Entertainment Television

TV review: 'The Following' a gripping but violent thriller

If you are sensitive to bloody images of horrible murder, you might not want to watch the new serial killer drama "The Following" (8 p.m. CT Jan. 21, Fox; 3 stars out of 4). If you like to be scared to the point of watching through interlocked fingers, then tune in.
The series, created by "Scream" writer Kevin Williamson, is a thrill ride in the style of "Silence of the Lambs," if not quite at that film's level. It's a scary look into the minds of a damaged former FBI agent (Kevin Bacon) and a charismatic killer (James Purefoy).
Bacon's Ryan Hardy is a loner, an aspiring alcoholic with a pacemaker who exists on vodka and regret. His life was ruined years earlier after he captured Joe Carroll (Purefoy), a college professor and failed novelist who slaughtered 14 women and cut out their eyes in homage to his literary hero, Edgar Allen Poe.
As the series begins, the FBI calls up Hardy when Carroll escapes from prison to kill a potential victim who got away. Carroll's plan also involves Hardy, whom the killer casts in a sick "novel" that involves a cult of followers assembled via the Internet while he was in prison.
The relationship between Hardy and Carroll fuels the story, and Bacon and Purefoy have amazing chemistry. Their scenes together are riveting, as Carroll sets up his deadly game of cat-and-mouse with Hardy.
Bacon tackles a tough assignment well; Hardy is all torment, sadness and doubt, but because he cares so much, we care about him. Purefoy portrays Carroll as incredibly smart and self-assured with a charisma that makes you believe he could convince his acolytes to do his bidding. He's truly chilling in the role.
Their performances--and scenes that focus on Carroll's killer minions that I won't talk about lest I spoil things for readers--are the strongest parts of the series and overshadow the weaknesses. Those include numerous plot holes and some sketchy logic, plus Williamson's annoying habit of beating us over the head with the Poe references.
Williamson also relies too heavily at times on the slasher film tropes he mocked in "Scream," which makes some meant-to-be-scary scenes predictable. When Carroll's ex-wife (Natalie Zea) looks into a mirror for no good reason, it's obvious that when she looks again, a killer will be there. And guess what? He is!
With that in mind, I'm interested to see if Williamson can keep the shocks coming. In a show where anyone on screen could be a Carroll serial killer, how long will it take before we're not surprised that someone is?
Getting back to the show's other shocking element, I have to talk about the violence that has garnered so much attention. Recent national tragedies have made it fashionable for critics to suddenly loathe violence on TV, although I don't recall many braying about the violence in such critics' darlings as "Sons of Anarchy," "Dexter" or a handful of other shows.
I admit there's a good amount of violence in "The Following," but that's not what sticks in my head after viewing the first four episodes. And I'm the guy who passed out during graphic scenes in movies such as "Scream 2" and "Se7en," and once while watching "The Walking Dead."
I'm still thinking about the suspenseful moments that had me on the edge of the couch, waiting to be scared again and again--exactly what Williamson and his actors had in mind.Want more? Discuss this article and others on Show Patrol's Facebook page

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
Related Content
  • Serial killer TV: There's no escape!
    Serial killer TV: There's no escape!

    When Fox's new thriller "The Following" debuts Monday, TV viewers will be introduced to another serial killer--make that several serial killers, really. Other than one-offs in procedural crime dramas such as "Law & Order" and "CSI," serial killers haven't been the focus of many TV dramas in the...

  • 'Ripper Street' review: Crime drama dressed in Victorian style
    'Ripper Street' review: Crime drama dressed in Victorian style

    It's 1890 in London, two years after the last known murder perpetrated by Jack the Ripper. But the citizens of Whitechapel still are reeling. Detectives have failed to find him, and many East Enders believe it's just a matter of time before the killer strikes again.

  • City lists 45 'problem landlords'
    City lists 45 'problem landlords'

    Chicago's Building Department published its first "problem landlords" list on its website Monday night in an attempt to crack down and publicly shame apartment building owners into providing tenants with basic services such as heat, hot water and working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

  • CTA rider robbed at Taser-point: police
    CTA rider robbed at Taser-point: police

    A 23-year-old CTA rider was threatened with a Taser and robbed of her cellphone Friday as she transferred from the Red Line to the Green Line at the Roosevelt "L" station, police said Tuesday.

  • Emanuel, mayoral challengers face off for first time
    Emanuel, mayoral challengers face off for first time

    In the first face-to-face meeting of the campaign, Mayor Rahm Emanuel came under attack from challengers who criticized him on neighborhood development, crime and his temperament.

  • Illinois reports year's first measles case
    Illinois reports year's first measles case

    A suburban Cook County resident has a confirmed case of measles, but it is not likely linked to the multistate outbreak associated with Disneyland, county and state health officials said Tuesday.