Last Monday, January 21, 2013, The Following premiered on the Fox network. It’s a dark, bloody crime drama from Kevin Williamson, creator of the Scream franchise, Dawson’s Creek and The Vampire Diaries. It’s the Scream franchise that might come to mind if you check out the premiere on Free Per View before tonight’s episode “Chapter Two” airs. Expect some horror movie jumps and startling revelations as well as a little more than you might see as far as crime scenes from other series (although not a lot more than what you might have found on something like TV’s Medium when it still was on the air).
The big draw for The Following is the series star, Kevin Bacon. You might also have checked out the pilot if you were a fan of Maggie Grace, star of the Taken film series, The Fog remake, and Lost, the TV series. If you’ve missed the original Law and Order, you might be happy to see the return of Annie Parisse in an ongoing role beginning with tonight’s episode. And if that weren’t enough, you might think you’re watching Warehouse 13, Veronica Mars, Smallville, Lost Girl and In Plain Sight’s Aaron Ashmore as Agent Michael Weston–but you’d be wrong. Turns out Aaron has a clone, twin brother Shawn Ashmore. (And hey, don’t TV writers watch TV? That’s at least the third Michael Weston on TV right now).
If you’re immune to TV violence by now and can get past corpses with missing eyes and blood-spattered crime scenes ad nauseam, the real-life crime investigation pacing is pretty well done. Kevin Bacon is solid but maybe under-utilized in his role as an alcoholic has-been, kicked aside expert pulled out of retirement to help locate escaped serial killer Joe Carroll, played by a creepier than we’d like to see James Purefoy. What would probably be more fun to watch is if the creators swapped roles for Bacon and Purefoy–but maybe some of that lies ahead in the unfolding plot. Bacon is pretty much a sure thing–he always has great performances and usually takes on interesting parts, having key roles in Apollo 13, X-Men: First Class, A Few Good Men, and even Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, Animal House, and Hero at Large, and of course his breakout role in Footloose. So it is really just good to see him starring in an ongoing series.
But if you watched the premiere because you thought it was going to star Maggie Grace (as we did), prepare to be disappointed. Let’s just say she doesn’t have much of a future in The Following.
Shawn Ashmore is the next standout from the premiere. He’s engaging and should be a good contributor to the series, as should Natalie Zea as serial killer Carroll’s ex-wife.
It’s the premise that is only introduced at the end of the first episode that will need to snap together quickly for the series to take off. The idea is hundreds of serial killers band together to cause mayhem under the cult-like charisma of Purefoy’s killer, returned to prison at the end of the pilot and taunting all the agents who he alluded. Is this role too close to The Silence of the Lambs’ Hannibal Lector? And the serial killer’s motives are all derived from the works of Edgar Allan Poe, a plot we already watched last year in the big-screen film The Raven. For the show’s sake, hopefully they will be able to move beyond that premise. But if Fox can make a series like Prison Break last four seasons, they can probably do anything.