the year's intense new drama series. For those not averse to violence or TV drama with an edge, The Following is a must-watch.
Minimal Spoilers ahead - There are no major reveals or character/plot specifics mentioned in this review.
Created by Kevin Williamson, The Following stars Kevin Bacon as Ryan Hardy, a former FBI agent who's brought out of retirement to pursue escaped serial killer Joe Carroll (James Purefoy). Because Ryan was the man to catch him last time, and later went on to write a book about the case, he appears to be the best man for the job. But Ryan's life isn't really in the best place and his last run-in with Carroll has (literally) left a mark, so that factors in. And then there's the matter of Carroll's plans. Not only does he have dark intentions, but he also has a cult-like following of people willing to help him, which broadens the mystery and the bounds of his reach by a lot.
The first episode gives us a sample of the strange relationship between FBI agent Ryan and serial killer Joe. The lines between personal and professional appear to be blurred on both ends, which is an intriguing aspect in itself, but we soon come to learn that - particularly in the episodes beyond the pilot - there is so much more to this story than a mere game of cat and mouse. Carroll is a mysterious man with layers of motives and a charismatic nature that draws people to him. Ryan is determined and seemingly capable, but is he mentally and emotionally up to the task? That remains to be seen. What is clear from the start is just how well cast Kevin Bacon and James Purefoy are for their respective roles. As Carroll, Purefoy manages to tread the line between menacing and mesmerizing, while Bacon plays Ryan as a man who appears brought back from the dead and is cautiously approaching this case, knowing just how dangerous Joe Carroll really is. The supporting cast, which includes Annie Parisse, Natalie Zea, Shawn Ashmore and Valorie Curry is also solid.
The Following plays out like a thriller, beginning with a pilot that feels more like a movie and continuing beyond that in serialized fashion, which means viewers will need to tune in each week in order to keep up with what's going on. But even with that in mind, each of the first four episodes builds its own momentum, introducing a little bit to the story with each hour and giving Ryan Hardy new situations related to the case to tackle. In that respect, The Following really only gets better with each new episode as the story continues to develop.
As a fan of Dexter and someone looking forward to NBC's Hannibal, I was curious to see how a network TV show handled a dramatic approach to the story of a serial killer. The show might have had a bit more flexibility on cable, however The Following makes the most with what it has to work with, delving into the darker side of human nature, with its emphasis not only on the twisted mind of a serial killer but also with those people who find themselves compelled to follow him and do his bidding.
Obviously, The Following has its limits in terms of its content due to the fact that it's a network TV show, but the drama certainly pushes those limits, treading into dark and twisted territory and dabbling in a bit of disturbing violence, without going overboard. Don't expect hardcore gore, but there are a few gasp-worthy moments and violent scenes scattered throughout the first few episodes. But the real draw is in the psychological element as we come to understand how Joe Carroll operates and why people are so willing to follow him. And question whether Ryan Hardy can take him down.
The Following is dark, twisted and suspenseful in all the right ways. While that won't be for everyone, those looking for an intense new drama with complex characters and a compelling, edge-of-your-seat story will find it in Fox's new drama.
The Following premieres Monday, January 21 at 9:00 p.m. ET on Fox.