I read all the advanced reviews, listened to all the podcasts, saw the “Inside the Following” trailer. This show was awesome!!! It was so gripping and thrilling. I haven’t been on the edge of my seat that much watching a TV show in a very long time. Many people from the writers, to the actors, to the critics can really blow up a show’s premise, for both the good and the bad, and sometimes it can be to the extreme of what we’re really watching. I’ve seen interviews where cast members say they are doing a show that’s really groundbreaking and thought-provoking. Turns out the show is dull and boring. I’ve seen show runners say shows are intelligent and cerebral with intense twist and turns. Then they turn out shows like The Killing, which was none of those things. But in all the build up to The Following, I can honestly say, not one report was blown out of proportion. The show was scary, thrilling, mysterious, creepy, gross, edgy, smart, and sadistic. And I can’t wait until next week.
The show follows Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) who is a former FBI agent responsible for capturing the world’s most notorious serial killer, Joe Carroll (James Purefoy.) Hardy has left the bureau under, not so clear circumstances, but apparently has perfected his ability to imbibe copious amounts of vodka out of Poland Springs bottles. It appears, at least today, that due to being stabbed in the heart by Carroll and not playing well with others, that Hardy was out. It also might have something to do with his relationship with Claire but I’m not 100% sure if that’s accurate. But Hardy is recruited back once Carroll escapes from prison. From there, things happen very quickly and what we learn in the 42 minutes of air time is not what we (I should say I) was expecting.
First there is Carroll himself, the former college professor with an obsession over Edgar Allan Poe, turned collegiate serial killer. I always complain that shows/movies give away too much of what’s going on in previews these days, but with The Following, nothing I saw in the preview really clued me into the bigger picture. Probably because I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed but I went in expecting to see one thing and now it’s something completely different. I thought this was going to be about Carroll escaping and starting his rampage all over with Hardy and crew trying to capture him. I also thought, that’s going to make the series awfully challenging for many seasons to come if they are only ever chasing Carroll. What we eventually learn is that his escape (and eventual immediate capture) is just the foundation for a much larger, more sinister plot than anyone could have imagined. We also learn that you can trust no one. You can’t take one character on this show at face value or else you could get Survivor blind sided. It makes watching the show so much more enjoyable when you just don’t know who to trust.
Then there is the romantic triangle that is so bizarre when you think about it. Carroll was married to another college professor, Claire Matthews (Natalie Zea) who eventually falls in love with her husband’s captor, Hardy. There are SOOO many questions here. First, when did Claire and Hardy fall in love? The one time line we were privy to this evening was in 2002 when Carroll comes home and throws his wife on their bed and she tells him the news that she’s pregnant. They seem quite happy and in love at this point. Did Claire already know Hardy at this point? Was she already having an affair with him? My guess is that she didn’t know about her husband’s extra curricular activities at that time, so when did she learn? See I think, she and Hardy didn’t get together until later but my husband has a different theory. He thinks Joey, Claire’s son, is actually Hardy’s and not Carroll’s. Remember the scene where she hands the letter to Hardy and she says that “he knows” and Hardy tells her that he’s bluffing and he’s just pretending? My husband thinks that in the letter Carroll tells Claire he knows Joey is Hardy’s kid. That means one of two things. One, that Hardy and Claire’s affair was happening back in 2002 and therefore she was pregnant with Hardy’s kid or two, that she was pregnant at that time but something happened and she lost the baby and got pregnant later with Hardy’s kid. The former is more plausible because if Carroll is captured in 2003 (and not knowing months at this point) that could be a tight timeline for a second pregnancy.
Finally there is the cult angle. Like I said earlier, I was expecting this show to be about re-capturing Carroll once he escapes prison and starts his murdering ways again. But that isn’t the case at all. This isn’t about Carroll anymore. I mean it is because it’s his plan, but it isn’t JUST about Carroll because there are so many people involved that it’s bigger than we even realize at this point. It’s Silence of the Lambs meets Charles Manson!! I’m not a huge “cult” person because I find them amazingly creepy, and not in a fascinating way. But this I do find incredibly interesting because I want to know how someone like Joe Carroll is able to get so many people to do what he wishes. Why would they do this? How does he get in touch with them? How does he develop these relationships to the point where people would spend years of their lives following his lead? Does he have a main point of contact on the outside helping him? It’s unreal!! And on a side note, I find it a little disturbing that I was more upset and cringing over the scene where we saw all the puppies who had been slaughtered than I was seeing 4 police officers brutally murdered in the prison. When I saw that video with the cop with the puppy, I had to cover my eyes because if he hurt that dog and I had to see it, I may have been done with the show. How wrong is that?
