Kevin Williamson has done it again. And he has done it by using the same conventions as he did so many times before with his genre re-defining film work.
The conventions? – clichés, those half-predictable yet somehow engaging narrative twists and the treading of a thin line which fits snuggly between pastiche and parody.
Much like The Faculty and the Scream series equally mocked and celebrated the teen-slasher genre, The Following is well aware of the pitfalls and tribulations of the serial-killer genre and it uses them to its advantage.
James Purefoy is the ‘always one step ahead’ serial killer who uses the work and ill-mentality of Edgar Allen Poe as his inspiration/excuse. Kevin Bacon (in his first TV leading role – if you don’t count the ‘Bacon adverts‘) is the former FBI detective who originally put him behind bars, and is brought back from a semi-disgraced, alcohol-fuelled wilderness to track him down once more.
The formula is one which has been recycled time after time, but somehow creator Williamson injects it with enough intrigue – namely, shocking, sudden violence and the odd not-so-predictable twist – to keep us happy until the second episode at least.
This first episode – with more flashbacks than a series of Lost on LSD – hurried along in a bid to squeeze in as much backstory and character development as possible. Although this did ensure our interest piques enough by the end to return next week, when you find yourself trying to play catch-up with some rapid, spurted-out dialogue, it feels like the brakes could have been pressed on slightly.
The erratic pace aside, The Following offers the promise of at least a series worth of thoroughly engaging, edge of your seat games of cat and mouse.
So the scene has been set. Some characters have already met a gory end, others have taken sides. Next week and beyond we will see how long Purefoy’s incarcerated puppeteer can inflict pain and suffering before Bacon cuts his influential strings of madness once and for all.