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+.

Sue ann

I would happily watch Kevin Bacon do anything. That said, I thought this was brilliant. I've been intensively studying serial killers since Ann Rule gave a talk to our staff at National Library week a few decades back. (She used to know Ted Bundy.) I am somewhat astonished that this level of violence is on network TV; I thought they were too hag-ridden by the family values folks to venture such a thing. My only concern is that there are so many allusions to shows like "Lost" and "24" coming from the reviewers. I never watched "Lost" because I got burned by "Twin Peaks". They made it up as they went along, and had no end game. It was a cheat. I hope this show has an overall arc already planned.


The 'never more' epiphany was incredibly lame. I really wanted to like this but when it became apparent 'the following' was going to drag this premise for 14 episodes, I'm going to be hard pressed to make a commitment to suspend this much disbelief that a serial killer can do all of this from jail, and still has the ability to control events.


Michael it is nothing like the Mentalist.


Ididnt get to see it but is it a lot like the Mentalist


I really enjoyed this - it was disturbing and thrilling and captivating. I'm a lit nerd so I enjoyed the Poe references. I thought both Bacon and Purefoy were quite compelling - especially when their past and presents are contrasted. Purefoy as the lit professor seemed like a completely different person than the jailed serial killer, and Bacon was the epitome of broken mortal. My only concern is that the "twists" in the plot will become too much - I'm afraid that there will be a pacing issue by mid-season. But I will continue to tune in. Question: now that Kevin Bacon is on TV, do we reduce his degrees of separation to 5? :-)

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