The Following: Season 1

The FollowingThe Following is possibly the MOST ridiculous show that I’ve seen this year, and I watch a lot of ridiculous shows. It’s even more ridiculous than Grey’s Anatomy’s “we own the hospital” storyline! When I watched The Following’s pilot I likened it to Criminal Minds, but it turned out to be the subject matter and brutality of Criminal Minds, applied to the kind of extreme villain and over the top plots more usually found in episodes of Scooby Doo.

I tried to sum up the plot but I found I really couldn’t do any better than Richard Vine’s Guardian piece that perfectly captures the utter insanity that the first season has been (spoilers in that piece for everything but the final episode). What I particularly love about Vine’s writing is that it exactly captures my attitude toward the series – weary eye rolling on one hand, but joyful abandon on the other.

The Following is just utterly ridiculous. It’s riddled with plot holes, character and institutional idiocy and an abundance of repetitive tropes – oh no, someone’s been captured again! Now someone’s escaped! But somehow rather than making the show frustrating and dull, it all combines into something that I really looked forward to each week. By being so ludicrous, it was also completely unpredictable, each episode had surprises and twists, killing off characters at a phenomenal rate and charging along with gleeful abandon.

How season 2 will work is anyone’s guess. I won’t spoil it, but elements of the final episode really did seem to close things off. I’m a little worried that this will turn into something that I’ll end up wishing had actually only been a one season wonder. But for that one season, what an absurdly enjoyable ride it has been.

The Following: Pilot Review

8 years ago serial killer Joe Carroll was caught by FBI agent Ryan Hardy. Now Carroll has escaped prison and inspired a group of serial killers to follow him.

Fans of Criminal Minds will be familiar with this much more brutal format, these murderers aren’t like the ones on CSI, they’re vicious and messy, people suffer and there’s not always a satisfyingly neat resolution for the story. For some reason Criminal Minds has never really taken off in the UK (despite ranking highly in the US, in 2010/11 it was the 10th most popular show, the only dramas rated higher were the two NCIS and The Mentalist). The Following clearly owes a lot to Criminal Minds in tone and subject, but it actually feels like it’s an evolution of that show, rather than just a shameless copy.

The set up scene at the end (which I won’t spoil) promises a fascinating and elegant set up for the structure of the series, both for episodic “serial killer of the week” and an overarching storyline to embed them in. I found myself grinning along as the details were revealed, as it all became clear how elegant the set up was. Shows like Criminal Minds and CSIs struggle at times due to the episodic nature of their “case of the week” which leaves little for an audience to get really engrossed in. If the writers of The Following play it right, they could have a multi-year show that actually encourages people to watch every week.

The performances are absolutely superb, and you expect nothing less from the type of names they’ve got, who would normally be grabbing major roles in movies. Kevin Bacon may have turned himself into a bit of a joke thanks to some miserable adverts for a phone network where he fundamentally misunderstands how his own eponymous game works, but this will remind you why he was in so many movies in the first place. Opposite him is James Purefoy, always go to the British guy who did Shakespeare for charming and chilling evildoers. Purefoy’s calculating glee opposite Bacon’s gritty angst is going to be brilliant fun to watch every week. Shawn Ashmore provides a bit of lightness and energy to the supporting cast, instantly falling into a more constructive relationship with Bacon to balance the destructiveness.

I’d been really starting to despair about this year’s new shows, nothing had grabbed my attention and many were causing me outright horror at the shoddy quality. The Following however manages to hit all the right notes, it’s got a great concept with enough material to sustain it and a great cast. It’s far from perfect, the practicalities of the set up start to look dodgy if you look too closely and the characters are pretty cliché in places, but the writers are smart enough to actually acknowledge this and that sort of self-awareness is very promising. The pilot is one of the best I’ve seen in a very long time and could easily have been a pretty decent film and I can’t wait to see how the series develops.

The Following is on Sky Atlantic on Tuesdays, Criminal Minds season 8 starts on Sky Living on Monday.

Other Reviews
Huffington Post – Ultimately, my dislike for “The Following” has less to do with its gore factor than with its essential laziness, silliness and pretentiousness.

TV Fanatic – It was an intense hour of television, one that moved at a brisk pace and featured more violence and gore than we’ve ever witnessed on network television. I loved every second of it.

Slouching Towards TV – The Following has lots of potential but it needs to prove that it can build on its premise and deliver something genuinely different without relying on the trappings of its horror origins.