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