Recurring Cast: Kevin Bacon, Natalie Zea, Annie Parisse, Shawn Ashmore, Valerie Curry and James Purefoy
The Following is a fifteen-part thriller series, starring Hollywood great, Kevin Bacon, and the rising star, James Purefoy. Purefoy is Joe Carroll, a convicted serial killer, who managed to stab Kevin Bacon’s Ryan Hardy in the heart, before arrest. Hardy is left with a dependence on a pacemaker to keep his heart beating and trust issues, especially when it comes to Carroll’s wife, Claire, who he has feelings for. Things take a turn for the worse, when Carroll, who has been recruiting his own cult of serial killers, breaks out of prison and hatches a crazed scheme.
The entire premise of an army of serial killers strikes us as a little far-fetched, right from the pitch. Although, at times, the plot does slip towards the absurd, the writers manage to keep the series in fairly realistic territory. We are treated to a decent story about FBI agents racing around the city, trying to catch killers and save hostages, with the clock constantly ticking away. Even if it sometimes falls under a slightly repetitive streak, the tension is always kept up to such a high, you find yourself unable to tear yourself away regardless.
The series does get off to a rather slow start, sadly. After a thrilling first episode, we are treated to several moments of endless exposition. To fill the running time, we are treated to flashbacks of almost every killer in Joe’s ranks. Don’t get me wrong, it is fairly interesting to see Joe as a University lecturer, before the killings and Ryan’s relationship with Claire grow, but before long, you will end up dreading the jumps back in time. Also, I couldn’t find myself caring much for the whole Emma, Jacob and Paul storyline. I felt that Emma, an initially great character, fell apart, as the story focused too much on her inner character. There is nothing wrong with character development, but Emma seemed so much scarier and unpredictable, before the romance card got overplayed, which was a shame, because she was one of the factors that kept drawing me back to this programme.
Thankfully, the season picked up pace and by the time, Joe was reunited with the entirety of his cult, every episode after that was packed with action and suspense. What I liked about this show is that it wasn’t afraid to kill off its characters. It made for an unpredictable watch. The show would build on a good villain for three episodes and then that bad guy would be quickly finished off by Ryan Hardy. Call it a waste of character, but I thought it kept the show exciting. Besides, the villains that were allowed to stick around for longer than the others always seemed to overstay their welcome. I have talked about Emma’s loss of intimidation, but also Warren Kole, who played Carroll’s lieutenant, Roderick, lost his way near the end. I got the impression the actor, or the writers I guess, tried to make the character a little more gimmicky, to stand up next to the great Joe Carroll. It never quite worked and I felt that later on in the season, I just wanted the show to hurry up and get rid of the character.
But Joe Carroll, or should I say James Purefoy, is the real reason to watch this show. This is an actor I have admired for some time and it is so rewarding to see him get a role he can really show the world how good an actor he is. While some of the other characters suffer from the script becoming slightly clichéd, Purefoy seems to make it work on his character. His ideological rants don’t seem ‘stereotypical bad guy monologue’, but realistic. There is a connection between Purefoy and the script that other characters, for example Roderick, seemed to be missing. Even at a more simple level, the actor excels. He makes the use of his British accent, really milking the creepy University professor side to the character. Some of the best scenes in the series are his phone conversations with Ryan Hardy, echoing Hannibal Lecter.
The other actors are also good here. Kevin Bacon has stated that he wanted to find a good TV role for some time now, so it is to be expected that he threw himself completely into the role of Ryan Hardy. He plays a tired character, who has had too many bad things happen to him. We really feel sorry for his character and Bacon plays it subtle, never overdoing any of the tragic sides. I also enjoyed the scenes where Bacon was captured, only to appear more in control of events than the bad guys were. It reminded me of one of my favourite shows, Luther, and if a second season is commissioned, then I want to see more of that: Hardy beating the psychopaths at their own game.
The final episode was a good one. I felt it suffered the fact that the season piled too much to cover in that final chapter though. I wished that the writers slowed the action down for the finale, so we could focus on Hardy versus Carroll, rather than getting through all of the cliff-hangers and plot points the season had left to tie up. Although, I cannot deny that the first half of that episode was done perfectly, with a shocking turn of events to get the final episode started. I just felt that when Hardy got around to facing off against Carroll, it was wrapped up too quick, making it come across as hollow. Don’t get me wrong, I got want I wanted: a tense punch-up and a good end to things. It just felt a little short.
Then the season left us with one final note. The writers mentioned a character a while back that was seemingly forgotten about, but a few viewers would have been waiting for a reappearance from her. She turns up in the final minute of the show, hinting at a second season in the making. I was unsure how the cliff hanger sat with me. Part of me wanted a clean ending. Part of me doesn’t even want a second season. I liked the Following, but I think it should remain untarnished in our memories, rather than a vehicle for the producers to cash in on forced storylines. I mean, look at Heroes.
Final Verdict: This is the kind of show that TV needed. Great characters, an unpredictable story and two solid leads.