First Impression: The Following Takes 'Killer Drama' to a (Too?) Dark New Extreme

Review: Fox's The Following There are more than a dozen scripted programs debuting in early 2013, including a new riff on Jekyll and Hyde, Felicity as a 1980s KGB spy and a quirk-free (!?) David E. Kelley drama. To help you re-prioritize your DVR, TVLine is offering First Impressions of several of the new shows. Next up on our list…

THE SHOW | Fox’s The Following (Mondays at 9/8c, premiering Jan. 21)

THE COMPETITION | The Bachelor (ABC), 2 Broke Girls/Mike & Molly (CBS), Dallas (TNT, returning Jan. 28) and Being Human (Syfy)

RELATED | Kevin Williamson: The Following Is ‘Not for the Faint of Heart’ (And Is Also a Love Story?)

THE CAST | Kevin Bacon (Mystic River), James Purefoy (Rome), Natalie Zea (Justified), Annie Parisse (Person of Interest), Shawn Ashmore (X-Men) and others

THE SET-UP | Elite FBI profiler Ryan Hardy (played by Bacon) is pulled out of retirement (and the bottle) to recapture Joe Carroll (Purefoy), a professor of literature-turned-serial slayer. Thing is, even from behind bars, Carroll is able to motivate a sprawling cult of killers — thus, Hardy’s job won’t be over anytime soon. Zea plays Carroll’s ex-wife/Hardy’s onetime lover Claire, Parisse and Ashmore are FBI agents.

thefollowing_cast_600

THE FIRST IMPRESSION | As created by Kevin Williamson (Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer and, yes, TV’s Vampire Diaries), The Following seems out to push the broadcast-TV envelope. I mean, this stuff is dark, sometimes as dare-you-to-look chilling as it is breathless and thrilling, as Carroll’s followers oft opt for graphic kills. Ashmore’s agent is a Hardy fanboy anxious to be his No. 2 (and as such perhaps provides the only moments anywhere within 100 miles of levity), while Parisse was added to the mix after the pilot, as the FBI’s cult specialist. Soon enough, the narrative splits between Hardy’s hunt for the latest death-dealing disciple and the überintense, dysfunctional dynamic within Carroll’s core group of “friends.”
     Bacon, evoking a blend of 24‘s Jack Bauer circa Season 3 (when he shook a smack addiction) and Season 6 (reawakening after a Chinese prison stint), delivers a formidable yet fallible hero in his series regular debut, while Purefoy, thanks to flashbacks, is afforded the chance to show the duality of a killer whose dynamism fosters religious-like worship. Among the supporting cast, Zea surfaces the conflict of a woman alternately wed to a monster and drawn to its slayer (especially a few episodes in), and Valorie Curry (Veronica Mars) makes quite an impression.

RELATED | Hot for Winter: Your January Premieres and Finales Calendar

THE TVLINE BOTTOM LINE | If you’ve been hankering for a small-screen Silence of the Lambs (and can’t wait for NBC to book a date for Hannibal proper), The Following may fit the bill, complete with regular Clarice/Hannibal-style horn-locking between Bacon/Purefoy. (The pilot even riffs on what I call the “Silence of the Lambs fake-out.”) But as NBC boss Robert Greenblatt said at TCA this month, it may be best to chase this with a shiny(er)-happy(er) episode of Parenthood or the like. Because even though you may have the stomach for it, I can vouch, four episodes in, that there is a lot to stomach. (Hell, even Criminal Minds allows you a breather every week at 9:55 pm.) The Following certainly owns a niche in its time slot, but will the specific audience it speaks to show up and stick it out?

Watch a video preview for The Following, then vote in our poll below.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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79 Comments
  1. Aleksa says:

    I’m actually glad to hear it’s dark, considering the subject matter.

  2. Luke says:

    your using to many ‘expensive’ words. very hard to read this

  3. Kasper says:

    I love Kevin Bacon and absolutely adore James Purefoy. So ready for this!

  4. Kiki says:

    Oh for heaven’s sake – why do you persist in using the most recent credit – 5 episodes of Person of Interest – over a more well known one – 34 episodes of Law and Order – this time for Parisse? Otherwise, been looking forward to the show but I hope Fox can book Purefoy for as many appearances as Bacon’s been doing given their “relationship” is at the heart of this show.

    • wordsmith says:

      There are a lot more people who have been in 34 episodes of L&A than have been in 5 of POI (26 vs. 16, for the record). Also, I’d argue that she’s made more of an impression as John’s mysterious assassin partner.

