A New Show Worth ‘Following’
After a long run of starring in Hollywood films sprinkled with a few guest appearances on television, Kevin Bacon has made the transition to serialized storytelling on the small screen. His role choice lies in Fox’s newest thriller series “The Following.”
Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) was an English literature college professor that taught the works of his hero, Edgar Allan Poe. However, his teachings took a sadistic turn when he murdered 14 of his female students in the gothic hero’s honor. His serial killings quickly caught the attention of the FBI, and he was eventually caught by Agent Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon), whose career came to a halt after Carroll injected a serious stab wound near his heart when resisting arrest. Years later, Carroll escapes from prison, and the FBI call in the then-retired Hardy to bring him back into prison confinement.
Though the manhunt for Carroll doesn’t last particularly long, Hardy quickly begins to realize that Carroll used his charismatic personality in the prison’s Internet system to develop a cult of followers to not only break him out of prison, but also to carry on his sadistic killing rituals as revenge toward Hardy. This added twist is what puts “The Following” as a fresher entry into network programming, both in terms of plot and subject content.
Though his character looks depressed in a lot of the scenes he appears in, Kevin Bacon makes a solid lead as FBI Agent Hardy. He has a brooding, yet subtle approach to playing Hardy in the present day because of how washed up his life has become since catching Carroll, but still shows a more uplifting and charming personality in flashbacks that explore his character leading up to the first time he put Carroll behind bars.
As the imprisoned mass-murdering mastermind Joe Carroll, James Purefoy does a menacingly good job at delivering the ambiguous nature in which his character functions. Though I feel that I haven’t learned particularly enough about his character’s motive to kill, Purefoy’s juxtaposition of calm and sinister qualities that function simultaneously in his line deliveries is enough to creep me out with his presence.
Apart from Bacon and Purefoy as the leads, the supporting cast of characters is a major mixed bag. The FBI agents assisting Hardy in the midst of the chaos are good for what they’re given, especially Shawn Ashmore, who plays a young FBI agent who holds astute knowledge on both Carroll and Hardy. The actors that play Carroll’s family and the assortment of followers, on the other hand, range from being just okay to as plain as an In N’ Out burger without toppings nor condiments. One of the biggest examples of this category involves Natalie Zea as Carroll’s ex-wife, who does nothing more than mope around and be fearful of anything that comes her way.
Creator and head writer Kevin Williamson, though, is the main reason why this show has a potentially bright future on the air. Having landmark entertainment franchises like “Scream” and “The Vampire Diaries” already under his belt, he has a knack for pulling unexpected twists and violence that pushes the primetime boundaries. These techniques may not be widely accepted by all common television viewers, but so far, they work to a good enough degree for me where I’m both shocked and surprised simultaneously.
As long as Williamson and crew can manage to continue and surprise us on the cat-and-mouse thriller journey it has taken so far, “The Following” could work as a worthy long-term addition to Fox’s lineup. It does have flaws with the handling of its supporting cast of characters, but there’s still twelve episodes left for that hole to be filled. Fox has a reputation for canceling some of their best shows too early in their run, so now I can only hope that they don’t do the same for this promising new show.
Recommended: Enjoy “The Following” for the fresh, cat-and-mouse thriller that it is. It’s full of twists and turns, and it’s checking out Kevin Bacon back on serialized television.