The Following Review: A Murderous Masterpiece

at . Comments

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
  • 4.8 / 5.0
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
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 can't remember a more depressing pilot. I tuned in because of Williamson and the cast, only to find decent actors trying their best to cope with 1-2-3-splatter writing. Technically proficient, lacking only style, brains and heart, "The Following" is TV for the easily entertained.


Had a little too much gore I watched it because of Kevin Bacon and will give it another or two watches.I guess it continures for 12 episodes and then what happens they get a new case?


Carroll is the type that Hotchner and the BAU have to deal with every so often on CRIMINAL MINDS. In fact,Carroll might have been a good recurring villain for Hotch and his crew.


Exquisite Strangeness FOX ty 웃�유 I wasn't surprise once, but it was chilling enough. I hope they have multiple arcs a la Person of Interest. POI is still the best thing on Net TV. However this show does have the potential to get there. Great Pilot. Going to go watch it again. @Matt R , Nice review. ..


It's not the blood or the gore. This is passable pg 13. Or maybe I'm just aware that TV is not real. The problem is the retarded as f--k plot. Poe? FOR REAL? I don't need to watch this, I have Rome on DVD.


I liked the show...I gave it an A because of how well the introduction of the characters went. I really like Kevin Bacon and I love James Purejoy so for me that is all it will take to get me to watch. As for the violence and gore; it is storytelling it isn't real people; I enjoy watching how the two main characters play off one another and the level of the quality of acting from everyone involved. KUDOS


I actually thought this show was boring. I was so excited to see this, as I love James Purefoy and I wanted to see what kind of show would lure Kevin Bacon to television. I was sorely disappointed. This show has been seen many times before. I was reminded of Red John of The Mentalist and Jack from The Profiler...master serial killer who manages to find a slew of people to follow him and do their bidding. The difference with this show is that we already know who the puppet master is right off the bat. Then there is the idea of a flawed hero, pulled back from retirement by the one case that has haunted him (solved or not, Kevin Bacon's character was highly affected by this case.) Isn't this the premise of just about every action/suspense movie out there? The Edgar Alan Poe references are cliche'd and cheesey. Maybe it's because Edgar Alan Poe along with the retelling and re-retelling of Fairy Tales has been done so much lately, but I find it way too common. Plus who ISN"T familiar with Edgar Alan Poe, he was required reading in pretty much every 8th and 9th grade English Class, so having Kevin Bacon's character shut out about "Nevermore" being a reference to The Raven in a room ful of FBI agents (who are supposed to be college educated" and cops, with him the only one who got the reference is just silly. In this day and age, if there was serial killer that had garnered the kind of following James Purefoy's character had, many people (myself included) would have exhausted the internet and other resources available to indulge our morbid curiousity and interest (including Ryan Hardy's book). Unless those cops and FBI agents are really lazy, there is no way they would have missed Carol's references and clues. Those are just a couple of issues I had with the show, plus I didn't think that Kevin Bacon's acting was all that strong. Maybe he'll find his footing later on, but he'll definitely need to improve for this show to continue. I'd actually be more interesested in how James Purefoy's charachter is able to get so many people to follow him and do his bidding. AND I'm going to need more that just the shared interest of Edgar Alan Poe to establish that.


Loved it!! Wasn't there a similar movie where the retired fbi guy suffered from headaches. Anyone remember this?


Gag me with a spoon and other such cliches. Your review would only get a D, if your were asking us to rate that. So you get off on gore and violence? Not all viewers do. I was being generous with the B vote. It seems that there is a contest going with the gore and violence. The gore and violence are really ho hum--as in who needs them? Better plots and character development would be much more appreciated! Hardy is the epitome of the cliched detective, with his alcoholism and I noticed that the plot of Bones and its own horrific gore was similar to that of The Following. So, Yay! an evening of sick serial killers. Fun fun fun.


I tuned in for the actors, I'm leaving because of the story. Too much like Bones's Max Pellant. A really smart crazy who can manipulate anything from anywhere. Is it plausible ? Don't care.

Tags: ,