      Speaking of her POI role, how are they handling that? Is she pulling double duty? Are they planning to kill her off soon?

    • Suncatcher says:

      Good call, Matt – quality over quantitity!

  5. mia says:

    I want to watch this, but I can’t even handle Criminal Minds so I’m nervous.

    • tp says:

      That’s what I’m thinking after reading this review. CM got too dark and started giving me nightmares. I have this set to record but I think I’ll delete from my to do list.

    • Suncatcher says:

      Exactly what I was thinking, Mia! I had been watching Criminal Minds since its pilot. I gave it up last season when it started going over the top in showing violence, blood & guts. Alfred Hitchcock rarely showed gory scenes. He left it up to the audience to THINK how gory an event was – and they usually thought far worse than Hitchcock. That being said, CM and now The Following have little appeal. Think I’ll stick with 2 1/2 Men and its kinder, gentler, blood & guts. ; )

  6. Andy says:

    This show looks really good, and since I love Kevin Bacon and Shawn Ashmore, this is a can’t miss for me.

  7. Alienate says:

    Yes. This is just the kind of TV “entertainment” America needs right now. Lets see how much gore and depravity we can blast into America’s homes. And, judging by the large “must see” poll numbers above, I can only shake my head in shame for what has become of us as a culture.

    • shaun says:

      Chill out, it is not that big a deal. If u dont want to watch it, watch something else.

    • Brooke says:

      It’s a story. It’s something that safely happens inside the TV. If you don’t like it, stick to the Bachelor or whatever.

      • Suncatcher says:

        But it doesn’t “…safely happen(s) inside the TV.” Just ask the parents of Sandy Hook, CT and the thousands of schools that must have metal detectors, “zero tolerance” and lock down procedures today. Credit goes – in part – to the “entertainment” industry.

        • Brooke says:

          Haven’t you been alive long enough to realize that blaming video games and violent movies is the simplest, most unproductive cop-out for explaining violent crimes ever? You do realize that horrific violence has been happening since long before TV and movies and video games existed, right?

          • Suncatcher says:

            Brooke, if you want to believe that, it’s your opinion and you have a right to it. And so do I.
            However, I’ve been around longer than you (1950s) – enough to see a big change in our society since entertainment went all sex and violence – at all ages. Hey, sex and violence sell. Duh. But handing it out like candy now to kids has shown that it has contributed to the more violent society that we have today. Our kids are immune to it. I did not write the many text books on this – I just read them, as a responsible parent.
            Can we change the violent trend preferred by entertainment?Probably not. Good luck with that.

        • Deedee says:

          I still can’t understand why in the name of Thor would a child be in front of the TV at the time this show or CM is on. It’s not the TV shows’ problem, it’s the negligence of the parents that allow their children to watch TV unsupervised and don’t care to give them a proper education and values. Children shouldn’t be watching this, not even teenagers, and if they do, there should be a grown up with them in order to discuss what they are actually watching, see the red flags and just do something about it if they are there.
          Don’t spoil the entertainment for everyone else because there are lazy parents not doing their job.

    • mia says:

      I can definitely see where you are coming from, and the level of horrific violence on tv is problem. Especially when we can show so much violence but still cant depict consensual, loving sex between adults. Siiigh.
      .
      But I do believe that we need dark stories like this to explore the dark sides of humanity. For the millions of people who watch horror and violence, most of them dont go out and commit horrific acts of violence. Maybe there is something to engaging with these stories – we know they are fake, that they are actors, so maybe we can explore our own dark sides in a safe way.
      .
      But its the type of violence that bothers me most. Its always violence against the most victimized people in society, children, women, people of colour, lgbtq, etc and I think its problematic that its always marginalized people who are more often than not the victims.

      • Alienate says:

        Thanks for the thoughtful reply. I can watch and enjoy violence. I loved KILL BILL. But the kind of violence in these type shows is different. Its degrading and dehumanizing. I just don’t like to be taken to that emotional level when there are so many other places I can go. Cheers!

    • Brigitte says:

      Violence has been a part of our culture since the dawn of time. People used to get tortured, even hung, in the town squares, and that was live. I am looking forward to seeing this show and am quite confident that I am not going to be driven to do something crazy. The people that do such heinous acts in real life already had issues.

  8. shump says:

    I’m a adult and I like intense drama so I will watch. I didn’t know TNT put Dallas on Mondays though! Like there’s not enough to watch on Mondays!

  9. Derek Johnson says:

    Say this about it: it will either succeed beautifully or fail miserably.