Ok I’m going to go out on a crazy wild limb and say that Agent Mike Weston (Shawn Ashmore) is one of the followers. I know I know, I’m nuts and it’s only the first episode so why do I want to make a crazy prediction so early. Because it’s fun!! This show has already proven that you can’t trust anyone. Look at Maggie Grace’s adorable gay neighbors who loved her and were there to protect her. Not so adorable and lovable now are they? Although I said to my husband when the second guy showed up that I didn’t trust him and that I thought he was in on it. Then there’s Joey’s nanny who’s obviously been with Joey and Claire a long time. Yep, she’s one of them too. And Carroll has already gotten one law enforcement officer on his side so I wouldn’t put it past him to reach higher. He obviously has the intelligence, the charisma, and the arrogance to pull it off. I wouldn’t put it past him to have a FBI agent in his pocket. Weston seems the perfect choice at this point. He’s young, he’s smart, he has a man crush on Hardy and his work, he appears to want to get to know him better and learn from him, he knows the case backwards and forwards, and no one would suspect him. So I’m all in on Weston being part of the cult.
The big question is why? Why is Carroll doing this? Is it because Hardy and his wife had an affair and he wants to get back at both of them? Is it because he can and he wants to see how far he can take this? Is it because he’s bored and Angry Birds just isn’t cutting it any more (pardon the pun.) I have to believe he has a master plan that has levels we haven’t even begun to think of yet. But I can’t wait to see where this show takes us.
One of the reasons why I think this show works so well is the chemistry between Bacon and Purefoy. Is it Hopkins/Foster worthy? Not quite, but it’s pretty damn good. The scene where Carroll has been recaptured and he explains to Hardy his plan is so chilling, Purefoy knocks it out of the park. Bacon also does a masterful job of showing his intense anger and disgust while keeping his composure. You can see the wheels spinning in his head as Carroll unloads all this new information onto him. It should set up a beautiful, sinister dance between the two of them for the rest of the series. But I will say one thing. Agent Hardy, the next time you get a hunch, please please please, bring back up with you! Why you would go to the Lighthouse by yourself, is beyond me. And while we’re on that, I’m heartbroken Maggie Grace was killed. To survive an attack by a serial killer only to learn that the people you trusted for three years, worked for him and led you right back to him only so he could finish the job? And to expose what happened to her to Hardy the way he did? Just, evil!
I want to take one brief moment to comment on the violence of the show. There have been many people commenting on it and since I have a forum to put in my two cents, I’m going to. I think we live in a society today where violence is all too present. With technology advancing, it’s easier for people to find more ways to be destructive and deadly and it’s incredibly scary. There was no worse display of that than what happened in Newtown, CT just last month. It’s raised many topics about gun laws and gun control. It has also resurfaced the discussion on violence in video games, movies, and TV. And I can understand it. Tragedies like this hit everyone hard. And even when there isn’t a tragedy current in our heads, many people find it unnecessary to show the levels of violence that many games, movies, and TV shows so graphically display. But I also understand that we live in a society where people have the creative rights to depict and tell stories as they choose. Storytellers have the right to broadcast and film their stories as they feel is necessary to tell the best story or get their message across. And just as they have the right to do it, people who don’t agree with it have the right to not support it by not purchasing those video games, not buying tickets to those movies, or simply changing the channel on their TVs.
This show won’t be for everyone. It’s dark, it’s gruesome. And while I’m someone who abhors violence, especially against children and animals, I can also put shows like this in their proper context. Because for me, I find shows like this compelling. I want to know how the FBI would attack a situation like this. I want to see how they profile a twisted individual. I want to see how they learn and adapt to get smarter and better so that they continue to get evil like that off the streets. I want to see if I can figure this out right along with them. Now is this a documentary on the BAU of the FBI? Of course not. It’s a TV show for entertainment, not a History Channel expose. But shows like this don’t happen in a vacuum. They do research and have consultants that aid with adding realism into a fictional show. Now scenes and situations will be dramatized for effect but there are storytellers who like to have as much realism as possible when telling a story like this. And what it all comes down to is that this is fiction, not reality. If people want to watch a show like this (that is brilliant right off the bat), I think it’s absolutely ok. If other people want to crucify it for its violent nature, that’s absolutely ok too. The beauty of this age of TV is that there are hundreds of channels for you to pick from on Monday nights at 9pm. If The Following isn’t your bag, it’s a shame but I get it. And I respect your right to watch something else. Just respect my right to want to watch it.
What did you all think? Did you like The Following? Are you as hooked as I am? Or were you just too creeped out by people stabbing themselves in the eye to come back? Let me know!