Kevin Bacon’s ”The Following” premiered on Fox on January 21st 2013. The storyline follows an FBI agent who finds himself in the mists of a serial killers network.
The show got some heavy criticism from the get go for its gory and violent scenes. However, “The Following” is in no way more prone to exposing violence on television than “American Horror Story: Asylum” or “Criminal Minds”.
Kevin Williamson, the creator-producer-writer of the show, makes a clear turn from his humorous take on horror that characterized his “Scream” movies to the mass-murderers-filled, psychotic and amusement-free environment he designed for the new Fox series.
Kevin Bacon returns to television after a long list of successful big screen movies and after an extended absence. His roles in TV series include mostly soap operas that he played during his pre-fame era. However, the actor, now in his early 50s, showcases the body of a 10 years younger man ready for some serial killer action.
In his role as the former FBI agent Ryan Hardy, Bacon has to bring to life a character who watched his life being torn to pieces by his pursuit of Joe Carroll, a serial killer considered somewhat charismatic, played by James Purefoy. Hardy is extracted from his current lifestyle filled with vodka and regret and thrown back in the game when the FBI forces him to confront Carroll once more. Charisma aside, Carroll is a full on persuader. Even when being held behind bars, he manages to put together a team of fellow mass murderers who do his bidding. The team shows its devotion to its leader by committing crimes in the form of murders and kidnappings.
Later on in the show, Carroll’s crew will be compared and considered similar in many ways to the crazy for blood followers of Charles Manson.
On the disappointing side, the show introduces Carroll as this mesmerizing college professor who lectures about Thoreau, Emerson and most importantly Edgar Allan Poe, who becomes the ‘gang’ trademark. But the discourse is hardly worthy of a high-school auditorium and the writer makes it seem like only Carroll, his psychotic mob and Ryan have ever heard of “The Tell-Tale Heart” or “The Black Cat.” The followers leave messages at the sites of the crimes, one of them being “Nevermore”, which triggers Ryan’s reaction: “The Raven!”
But this flaw is overwritten by Bacon and Purefoy’s intensely earnest performances, the good chemistry Bacon has with Natalie Zea, who plays Carroll’s ex-wife, Ryan’s ex-lover and the mother of a son who get kidnapped by three members of the serial killers gang. But the show is actually powered by the wide-eyed adepts who can be genuinely scary.