43 min. per episode
The Following is an incredibly mediocre attempt at a horror/suspense thriller television show starring Kevin Bacon. It tells the tale of former FBI agent Ryan Hardy (Bacon) as he tries to stop a cult of serial killers led by a former college professor with a strange fascination for the works by Edgar Allen Poe named Joe Carroll (James Purefoy).
The acting in the show is decent to say the least, but the premise of the show is too far-fetched for me. Carroll has (somehow) been busy building an army of low self-esteem, Manson Family rejects from inside prison to do his dirty work and get back at all the people that he either failed to kill before he was arrested or who simply didn’t like Poe as much as he did.
Hardy used to sleep with Carroll’s ex-wife and now this cult has captured his son that she never let him meet, which is apparently supposed to build up the suspense I guess. As you read this review you’ll begin to understand why I stopped watching after about four episodes.
Before I begin to say what I dislike about the show, let me start by telling you all what I do like about it: Every once and awhile the show actually throws me a curve ball and someone I didn’t suspect to be part of the cult really is.
Now that we have the good out of the way, time for my favorite part of this article: the bad. The show is incredibly formulaic and tends to use the same plot devices in each episode. There’s always a chase scene, the last person you expect to be a killer is really a killer, someone randomly gets murdered, Purefoy has to remind Bacon that everything he is doing is payback for sleeping with his ex-wife, it turns out the two guys that were pretending to not be serial killers are actually serial killers and are really in love with each other, etc.
The other problem with the show is that it tries way too hard to be scary. It uses over the top horror sequences that feel like they were written by the staff of Family Guy, South Park, or some other cartoon that takes pride in being ridiculous. For example: there is a scene where a woman stabs herself in the eyes in the name of Carroll while in a crowded bus station. I won’t lie, that scene actually freaked me out a bit. However, once this moment passes in each episode, you get the above mentioned repetitiveness. One Dexter knock-off scene in the MIDDLE of an episode is not really enough to keep me interested.
The plot is absurd. Sure, cults have been formed by crazed killers before, Charles Manson and his little Family being the best example, but the difference is Manson actually gathered his followers by speaking with them face to face. Sure, they establish that Carroll has spoken to some of his followers directly, but somehow he was able to collect an entire legion of new ones while still in prison. I don’t see how a man in a maximum security prison was able to get his message out to such a large group of low-lifes without causing the warden to cut off all his communications to the outside world. Yes, he did get inside help by corrupting one of the guards, but it’s a maximum security prison. At some point someone would have noticed and done something about it. And before any of you take the Fairly Oddparents approach and tell me he did it all by using the Internet, I’m sure the computer lab has firewalls to block inmates from communicating with the outside world, along with the porn websites of course.
It also doesn’t help that not a single one of the FBI agents actually do their job. In each episode, when he’s not downing clear syrup that is meant to pass as vodka, Hardy is the only one putting the clues together, or stopping the killer that was able to get past the security perimeter set up by the FBI. The whole show feels like a cheap rip-off of the dynamic between Batman and the Joker. One is a cold, brooding detective with a whole bunch of emotional issues, while the other is a crazed killer who is trying to break our “hero”, loves what he is doing, and really only wants, “to watch the world burn”, all with a great big smile on his face.
Though at times The Following can be quite intense, the show’s formulaic style and familiar plot points don’t really allow me to suspend my disbelief enough to actually be a fan of the show. I just recently read that the show was picked up for a second season, after which I personally predict that the show will officially run out of ways to get Kevin Bacon to chase after a bad guy while pounding college student-priced vodka. And then it will be cancelled after a painfully dry third season. Well, one can only hope.