The Following Review: A Murderous Masterpiece

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And away we Poe!

Following much hype and mostly positive reviews from critics around the country, The Following debuted on Fox tonight, introducing viewers to serial killer Joe Carroll on the pilot, along with vodka-imbibing ex-FBI agent Ryan Hardy and, of course, Carroll's deranged flock of admirers.

It was an intense hour of television, one that moved at a brisk pace and featured more violence and gore than we've ever witnessed on network television. I loved every second of it.

The Following Premiere Pic

The premise and the action played out like a movie, with scenes taking place in multiple locations and various timelines. We flashed back. We saw a woman stab herself in the eye. We went into the minds of two flawed, very different human beings.

There's Purefoy's Carroll, who - in a nice change of pace - appears to be pure evil. Shows these days are all about coloring their villains grey, adding touches of humanity here and there so we develop sympathy for even the most brutal killer. But that isn't the case here.

But Carroll is an Edgar Allen Poe-obsessed mad man. He wants to kill, he wants others to kill and he believes violence - nay, major violence - is a form of artwork. It's deranged... and it's a pleasure to watch. Of course, it's impossible not to compare Carroll with the most famous fictional serial killer of all, Hanibal Lecter, especially considering the kind of pull he has on Bacon's Hardy.

This relationship is truly the core of The Following. It's symbiotic, in the most effed up way possible.

Hardy may detest Joe Carroll, but he's also made to feel alive by Joe Carroll, even if he'd never put it in those terms. This is a man whose life has fallen apart, who doesn't see himself as worthy of Claire's love. But chasing Carroll (and now his flock) provide Hardy with a purpose. This is something he's actually good at it, some way he can make a difference in the world.

And the two leads play off each other like top-ranked tennis players, an analogy Purefoy made to me at New York Comic-Con this year. That closing scene, of Carroll in shackles and yet still in control; of Hardy realizing the depths of what this situation has devolved into; of the cutaways to Claire's son being taken away by the nanny and neighbors and the set-up of where this series is headed... they were perfectly shot, executed and acted.

With Kevin Williamson at the helm, it's safe to assume the blood, action and surprises won't slow down any time soon. But as jarring as those set pieces were to witness, The Following premiere wouldn't have been as effective without also establishing its main players. We have Hardy as the flawed hero, someone to sympathize with and root for; Purefoy as the stone cold killer and leader; and Natalie Zea as the determined mother, someone who has no problem telling the FBI exactly what she needs and wants.

It's already the most screwed up love triangle on television.

Can I foresee at least one significant problem? Yes. Like 24 and its seasonal use of moles, there's a danger here that anyone could be an undercover member of Carroll's brood. I was taken aback by Claire's nanny's involvement, but that sort of surprise will quickly abate if supposedly innocent individuals are revealed to be working with Carroll every week.

But that's a concern for down the road. After one episode, this is a fascinating thriller that is scary on two levels:

  1. The possibility of this sort of following taking place in real life, considering society's ever-expanding reliance on social media
  2. The many dead bodies.

It's fun, it's different, it's freaky and, come on, it stars Kevin Bacon. I am all in. What did everyone else think? Grade The Following Season 1 opener now:


Editor Rating: 4.8 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.2 / 5.0 (257 Votes)

Matt Richenthal is the Editor in Chief of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter and on Google+.


I will noted and shared.


The following would have made a good mini series but its starting to get a little old--the conspiracy is a bit too wide especially seeing it in latest episode--strains credibility"


I really thought the show started out okay but Kevin Bacon's charachter, for me is flawed beyond repair. What does Clare still see in this bum? She is also messed up but hopefully the FBI cult expert will get everything back on track. I am hoping the writers will come up with a more interestin storyline.


I watched pilot, and will continue to watch the rest of the season as long as it's on. I loved Kevin in this. Great acting all around. BUT, I'm currently reading a book series about a female serial killer who is obsessed w/the detective who investigated her crimes. There are a host of other characters in the books, but for the most part they center around the detective, the killer, and their......shall we say.......unconventional relationship. This show is so close to those books, I had to make comparisons. There are some glaring differences as well. But the female serial killer in the books also has a "following" if you will of men that are "apprentices" that learn to kill from her. These books (there are currently five, a sixth is on the way) are currently being adapted for television by FX. It'll be fun to watch both shows and see which one entertains me the most. I am a HUGE Criminal Minds and NCIS fan, so I have no problem w/gore. If you're watching a show advertised as a show about a serial killer and you're complaining about gore, you obviously don't know the genre very well.


Oh, this is so simple the wife is the mastermind behind the cult. Other twist and turns are not so visible. The wife is using everyone!


im sorry but you people are idiots, downgrading this show about a serial killer because there is too much gore? jesus why dont you guys go watch jersey shore then


I really enjoyed this pilot, if people don't want to see a psychological thriller with gore and intrigue then why r u all watching? It was a breath of fresh air and I am glad to see such a interesting show on tv, since homeland and sons of anarchy aren't on at the moment


do we really need more of the same plot and characters just upping the gore? When will we start to see the connections between de-sensitizing shows like this and massacres like Virgnia Tech and Newtown? Please, where are the talented writers?


I wanted to like this show soooo badly! The serial killer and his followers was intriguing, but then Kevin's character spoiled everything for me. They have one of my all-time favorite actors playing a closet drunk with a bad ticker. Who wants to watch a series with a weak, totally uninteresting hero? I mean really; if it weren't for a legend like Kevin Bacon playing the hero this show would be a total, complete bust. And I'm not sure that even Kevin can rescue this one. They need to give his character a proverbial super-power or else this series will be one and done. The hero can't even run up a flight or stairs without grabbing his chest. Geesh.


Big disappointment for me - I hate soap operas and I hate continuing stories. Can't they come up with a different bad guy every week and a clever way of disposing of him? I won't be tuning in for episode two.

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