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.

  • Chicago beekeepers find mystery, meditation and honey at their hives

    Chicago beekeepers find mystery, meditation and honey at their hives

    You never know what you might find on a Chicago rooftop—a classy lounge, a chill patio, a collection of lawn chairs. But from the Loop to the neighborhoods, there are a few rooftops that are home to a different kind of buzz—the literal buzz of hundreds of thousands of honeybees.

  • Genealogy gold mine: Millions of wills now online

    Genealogy gold mine: Millions of wills now online

    Thousands of amateur genealogists who fantasize about being left a fortune by a distant relative can now get a reality check. Starting Wednesday, upward of 100 million wills written over the last three centuries will be posted to, the popular genealogical search engine.

  • Northerly Island Park opens Friday on Chicago lakefront

    Northerly Island Park opens Friday on Chicago lakefront

    Twelve years after former Mayor Richard M. Daley's "midnight raid" that shut down the small lakefront airstrip called Meigs Field, a new park will open Friday on the southern portion of what is now called Northerly Island, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Tuesday.

  • American recalls French train attack on Jimmy Fallon show

    American recalls French train attack on Jimmy Fallon show

    A California man who was one of three Americans who helped subdue a gunman on a high-speed train traveling to Paris says he couldn't have picked better people to be with that day.