Review: The Following

Review: The Following

by Mac Cook

TV crime dramas are almost always a hit or a miss. If the first six episodes are any indication, Fox has a hit with The Following. The series pits former FBI agent Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) against Joe Carroll (James Purefoy), a convicted serial killer controlling a cult following on the outside. After Purefoy’s character escapes, Bacon’s character is brought back into the FBI after a departure that was evidently not mutual.

Like a lot of series, where each episode directly leads into and influences the next, The Following has enough cliffhangers to keep you coming back, regardless of quality. But this show pulls off a difficult feat: managing to be addicting without being campy. With the The Following, director Kevin Williamson delivers the most genuinely unnerving show I’ve seen on network television.

The setup works by mixing just enough plausibility and unbelievable scenarios. There’s enough surprises providing without having to be 24-esque plot twist-fest. Purefoy’s character carries echoes of Charles Manson and his murderous “family.” He masters being sinister without being another generic “evil” guy. Bacon, on the other hand portrays a convincing, albeit predictable, protagonist with enough flaws to create conflict without needing to see a shrink. The genuine believability of all the characters makes for a much more convincing storyline.

The show’s biggest flaw thus far is without a doubt the soundtrack, which admittedly tries, unnecessarily, to be “edgy.” But that’s nothing worth getting worked up over. The biggest substantive flaw is the predictability of Bacon’s character. A washed up FBI agent, Hardy is both a heavy drinker and has a heart problem, yet still a brilliant investigator. If you can get past the fact that his character is basically Dr. Gregory House with a gun, Bacon delivers a performance that will have you rooting for his success.

The Following is a refreshing break from the dullness that has plagued crime shows lately. If you’re willing to look past the cliches and mild unbelievability that come with the territory, The Following is worth an hour of your time on Monday, when it airs at 9/8c.

Four out of five stars