At recent press events, Fox and series creator Kevin Williamson came under fire for the depraved and violent imagery in the new series The Following. While I do not subscribe to the notion of “violent entertainment = violent real actions,” it seems odd that this show would get singled out while other network serial killer/law enforcement drama Criminal Minds is in its eighth season. Perhaps the attention was due to the starring role of Kevin Bacon or the fact that I don’t watch broadcast TV and I still swear I saw about 63 promos for this. It’s like they piped it into my dreams, man.
In what is effectively set up as a network drama’s version of the Hannibal Lector tales (until the tv series Hannibal premieres later this year), Bacon plays the scruffy and dejected Ryan Hardy, a former FBI agent who has no friends or family, drinks a lot, and scours even more. His main conquest was the capture of Joe Carroll (sounds more like a character actor than a serial killer) who murdered 14 college girls before being captured and sentenced to the death penalty. Carroll is an erudite former college professor with a British accent who is obsessed with Edgar Allen Poe because Charles Dickens wasn’t hard core enough.
The pilot begins with Carroll’s escape, Hardy’s reenlistment into the law enforcement arena, and as you may tell, lots of plot points stolen from just about any form of media relating to a serial killer in the past twenty years. EXCEPT, this one has a kind-of twist in that Carroll has a devoted ‘following’ of fans who will do anything for him, including murder, kidnapping and plunging knives into their eyes. The rest of the formula is pretty rote for a network drama including a techie, know-it-all guy in the office, a hard-nosed and by-the-book FBI agent, and a love interest who shares history with both Bacon and James Purefoy’s Carroll. Add some blood spatter, FBI agents combing the dark with flashlights, and a pretty young woman who represents unfinished business for the killer and you’ve got something you haven’t seen since the last time you turned on the TV.
That said, while the pilot offered little new to the entertainment world of violent crime worship, it was still just the pilot. There is a lot of place-setting and exposition to shove into 43 minutes so it probably is not a good indication of the remainder of the show’s 13 or 14 episodes this season. But if The Following can’t deliver on anything beyond pilfering other stories of cat-and-mouse games or a mastermind-from-behind-bars, it would be a waste of Bacon’s talent, even if it isn’t too apparent here yet. But I’ll hold out hope as any show that has the gumption to feature a 15-year-old Marilyn Manson song deserve another chance … for one reason or another.