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The Following – Pilot Review: A Lukewarm Start but has Potential

The Following is a show that I'd call an interesting mixed bag. It's not a bad show by any means, and it's not great. But it has the potential to be. Let's start off with the general premise of the show. A serial killer who used to be a professor, Joe Carroll (played by James Purefoy), has escaped from prison and the ex-FBI agent who caught him the first time, Ryan Hardy (played by Kevin Bacon) has been called back in to help them catch Carroll before he kills the victim that got away (played by Lost's Maggie Grace).

The show opens beautifully and creates an amazing suspensful tone. I loved that they juxtaposed the crime and escape of Carroll to a sweetly toned song. Wonderful touch there. Then we are introduced to Bacon's character who is now a retired alcoholic. When he's pulled back into the game, he makes sure to pack a water bottle full of vodka to bring with him. And after those great introductory moments from Bacon and Purefoy's characters, in comes the bad acting. Maggie Grace was FANTASTIC on Lost, especially in the second season, but boy oh boy did she pretty much suck in this. So did the two men who played her gay neighbors. It might have been the medicore writing in these scenes (more on that later) but they just seemed to be doing very bad surface TV acting that I wouldn't expect from a show with such high production values.

The acting isn't any better from Li Jun Li who plays the FBI Agent Meghan Leeds. I found her character to be the very sterotypical Asian, hardass woman in a man's position. Again, maybe it was the writing, but her acting was very flat. However, Natalie Zea is great as Carroll's ex-wife Claire and I can't wait to see more of her character as the show progresses. The relationship between her and Hardy (Bacon's character) is a bit predictable but it's interesting because they have great chemistry together. In regards to the dialogue, some of it does seem forced and just plain off because there's a lot of telling instead of showing, but those three actors seem to make the most of it. 

Part way through the show it is revealed that Carroll has begun a cult of people who follow him and carry out crimes in his name while he reamins in prison, and we're to believe there are hundreds, maybe thousands of people in this cult of "friends" as Carroll calls it. This concept is very very interesting and if the set up is that there are that many people in his cult, then I can see the show having some longevity. One concern I do have in the show's future other than that is the violence. It shows quite a bit for a network television show, especially in a post-Newtown and Batman shooting world.

Many have made the argument that the show is no more violent than a show like American Horror Story, but the difference is that "AHS" doesn't come on a network station, it's rated TV-MA and comes with a very clear content warning attached to it. The scene showing the first follower and her "commitment" to Carroll is quite violent and disturbing as is a scene where murdered dogs are shown. It was a lot for me, and I have a high threshold for such things. I actually much prefered the scenes where they chose not to show the violence but rather made a suggestion at it or cut away before it happened. It made everything more suspensful which I liked. I'll be interested to see what the prodcuers have to say about it and if it will be adjusted over time.

All of that being said, the final scene got me really excited to see what happens in the next episode. There were some smartly executed twists that make me think that this show may actually be quite exciting. I look forward to seeing how far they take the cult aspect of the show and just how many people Carroll has in his group. I really enjoyed the acting from Bacon, Purefoy and Zea, so I am looking forward to seeing where those characters go. I am very intrigued in the show even though it's far from perfect. Let's see how close they can get.



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