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Is “The Following” Worth Following?

The Following

A Review of Fox’s Thriller “The Following” by Tiffany A. White

Over the last few years, or at least in my lifetime, television hasn’t really focused on the dark and spooky thrillers like Hollywood has and does. But recently, FX hit a home run with American Horror Story. Will Fox do the same with The Following?

In The Following, former FBI agent Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon, um… from Footloose) must track down serial killer Joe Carroll (James Purefoy from Rome)—again. He first reaches out to Carroll’s ex-wife, a woman Hardy slept with, and then he informs a former witness and surviving victim of Carroll’s crimes that her nightmare has escaped prison and is more than likely headed her direction.

There’s only one problem; like most serial killers, Carroll has fans now… people who are willing to do anything to help him succeed.

It takes very little to pique my interest when a new pilot premieres on television; I’ll watch pretty much anything. But there are a few things that instantly attract me to a new show: the concept, the actors and actresses, and the attention to detail, particularly the music. The Following had me at “hello” if that’s even possible for a TV program.

First, the serial drama follows the “cat and mouse” game between Carroll and Hardy. The idea of a former FBI agent with issues working to track down a demented killer he once captured is right up my alley. Next, the series stars, as already mentioned, Hollywood great Kevin Bacon. I can’t even remember the last time Mr. Bacon starred on a TV series, if he ever has, which tells me the storyline really captured his attention as well. And third, the pilot episode began with Marilyn Manson’s rendition of “Sweet Dreams.” The musical introduction of this song grabs me every time… and the lyrics fit perfectly with the Carroll/Hardy scene at the end of the pilot.

So, is The Following worth following?

For me, the answer is an astounding yes! Although I usually prefer mysteries and whodunits, the premise of not only the “cat and mouse” game between Carroll and Hardy, but also the concept that Carroll’s crazies, or followers, will do absolutely anything and everything to convey Carroll’s messages is quite unique to television—and frightening, considering there are people in our world who worship some of the worst criminals for all the wrong reasons.

Viewers are immediately taken into the mind and history of the two main characters. The protagonist, Hardy, is now a retired FBI agent, who is also a recovering alcoholic and a man fighting to stay healthy (he has a bad heart). And the antagonist, Carroll, who’s not only a murderer, worked previously as a literature professor obsessed with Edgar Allan Poe.

“Carroll was obsessed with the Romantic Period… in particular, his hero, Edgar Allan Poe. And like Poe, he believed in the insanity of art, that it had to be felt. He didn’t just eviscerate fourteen female students, he was making art. He cut out his victims’ eyes as a nod to his favorite works of Poe: ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ and ‘The Black Cat.’ See, Poe believed the eyes are our identity, windows to our soul. To classify him (Carroll) as a picarist would be too simplistic.” ~ Hardy about Carroll to a group of FBI agents

We know immediately that Carroll has escaped prison and Hardy is responsible for locking him away. But how did Hardy catch Carroll in the first place? The Following uses a series of flashbacks to tell the backstory of these two characters, and probably the most fascinating to me was the fact Hardy used Carroll’s wife (Claire, played by Natalie Zea from Justified and Californication), who also happens to be a professor, as an expert during his case. Hardy visited her on multiple occasions for help and she unknowingly led him in the direction of her husband. Clearly, this gives Carroll reason to haunt and torture both Hardy and Claire… and I’m sure the fact that the two shared a romantic connection doesn’t help either.

The Following’s supporting cast is filled with familiar faces: Maggie Grace (the Taken movies) as Sarah, one of Carroll’s survivors; Shawn Ashmore (the X-Men movies) as FBI agent Weston; and Jeananne Goossen (Alcatraz) as FBI agent Mason. And I must confess, I thought the actor playing agent Weston was also the actor who plays Jinks on Warehouse 13, but it turns out it’s not—it’s his twin brother! Just a tad bit of trivia… but I digress.

Watching The Following is similar to enjoying a major motion picture thriller. It’s intense, suspenseful, somewhat dark, and it keeps viewers on the edge of their seats with an occasional reason to jump out of their skin. Toss in the Edgar Allan Poe references, who might just be my favorite poet, and I can’t help but award the new Fox serial drama with my highest rating. Fox has themselves a groundbreaking television series, appropriate for viewing after dark with a perfectly grilled bone-in filet, steaming broccoli, and a glass of fine red wine. It’s that good.

*****

Tiffany A. White is the author of the YA mystery “Football Sweetheart” series. She blogs at The Ooo Factor and is available for contact via Twitter at @Tiffany_A_White, Facebook at Tiffany A. White, or by email at tiffany@tiffanyawhite.com.

© 2013 Tiffany A. White. All written content on this page is protected by copyright. If you would like to use any part of this, please contact us at the above links to request permission.


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