Premiering on the Fox television network on January 21, 2013, “The Following,” created by Kevin Williamson (Scream) recently concluded its first season. The tension filled series which blends the genres of crime, drama, and mystery consisted of fifteen episodes. The show stars Kevin Bacon, (X-Men: First Class) who has, for the most part, consistently appeared in movies on the big screen since 1978, with the exception of the soap opera “Guiding Light” in which he played the character of T.J. ‘Tim’ Werner for seven episodes from 1980-1981. This, however, is Bacon’s first starring prime-time television role. He portrays the character of complex, emotionally, and physically damaged, former F.B.I. agent Ryan Hardy, who has been asked to come back and consult during the effort to capture an escaped serial killer. The killer is someone who Hardy helped to put behind bars, but not before the depraved murderer stabbed him in the heart, requiring him to go through life using a pace maker. James Purefoy (A Knight’s Tale) completely embodies the character of the killer, Joe Carroll, a former college professor responsible for the murders of fourteen women. He is a charismatic, silver-tongued devil, who is obsessed with the literature of Edgar Allen Poe, and when orchestrating murders, revels in what he considers the theatricality of death that Poe created in his writings.
In the pilot episode Joe escapes from prison, but not for long. He is soon back behind bars – thanks to Hardy. Ryan’s involvement, which factors heavily into Joe’s plan, doesn’t end with his recapture; it is only the beginning. What Hardy and the rest of law enforcement is unaware of, is that Joe has been using the prison computer system to recruit and create a cult of loyal followers made up of individuals from all different walks of life. They are people who are all too willing to carry out whatever deadly and disturbing deed he asks of them. Once word of his initial escape is broadcast, the members are activated like a terrorist sleeper cell. Now Hardy, along with the help of other agents, mainly Mike Weston (Shawn Ashmore) and Debra Parker, (Annie Parisse) must work to dismantle the cult before it carries out Carroll’s bidding, a task which is easier said than done.
The series could have just been a one note show: A plot that revolved around Joe Carroll’s desire to extract revenge against Hardy for ending his murderous reign, and while that certainly comes into play, it goes beyond that sort of simplicity. Creator Kevin Williamson, opting not to stick with the norm, put an unusual spin on the series. The viewer learns that after Carroll was incarcerated, Hardy had an affair with the serial killer’s wife Claire (Natalie Zea). The information is something which Joe uses as emotional leverage over Hardy. Instead of just seeking out the death of Ryan, Carroll, who was a brilliant teacher, but a failed novelist, is looking to use Hardy as his main protagonist in his second novel. Joe seems to have the requisite time to do just that. Hardy and the other FBI agents rush from one dire situation to the next in order to save the day, but to no avail. No matter what Hardy and the other agents do, Carroll and his cult are seemingly always several steps ahead of the authorities. Of course, that is no surprise, considering Joe Carroll has had years to formulate every step of his meticulous plan.
The episodes are filled with moments that you might not see coming: The kidnapping of Carroll’s son Joey (Kyle Catlett) by his babysitter, Joe Carroll idolater, Emma (Valorie Curry) who is aided by men who Claire thought were her friends, next door neighbors Jacob (Nico Tortorella) and Paul (Adan Canto); The slaughter of sorority girls by a simpleton posing as a campus security guard; The burning alive of a literary critic who had panned Carroll’s novel perpetrated by one of Joe’s followers, dressed like Edgar Allen Poe, complete with a Mask bearing the famous author’s face. These are just some of the moments that should keep viewers on the edge of their seats. Those incidents take place in just the first few shows. There is a great deal more death, deception, and suspense that transpires over the course of the season to keep viewers hooked and guessing because the show can be very unpredictable at times.
The season finale, which I just got around to watching the other day, because my attention was on playoff hockey, left me with more questions than answers, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I am hoping that all of the questions I have, which I will refrain from asking now, so as not to spoil major reveals for those of you who haven’t seen it yet, will be answered next season. On March 4th Fox television announced that it renewed the series for a second season. For fans of psychological thrillers and those who enjoy an excellent game of cat and mouse between characters, this is a series you should follow.