The Following Season Premiere Review
You’d have to be living in a cave to not know that Fox had a new show called The Following, starring Kevin Bacon (Mystic River, X-Men: First Class), debuting last night because I’m just going to assume that Fox has spent their entire ad budget for all of their shows on commercials just for this show. To say that they have high hopes for it would be an understatement because not only have they aired a million and one commercials for it but they also ordered a shortened season (15 episodes vs. the typical 22 for network shows) to leave enough room in Bacon’s schedule to continue pursuing film roles. However, it is deserving of those lofty expectations because It boasts an incredible amount of talent, both behind the scenes (Kevin Williamson, writer of the Scream franchise, co-developer of The CW’s The Vampire Diaries) and in front of the camera (Bacon and James Purefoy [Resident Evil, HBO’s Rome]) so it’s easy to see why Fox would be putting a lot of weight behind it. Rounding out the cast is Natalie Zea (Justified), Annie Parisse (Law & Order – though she does not appear in the premiere) and Shawn Ashmore (first X-Men trilogy).
The series follows (pun intended – I’m so clever!) FBI Agent Ryan Hardy (Bacon), who is forced out of retirement when his most prolific case is re-opened because serial killer Joe Carroll (Purefoy) escapes from prison. To make matters worse, Carroll’s been busy doing his best Charles Manson impression by creating a cult – of serial killers! And if that’s not enough, things get even more complicated when Hardy goes to Carroll’s ex-wife Claire (Zea), with whom Hardy once had an affair with, for help.
The episode starts with what initially appears to be a prison guard leaving at the end of his shift but it soon turns out to be the infamous Joe Carroll escaping from prison, after pretty much annihilating every other guard that’s on duty at the time. They don’t go into too much detail as to how this happens but it becomes apparent later on that he was helped by one of the prison guards and ultimately, protégé, Jordy.
After that wholesome introduction we’re introduced to the series’ protagonist, Ryan Hardy, who of course is now an alcoholic because they make a point to show you the empty liquor bottles in his trash and shortly after that, him to adding vodka to a water bottle. I get that anti-heroes are all the rage these days but adding alcoholism to a relatively normal character doesn’t work. Not to mention the fact that it’s a terribly clichéd character flaw at this point as well. Speaking of clichés, there is, of course, the “stick in the mud” FBI colleague (played by Jeananne Goossenn) that just doesn’t get our protagonist’s process and has to question everything he does. Shawn Ashmore plays FBI agent and Ryan Hardy fanboy, Mike Weston*, and they make it clear that he’s going to end up being the one that will always go to bat for our protagonist after he’s quite aware that it’s not water that Hardy is drinking out of his water bottle by offering him a mint. At this point, I’m not really sure what’s worse: the clichéd FBI agent who is always by the book or the one that apparently excuses alcoholism so easily.
*Side note: this is the third Mike Weston on TV – there’s the actor, Michael Weston (House) and the lead character in Burn Notice, Michael Westen and all I want to know is when did this become such a common name?
After finally speaking with who is clearly the “one that got away” in Carroll’s ex-wife, Claire, Hardy figures out that Carroll is a bit OCD when it comes to finishing things he started and needs to go after his last victim, Sarah Fuller (played by Maggie Grace [Lost, Taken]), Carroll’s version of the “one that got away” because Hardy was finally able to catch Carroll while attacking Sarah.
Suffice to say, Carroll eventually becomes successful in his completion of his unfinished work (after a lot of Edgar Allan Poe-related exposition) with the help of some conveniently placed Carroll protégés right next door (who were only pretending to be gay, as Hardy quickly deduces, much to the dismay of all of the inept agents around him since that theory is just bonkers) to our premiere’s victim. It’s clear by the end of episode that Hardy and Carroll aren’t going to be playing cat and mouse so much as they will Clarice and Hannibal (of Silence of the Lambs) and that’s perhaps the most interesting thing to happen in the entire episode, if only because it will be interesting to see how well it matches up against NBC’s reboot of the Hannibal Lector story, Hannibal, that premieres on March 13th.
I imagine the above comes across a lot more harsh than how I actually viewed the premiere but I was let down quite a bit. I hesitate to condemn an entire series based on just one episode, especially a pilot because a lot can change once the cast and crew start to get into a groove (it happens all the time) but like I said, I just expected a lot more from it. That said, it’s likely my own fault (though a bit of Fox’s for advertising it like it was revolutionizing the network drama) for expecting more from a network show that appears will have a strong procedural element in it. After all, if there’s anything that I’ve learned in the past five years watching TV, it’s that I just don’t like network dramas (with a few exceptions).
Final Verdict: It’s not must-see yet so give it some time before really diving into it.