  10. madbengalsfan85 says:

    Gives me a reason to stick around after Bones…I am intruiged

  11. nitemar says:

    Will cautiously..it’s FOX. Gamble.

  12. Heatherjm says:

    I hope James Purefoy sticks around for awhile. He was so wonderful in Rome!

    • prish says:

      I hope he gets another show, where he is a more positive character. I have loved his acting in everything. The movie Vanity Fair was, really, his character’s showcase, just by his acting. I loved him in Rome, also. I enjoy Kevin Bacon’s work, also. However, I do not enjoy this torture/horror/killer stuff. We bailed on CM after the first season. I wish these actors well, but I am hoping they get a TV show I like.

  13. N says:

    I love Kevin Bacon!

  14. Patrick Maloney says:

    I have heard so much about this show that I’ve seriously been brainwashed into seeing it whether I like it or not

  15. Dizzle says:

    The promos have me excited for it, and thankfully Sky are airing it the day after the States in the UK, so I won’t have to worry about avoiding spoilers. Only issue I can see is it airing at 10pm over here, doesn’t sound like bed-time viewing!

  16. Jean says:

    I’ve watched a lot of serial killer type shows over the years, including documentaries, but I’ve reached the saturation point. The majority of the time the violence is so twisted, the evil so overwhelming, I just can’t handle it anymore. And 80% or more of the time the twisted violence is against women. Women. Women. (and now sometimes even children.). It’s just too much for me, so I won’t be watching this, much as I adore Kevin Bacon and James Purefoy. I gave up Criminal Minds for the same reason. Call me twisted, but I still watch Dexter, because, unlike any other serial killer series/movie, his victims are serial killers and thus, by far are men. Don’t be putting me into the category of man hater, that’s not it at all. Just put me into the category of had enough of watching horrific murders of women that’s it’s almost a pleasure to watch the perpetrators be killed for a change. I’m absolutely sure, though, that Kevin and James will do a terrifyingly amazing acting job with their characters because they’re both fabulous actors. If this series were about anything else, I wouldn’t miss the chance to watch these two great actors.

  17. Drew says:

    This just looks like what I call “torture porn.” I think it’s a really sad commentary on society today that we blithely watch women getting terrified, tortured and murdered as ENTERTAINMENT! I don’t watch Criminal Minds because it’s too grisly and I won’t be watching this, either.

    • Alienate says:

      Thank you. That’s what I tried to say in my post. Yes, violence has been around forever, but that doesn’t mean we have to bring it into our consciousness for fun. Especially this kind.

    • Suncatcher says:

      THANK YOU. My thoughts exactly. Interesting, the Europeans and others outside of the US ask what it is that makes Americans so hung up on murder as entertainment. I have lived all over Europe and the Middle East and this question keeps coming up. It’s a good one… Not a prude. Just find nonviolent shows more entertaining – than seeing mostly women tortured, brutalized, raped and killed as a form of “fun”. Am concerned about some of the pro-violence comments here. Yikes!

      • martina says:

        i don’t agree with you because i think that a tv-show about crime is like a crime novel (did you ever read any P. Cornwell’s novel? they are twisty as well) but the difference between these is if you want read a book you have to go to a library, pick a book and pay but when you have to pick one tv show for one-hour entertaiment you don’t choose which crime show you will see but the crime show that is on TV, not every night we can choose betwen criminal minds dexter bones etc but we can choose between funny shows,crime shows, kitchen shows etc. that’s why i ask you, what is the difference between choosing a tv shows over a book? i read books about crime,love,funny books, classic. i can choose to read/watch what i prefer and not because it’s fun but maybe because i want explore something new, because i want try to understand what happens to a human being when he/she becomes a monster and how and why. funny shows are HIMYM or new girl or tbbt and i love these shows as i like crime shows but i’m totally sure i’m not pro violence and not pro rape,killing etc etc. (i hope you understand what i mean, i’m not sure my english is so good when i want explain my toughts!)

  18. sarah says:

    Looking forward to this show! Also BTW Buneahds and 90210 are also airing at the same time!

  19. Jared says:

    90210 is gonna get crushed by The Following..which I plan on watching tomorrow on demand instead. There’s way too many TV shows on Mondays.

  20. WillBeWatching says:

    While I completely understand that some of you are tired of the violence towards women on tv, not all of us who enjoy these shows condone this behaviour either. In response to the person who said they have been around since the 50’s and violence is more prominent in society this statistically is untrue. Violence has been around for centuries we are just now made more aware of it, and sooner as we have access to things that spread news, especially awful news at an exorbitant rate. Social media, tv, internet, Twitter, 24 hour news programming run nationally and internationally making these things seem like crime rates are escalating. Unfortunatly bad news travels faster than good news stories.

