Last night marked the debut of the heavily hyped Kevin Bacon thriller The Following on FOX.The show, which tells the tale of retired FBI Agent Ryan Hardy (played by Kevin Bacon) being called back into duty to chase down recently escaped serial killer Joe Carroll (James Purefoy).
Rather than break down the plot due to it’s very twist-heavy nature (and to not spoil anything), I instead will take the opportunity to discuss what I liked and didn’t like:
What I liked: First and foremost, Kevin Bacon does an excellent job in the role of Ryan Hardy, in that he presents Hardy as a fully fleshed out and occasionally flawed loose cannon. Similarly, James Purefoy’s portrayal of Joe Carroll gives off shades of Hannibal Lecter, in that both are charismatic, persuasive, and clearly unhinged, however at no point did I ever get the impression that Carroll was a knockoff of the classic movie villain.
I also feel the show established its’ premise excellently. What initially gives off the vibe of a long chase for Carroll instead sets off a chain in which you are never really sure who is a hero and who is one of Carroll’s disciples, and the show ending twist sets up a clear end goal for the season.
The gore in the show is incredible, if a little over the top at points, with such cringe-worthy moments including a “follower” stabbing herself in the eye on cue and the blood laden garage with a murdered police officer, with enough excess blood to cleanly scrawl the word NEVERMORE on one of the walls.
What I didn’t like: The show seemed to rely on jump scares and scare chords to the same degree you would expect of a d-grade horror film. While one can argue that this is done to create a sense of paranoia, it eventually gets distracting when you’re dealing with scare chords and fake scares every two to three minutes, and the tactic felt old by the end of the episode.
While Hardy and Carroll are well developed characters, it seems like almost everyone else in the background come off wooden and two-dimensional at points. This is particularly evident in Ryan Hardy’s FBI compatriots who only speak in an excessively matter-of-fact tone, and exist solely to be the only characters in the show that do not see Ryan Hardy’s value (at this stage in the game the phrase “ (s)he’ll only talk to you, Hardy” may as well be the shows catchphrase). While I get that the show is primarily a vehicle for Kevin Bacon to work on TV, I don’t feel that the action should only run through him (especially since the premise is clearly horror inspired, and what is a more standard horror trope than people splitting up at their own peril for seemingly no good reason).
Final Verdict: The Following laid a foundation for an excellent thrill ride in its’ pilot episode and I am interested to see where the plot goes forth from this point in time. However, while I understand most pilots tend to be beta-versions of their fully realized selves, I would like to see a little more actual character development for many of the side characters as opposed to the two dimensional cutout treatment they actually receive. Overall, the show will have me hooked for at least a few more episodes and hopefully The Following can blossom into the sort of show that matches the incredible amount of hype that was laid for it before the premiere.
On an unrelated note: As the resident TV junkie of Manhattan Digest, is there anything you, the readers, would like to see covered? If so, please do not hesitate to post a comment (I tend to skew towards smart and madcap comedies, but if there’s something that’s grabbing your attention in the big 1000+ channel morass that is TV, I would love to know so I can look into it!).