Reviews: The Following

A fantastic show

FOX has finally pulled me in again with a show that is heavily gruesome but brilliant.

The Following follows an ex-FBI agent named Ryan Hardy: an alcoholic loner beset by problems stemming from a case involving serial killer Joe Carroll, who uses influences from Edgar Allan Poe as his modus operandi. When Carroll escapes from prison, the FBI calls Hardy back into action to help them track Carroll down due to him being the one that single-handedly caught him in the first place. During his search, Hardy is opposed by a sinister cult that was assembled by Carroll during his time in prison. Cue the season-wide plot.

First of all, Kevin Bacon plays Hardy. That alone should be enough.

Realistically though, Bacon plays the part excellently and the character is one that you will root for the entire time. Hardy has some cliches about him but those are overshadowed by more original qualities and issues he has (for example, Hardy has a figurative "curse" that becomes a minor motif in the season where everyone he cares about seemingly dies). Overall, Hardy is a proficiently written character that has some typical problems but they are masterfully put down by Bacon's A-plus acting and other quirks.

Now, on to Carroll, who might as well be the first troper to be a serial killer AND cult leader. As a character, Carroll is as evil as they come; and at first, you will like the character because of his charm, but as the season progresses, he becomes an absolute bastard. It's not like he ever was, but he profoundly shows it near the end. Carroll has some of his own new takes on how he kills, and those takes make his character all the better. Think of him as a mix of Hannibal Lecter, Red John, Charles Manson and Ted Bundy.

Also, James Purefoy. 'Nuff said.

On to the actual show, it is written with intelligence at the forefront. There are some liberties that are taken, but those are expected. The show reels you in with suspense and doesn't let go until the hour is up, and even then, you will be craving the next episode. Some parts seem fantastical and it has garnered criticism for its portrayal of the FBI's actions, but those are overshadowed much like the character cliches.

Overall, great show. I give it an 8.6 out of 10.

Starts very effectively, but...

Dark. Gruesome. Deadly. Dangerous. Gory. And whatever other shadowy adjectives you can think of.

For once, the Viewer Discretion Advised warning must be taken seriously. Nothing nearly as terrifying as this show has ever blackened America's broadcast airwaves with its presence before. Not even American Horror Story, which is at times too campy to be genuinely scary.

Trigger warnings abound throughout the pilot alone: eyes are gouged out, throats slit, blood spilled on everything, the thud of a damaged heart echoing over everything else, and overall lack of humor and/or comic relief. Even the sun seemed too afraid to show itself on the days the pilot was being shot.

That said, though, it's a great start. Unfortunately, I found that the show started suffering from what I now call the 666 Park Avenue effect. I tend to hate it when people criticize a show by saying it had a good premise but poor execution, but as with 666PA, I ended up gradually losing interest in the show because while the pilot was great, the subsequent episodes didn't add very much to the story, if at all, and was starting to settle into a bit of a more-of-the-same pattern. I kept going with this show for three more episodes, but only because of the fact that each episode ends with a bit of a cliffhanger, usually involving some minor character(s). The EGREGIOUS use of Villain Sue (my least favorite character type, and for good reason) doesn't help matters at all. Apparently I'm not the only one who thinks this; the show's ratings have already dropped 25% since the pilot. And with Fox's other shows crashing, this one probably ain't going anywhere soon.