The Following, Season 1, Episode 1: Pilot, Jen Johnson Review

Jen Johnson just has one, serious concern about The Following . . .

(Drumroll please…)  The Following has FINALLY arrived! I have been BEYOND excited to see this show, hyping it up right along with all of Fox’s trailers, Facebook posts, etc. It has some pretty big shoes to fill. The past few years have churned out some serious crime dramas across the networks, paid or otherwise (such as Criminal Minds and Law and Order: SVU).  Here are a few reasons why I think people should watch The Following:

1. Dexter is over.  One of my friends said she would watch this as a replacement.

2. It marks Kevin Bacon’s small screen debut, not long after his lovely wife, Kyra Sedgwick, closed out The Closer. And hey, everything’s better with Bacon, right? (He’s 54 and still hot. Come on, people. That alone’s worth the price of admission.)

3. If you’re an Edgar Allan Poe fan, this will be right up your alley. If you’re not, you can at least learn a few things about him…including the fact that his birthday was January 19, two days before the premiere and Poe would have been 204 years old. Betcha didn’t know that. 

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4. James Purefoy as serial killer Joe Carroll, who is so charming and slick and intelligent that he’s able to carve through young ladies with ease, escape from prison and build a cult following that vastly increases the number of serial killers around the country. 

5. It looks really damn scary.

I have only one really big concern about this show, but I’ll get to that later. 

One of the issues with this show has been the level of violence, which becomes apparent in the first fifteen minutes. Serial killer Joe Carroll (Purefoy) wipes out five security guards to escape prison and his last victim, Sarah Fuller, who survived, is put under surveillance, as is Carroll’s ex-wife Claire Matthews (Natalie Zea). Ryan Hardy (Bacon) is an ex-FBI agent who’s not doing so well, putting vodka in his water bottle to head back down to headquarters when he gets called to Virginia following Carroll’s escape.They find out that Carroll has “groupies” who have been visiting him in prison…112 over the last two years and one of them proves her loyalty in a very gruesome way after receiving a text message on her phone. Her body is covered with quotations from Poe, including his last words before he died, “Lord, save my poor soul.” 

I knew this show was going to be violent, but one scene in particular tested my fortitude: Hardy and his colleagues going to the home of a man who Carroll was training to be a serial killer.The man’s fridge is covered with missing dog posters and the feds find video on the computer of this guy holding the dogs…which are all in various states of dismemberment in a back room. I’m an animal lover; that was hard to watch, but studies have shown that people who abuse animals are likely to abuse, torture and even murder people later on. As soon as I saw the missing dog posters I thought, ohhhhhh noooooooo…

I’m only twenty five minutes into this show. Hope I can make it. 

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Carroll is determined to finish what he started, which means finishing off Sarah. He manages to get past her police guards within a matter of hours, leaving a bloody trail that Hardy follows to the word “Nevermore” written in blood on the inside of the garage, where the last dead cop is found. Carroll’s ex has demanded to speak only to Hardy and gave him the clue that Carroll will go after Sarah, but now Sarah is missing and her two neighbors and, well, chances are that it’s not going to end well, seeing all the destruction Carroll’s been able to accomplish already since his escape.

Hardy tracks Carroll to the Lighthouse B&B, where he thinks Sarah is being held (she is, but she’s already dead…Carroll lured Hardy with a recording of Sarah’s screams). Carroll says he wants to turn himself in, surrendering to the police, but the evil grin on his face tells me he’s up to something. Now that he’s gotten the last victim he left alive, he’s probably built up enough of a following to have others carry out his dirty work while he’s in jail. Still, killing five guards to escape prison just to kill one more person seems a bit…extreme, especially if the guy is willing to go back in so quickly.

When Hardy talks to Carroll in the police station, we start to see how bad this is going to get:  Carroll sent a letter to his ex-wife, who showed it to Hardy, but he didn’t tell anyone about it. Carroll’s followers are so dedicated and efficient, they are seemingly everywhere: The babysitter who has been caring for his son, Joey, takes him away and the episode ends with a panicked Claire trying to find him, as he is being handed off to two more of the followers…

Final review:  

Ok, where do I begin? First of all, let me say that my husband watched this with me and has refused to watch any more episodes from now on. The Following is scary, gruesome, heart-pounding and disturbing. A lot has been thrown into the pilot. Hardy’s relationship with Carroll is complicated and long-standing (Hardy was stabbed while coming to Sarah’s rescue), with Hardy going so far as to write a book called The Poetry of a Killer that has been read by Carroll’s groupies. There are heavy Poe references: Lighthouses, “The Raven,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “Black Cat.” Anything by Poe that involves removing the eyes, the “windows to the soul,” is Carroll’s thing. Poe saw death as beauty and the death of a beautiful woman was the ultimate fantasy, elevating the soul. Carroll got his jollies by removing the eyes of his victims.   

My concern about this show:  

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It’s about a serial killer training future serial killers. Let’s just hope it’s not going to be…”inspiring” to anyone. Please. Remember Copycat? Yeah, that scared the hell out of me…and so does The Following. Does prime time need another violent show, especially one that has women as the majority of the victims? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean that this isn’t thought-provoking stuff that just might be worth watching for weeks to come.