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“The Following”

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FOX’s “The Following” starts season with a bang
Sarah Whitten

FOX’s newest pilot “The Following” is a serial killer drama, starring Kevin Bacon and James Purefoy. It is a slick, tense, and grisly new series from creator Kevin Williamson. The set-up involves an imprisoned serial killer, Joe Carroll (James Purefoy), who was brought down by troubled FBI agent, Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon). When Carroll escapes from prison, Hardy is brought back from disability to recapture him. Hardy teams up with FBI agents Mike Weston (Shawn Ashmore) and Jennifer Mason (Jeananne Goossen) in order to track down the prison guard that aided Carroll’s escape.

When a young woman commits suicide in front of the FBI team, Hardy begins to suspect that Carroll has used the internet in order to create a cult of disciples to carry out his whims. The plot is thickened when it is revealed that the sole surviving victim of Carroll’s has been kidnapped by a collection of the killer’s “followers”. Through a series of flashbacks, the audience is privy to Carroll’s gruesome methods, including the removal of their eyes muscle by muscle. The violence is not at the same caliber of “The Walking Dead”, but it certainly exceeds normal television standards.

While “The Following” is able to grip its audience, its writing and character development does leave a little to be desired. Enter into the mix, Claire Matthews (Natalie Zea) the ex-wife of Carroll and the ex-lover of Hardy. This romantic plot twist is not new or even exciting. Instead, it feels contrived and predictable.

Kevin Bacon does a commendable job in a role that has little character development and follows along with traditional broken-hero-trying-to-redeem-himself storyline. Hardy is an alcoholic, hiding vodka in his water bottles, and constantly keeps his fellow agents uninformed. He also follows the stereotypical lone-gunslinger motif as he rushes off into danger without backup and nearly gets himself killed.

What’s more, Special Agent Hardy is surprisingly inept for a man who has devoted himself to learning everything about Carroll and even wrote about book about him and the investigation. It takes him nearly the whole episode to realize that Carroll would want to go after the only woman whom he wasn’t able to kill, whereas, the audience is able to figure that out within the first five minutes. It’s just common sense.

James Purefoy as serial killer Joe Carroll is mesmerizing, at first. However, as the pilot continues he becomes just another black-and-white villain. Purefoy has a menacing, and yet charming, disposition. Hopefully, as the series continues, we will see more development in his character beyond a singular desire for carnage. He is an intelligent sort, having based his murders off of Edgar Allen Poe and his stories, and had once been a professor of English. However, his “villain speech” in the final moments of the episode destroys any potential mystery about his motivations.

“The Following” is certainly a fast-paced thriller. The audience is thrust into a gritty and unyielding world – dealing with death, mutilation, kidnapping, and deceit. In the final moments of the episode it is revealed that Claire’s son has been taken by several followers of Carroll. It is only the first episode and there are obvious kinks for the writers to sift through, however, overall, “The Following” is a compelling new show.

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