The Following Review
Whenever we see a network promoting a new show we can always assume one of three things: It’s a crime drama, it’s a comedy that’ll get axed after two episodes or it’s an American remake of a British show that will get axed after one episode. There appears to be a plethora of crime dramas on the air today, such as NCIS, NCIS: Los Angeles, CSI, CSI: New York, Hawaii Five-O, The Mentalist, Castle, Bones, Criminal Minds, Body of Proof, Blue Bloods, Southland…you get the idea. Every once in a while, amidst the countless CSI spinoffs, there’s one cop drama gem that tries to take a unique look at the genre. Some of those include Justified and The Killing. The latest attempt at defining the genre is Fox’s The Following, featuring the latest stud to switch from movies to television, Kevin Bacon (Mmmm…bacon).
Anyways, in this crime drama, Kevin Bacon plays Ryan Hardy, a retired FBI agent whose biggest career moves were catching serial killer Joe Carroll (played by James Purefoy) and writing a book about it. He’s hit some hard times, however, and has taken to drinking obscene amounts of vodka. Did I mention before Hardy caught Carroll, Hardy was stabbed by Carroll in the heart and has a pacemaker? Carroll, an Edgar Allan Poe fanatic (but apparently Fox thinks it’s wise to only feature The Raven in every episode), has escaped from prison (*GASP*) and is on the loose.
The FBI calls in Ryan Hardy to lead the case. In one of the most overused lines in crime drama history Hardy replies, “I’m not an agent anymore,” but ends up coming on the case anyway. Things take a twisted turn for the worse. Not only is Carroll infamous for stealing his victims eyes (all of them young women mind you), but apparently Carroll has been busy in the ten years he’s been in prison.
Carroll has been slowly building a cult following in prison. To demonstrate this at an FBI office, a women strips down to reveal Edgar Allan Poe’s writing all over her body. She then shoves an ice pick into her eye socket. Carroll has ingeniously created a master plan as revenge against Hardy. Nobody knows whom the cult members are or where they are going to strike next. All that matters is tracking down these brainwashed cult members before they do.
The Following brandishes and wields the cop drama title without flinching. The reason it does so is because it’s a unique take on an overused genre. Kevin Bacon and James Purefoy do outstanding jobs acting. They have a great chemistry together and it’s electrifying to watch them perform together. The supporting cast also does a great job. From the mentally disturbed cult members to the young cop fresh out of the academy, they all do a terrific job.
Acting aside, is the story worth investing in? Yes. Absolutely. I found the pilot to be rushed at some points, but that’s to be expected. It’s an engaging concept and the writing so far has been great. As the series progresses, it stares unfazed into the abyss of violence Carroll and his followers perform. This is where the show loses a lot of people. The Following is incredibly disturbing and violent for a network television show. Mutilated dogs are seen, throats are slashed, eyes are ripped from their sockets, basically blood… lot’s of blood. There’s so much blood it prompted Washington Post writer Hank Stuever to write this scathing review of the show:
“So is this the show that pushed me over some grisly limit? Have I finally lost an ability to shrug at violence? Then I realized: ‘The Following’s’ fundamental problem is neither its gore nor its brutality; it’s the display of arrogance. Tangled up in easily avoidable clichés of the genre, this is a show that is entirely too pleased with itself and its pretentious concept. It’s not that we’ve become numb. It’s that we’ve become dulled.”
Stuever raises a good question. Have we become too dulled to violence that we accept it on our broadcasting networks like it’s nothing to worry about? The morals and ethics of this are for another time and another article. What matters right now is if The Following is worth your time. Critiques of the violence aside, I feel it helps the story out in the long run. It’s almost a No Country For Old Men without the thought-provoking message at the end (yet). If you’re squeamish to violence, this isn’t the show for you. But if you’re looking for an engaging cop drama that has a gritty and grisly feel to it, The Following is your cup of blood-soaked tea. Bottoms up!