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:

Pilot Review

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+.

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