    All the same, I will be tuning into Kevin Bacon, scary or not because this is my genre of choice and I promise it will have no influence on me or my actions toward human kind tomorro.

  21. Brandon says:

    I’ve been looking forward to this show for quite a while now. I’ve been a fan of Shawn Ashmore ever since his days on “Animorphs” in the ’90s, so I try to watch whenever he’s in a new project. Great cast overall, and the show looks really creepy, yet interesting. I’ll definitely be checking it out tonight.

  22. VOXPOP says:

    I suggest for those who get so wrapped up in tv show content that they fear for their mental state…get professional help.

  23. Jack says:

    LOL, who let the teenager into the conversation?

  24. WillBeWatching says:

    Probably older than you. Everyone is intitled their own opinions.

  25. Lauren says:

    For those who are planning to watch the pilot and are dog lovers…..good luck!

  26. Melissa says:

    I don’t know much about this show, but I’m going to watch cause I’m an Edgar Allan Poe fan and I heard it had something to do with his stories.

  27. jake says:

    That
    Was
    Awesome.

  28. Jennifer Turner says:

    I thought it was REALLY good. However, my mother and I both really disliked the lady detective that helps them. Something about the way she was always so dead-eyed and hard. Too hard. They need to soften her up a bit..

  29. kay v says:

    The Following was good, but too gory. I recently gave up on Criminal Minds because of the creepy/gore factor (and the loss of Paget Brewster), and The Following was too much of a bad thing for me personally.

  30. Cheue Churin says:

    I like the theme but enough with the gay stuff already – I have nothing against gays, but they are getting shoved at us by the networks from every direction these days and frankly it disgusts me to see to two guys kissing.

  31. Stella Fristoe says:

    When the gay guys kissed last week,I was gone…..forever!!!!!!!!!!!!

  32. The non-follower says:

    First episode was promising, later episodes suck big time.

  33. Natalie says:

    Overall I enjoy the show.. My problem with it is like so many other shows one side is constantly winning. Either the good guys win all the time, however in this case the bad guys seem to always to the upper hand. In either case the story gets boring with either side being the victor all the time..

  34. Aaron says:

    the Folowing is a very bad show! i can predict what is going to happen next ! story is dumb and dragging so long with non sense. I suggest to stop the show is a wast of time to watch

  35. Thang says:

    the folowing is SUCK BIG TIME ! it’s a wast of my time story is stupid

  36. Ben says:

    This show is so out of wack with reality. The FBI Is much more compitant

  37. Ben says:

    The most ridiculous FBI in the world or wait maybe its the tv show. I am going to stop watching if they don’t start writing better. The FBI is not that stupid and the twists are just poorly written so far great idea terrible execution.

  38. Ben says:

    As a viewer in 2013 we no the FBI is not that bad. You can’t write a show that is so far from the truth. You must get someone on the writing staff that is over 22 and has some grasp of the real world. You might even try asking for an FBI guy to consult. I am being sarcastic I am sure you did ask but now you need to listen. Fix it or I will not watch anymore.

  39. Jenny Campbell says:

    Oh my gosh I so agree with the last few comments. I really like the idea of this show and I’ve really enjoed it so far.., BUT as of recent episodes especially the one aired tonight “whips and regret” was so frustrating to watch them portray the fbi as an organization that has no protocol, and just seemed so stupid in general. There’s no way the Fbi would act the way they do on the show. It almost is commical if it wasn’t so disappointing to see a show that started out very strong, to kind of fall apart bc they are so focused on the relationships between all the various stories/people that they have forgotten to keep it realistic. Either they haven’t properly researched to find actual protocols or what is astounding! For instance no way agents would allow the hooked/bondage worker to be taken when they had a clean shot knowing he was wanted to known murder and even if they did to follow him once he pulled into where he wad going they wouldn’t allow hostage to be taken inside where she could’ve died and he conveniently can get away. And knowing cults are some weird stuff find people in a cage and jay let them out before help comes or you know why they are there and then everyone on the team just splits up! No way would any civilian be that dumb let alone trained professionals. Come on writers of this show, you’ve got everything you need to make this show great , wonderful cast, intriguing story, decent channel with a good time, get your stuff together so the show doesn’t fall short. It could be a huge hit, ensuring many seasons, but if they cant add a little more realism, people will respond in kind and the show WILL lose ratings. I’d like to see it succeed so I’m rooting for an overhaul and success!

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