The first episode of The Following was met with much anticipation and speculation. Before it aired, I think most of us were hopeful it would succeed, but in order to do so it had to answer many questions before it won us over.
Would Kevin Bacon be able to make the transition from underrated film star to lead actor in a TV series? Does Kevin Williamson still possess the creative edge and original ideas to build a challenging thriller? Will James Purefoy be convincing as a genius/madman?
Well what do you think? Were most of these questions answered in the first episode with positives? I think they were and I will definitely be returning to see how the drama unfolds in episode two. Here are five reasons why:
Kevin Bacon has never quite made it to the A-List of American film stars but he has consistently delivered underrated performances throughout his career. Ever since his dancing days in Footloose, he has continued to challenge himself – whether it’s as a reformed child molester in The Woodsman or a smarmy lover in Crazy, Stupid Love.
Landing a major role will do his credentials wonders, especially if he is able to create a sympathetic and likeable character in Ryan Hardy. We’ve already seen him play a convincing man of the law in Clint Eastwood’s drama Mystic River, and it will be interesting to see if he can command a similar role in this thriller. So far Purefoy has taken centre stage with his layered maniac Joe Carroll, but as the weeks go by I’m sure we will all be rooting for Bacon’s character to win the day.
Maggie Grace’s Early Exit
Maggie Grace has done well since her Lost days. She’s turned in decent performances in Taken 2 as well as the impressive action/sci-fi Lockout.
I didn’t realise she was in The Following until she turned up as most of the build-up revolved around Bacon and Purefoy. I was looking forward to seeing how her victimised character would evolve through the series so it was a genuine surprise to see her character, Sarah Fuller, be killed in the first episode. Although it was a shame, it did display a boldness by the creators which tells us the story could veer off in any direction at any point.
Let’s hope the series continues to surprise us with more character and plot twists each and every week.
The Music and Soundtrack
From the non-diegetic heartbeat whenever Bacon’s pacemaker assisted detective comes under pressure, to the Sweet Dreams cover pulsing through the final scene, the music and soundtrack of The Following proved to be a dynamic addition to the action and drama.
As Hardy stumbled towards an ambush in order to save the girl, we were right there with him as the danger was not just what awaited him, but also from within himself. Reminiscent of Bruce Willis’ Hartigan in Sin City, Bacon’s Hardy is seriously disadvantaged due to a life of infliction from both his nemesis and his own self-destructive personality. This sound of his pressured heart is one that I think will feature throughout the episodes and become not only a signifier of danger, but a trademark of the series.
The soundtrack was equally as enthralling. Never before have I heard better use of Marilyn Manson’s oft used cover of the Eurythmics classic Sweet Dreams. As Purefoy’s handcuffed Joe Carroll taunts Ryan Hardy while simultaneously informing us of what’s to come, the gravelly, creepy voice of Manson fills the room elevating both Carroll’s ingenious insanity and Hardy’s desperate frustration.
Kevin Williamson’s Influence
Kevin Williamson has an impressive track record for creating a fresh perspective on fading genres – namely the teen/horror. With Scream and The Faculty his writing was full of awareness for clichés and it often delivered a refreshing ability to simultaneously mock and pay homage to the most famous examples which either helped to invent, develop or tarnish the genres reputation.
Not only does the The Following ask him to transfer his skills to a different medium, but it also tests him on his ability to entertain a new, older demographic. Yes, his work on film was enjoyed by a wide age-ranged audience, but it was mainly directed at the age-group portrayed within the material.
With The Following, he has already displayed that his talents are far-reaching, and as series creator, he has constructed a dark, adult world where no-one is safe or impervious to the grip of evil.
The tone of the first episode is comparable to successful series such as Luther – where even the protagonist has his demons. And like Luther, in order to overcome them Ryan Hardy will have to travel through a whole world of pain – filled with disturbing actions and calculated killers.
With Williamson at the helm I am confident that, although the series may at some points become tiring with its lack of realism regarding characterisation, we will be treated to a thoroughly involving journey from start to finish.
Not knowing who could be revealed as the next psychotic killer from behind their good-guy persona is a tasty concept. By the end of this first episode, we had already found out a number of the seemingly good guys were actually part of Carroll’s secret following of serial killers. But who will be next?
For the series to sustain some aspects of realism, surely there are not enough main characters for the story to continually reveal most of them as murderers in disguise – some new characters will have to be introduced. But I think it’s safe to say the theme set out in this episode of ‘good’ characters suddenly revealing themselves as part of Carroll’s insane following will recur. And after all, as the tagline goes – “The FBI estimates there are currently over 300 active serial killers in the United States.” – no doubt Carroll has rounded up quite a few of them and we’ve only come across a handful so far.
As we get deeper into the story, I think it will become apparent that no-one can be trusted, except maybe Ryan Hardy himself.