The Following Premiere, Episode 1 Review

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Greg (he’s the other co-founder of YWC) has been watching a lot of Vampire Diaries. It’s his favorite show. He’s been writing about it a lot, and it’s something I don’t quite understand. Neither do our mutual friends. Writer Will Link even emailed me questioning the current influx of VD reviews. I don’t know much about it, except that it’s about teen vampires, it basically has a cult following of fans, and the show was developed by Kevin Williamson, the screenwriter behind Wes Craven’s Scream franchise. Well, earlier today, the first episode of Kevin Williamson’s new show The Following premiered. And it’s only fair that I watch and write about it, so we can keep all of our Williamson bases covered.

The Following is a mid-season prime-time replacement for Fox. It stars Kevin Bacon as Ryan Hardy, a former FBI agent. He’s been summoned out of retirement because the serial killer he put away, Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) has escaped from prison. Hardy is, of course, afflicted with alcoholism, implied depression, and we’re told he’s constantly on the verge of heart failure due to an injury inflicted by Carroll on the night Hardy apprehended him. But Carroll has been busy while he’s been locked up, communicating messages and training to a cult of his fans.

Williamson has said in interviews that much of this story came from unused ideas he had for the screenplay of Scream 3. From Entertainment Tonight:

“In my original story for Scream 3, the killers were basically a fanclub of Woodsboro kids that had formed because of Stab 1 and Stab 2. They were all doing the killings and the big surprise of the movie was when Sidney walked into the house after Ghostface had killed everyone … and they all rose up. None of them were actually dead and they’d planned the whole thing.”

So, the plot is not identical, but you can clearly see where the The Following was birthed.

The writing has a pretty campy air to it, as Williamson’s stories always usually have, but the execution is completely straight. Although the subject matter is quite gruesome, it’s also pretty ridiculous and sensational. So much talk about Edgar Allan Poe and references to his stories, which, yet again, begs to be dealt with with an edge of comedy. Kinda like the way “followers” is a cute Twitter-esque pun. Joe Carroll recruits and trains his “followers” on the internet. It’s silly. But the show itself is devoid of silliness, and this separation between what the content seems to warrant and the execution is the show’s main downfall.

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Bacon acts everyone else under the table. He’s unsubtle and exciting, which is exactly what this show needs from its lead. Sadly the rest of the performances are pretty flat. Although I will say when we finally get to really see Hardy interact with the serial killer at the end of the episode, James Purefoy does manage to make Joe Carroll pretty exciting. I’m hoping he gets to spew a lot more literary references in future episodes, and I like the idea of Carroll trying to dictate the events and the characters to make the story more structured and exciting. This was hinted at a bit in the end, but there’s no real promise that it will be a continuing theme of the show. I mean, Carroll’s no Sutter Cane, but you know I love meta shit like that.

The horror aspect of The Following wasn’t very strong. I had expected it to be much eerier, but it hasn’t quite developed an atmosphere yet. There’s a few graphic gory scenes, but they are fast, and are not really dealt with the proper suspense. There’s one neat one at the end though, in which a corpse becomes a sort of pendulum. Like I said, lots of Poe.

But this was all setup for the rest of the season, which actually has potential, in my opinion. I’m pretty intrigued by the premise of Kevin Bacon hunting a cult of murderers, trained by a literary serial killer. Although this first episode has been pretty run of the mill, it’s an alright jumping off point. Hopefully the next episode will go somewhere more interesting.

So, in conclusion, THE FOLLOWING: IT WASN’T SO GOOD

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