There’s nothing I love more than a new pilot. A fresh premise, a world of possibilities, it’s an exciting prospect and a joy to review. Thankfully I don’t have to wait until the fall season for a new batch of shows as we’ve arrived to the time of year when the networks trot out their midseason replacements with the hope that something sticks. Last year the most noteworthy midseason debut was Scandal, a show that has quite capably cemented itself as one of my favorites on the air. This year we got Deception (which was nothing special), followed by Kevin Williamson’s newest offering: The Following.
Williamson is a creative powerhouse. His baby, The Vampire Diaries, had an atrocious pilot, but soon morphed into a thrilling production packed with a dozen more twists than your average TV show. Suffice to say, The Following arrived with skyrocketing expectations, and after watching the pilot, I’m undeniably intrigued but not too sure what to make of it.
The premise is appropriately twisted: a literature professor-turned-serial killer escapes from prison, as the agent who originally caught him is brought back into the fold to hunt him down. I wasn’t too horrified by the pilot’s gore (I do watch The Walking Dead after all), but I’ll admit that the premiere had an immensely creepy vibe that suited it well. Top that off with an Edgar Allan Poe fascination and a couple of jump scares, and the show crafts a very eerie atmosphere in 40 minutes. In true Williamson fashion, my jaw dropped towards the end when Maggie Grace’s fate was revealed. I was sure Grace would be one of the show’s regulars so I was definitely taken aback by this brutal development.
My main issue with the show is that I can’t really see how it’ll work long-term. If Williamson intends to have Bacon’s Hardy simply chase a different cult lackey of Carrol’s every episode, then I’m out. I detest serial killer procedurals, and there’s no way I’d stick with the show if that’s the case. However, if Williamson intends to focus on long term story arcs as the cat and mouse game between Hardy and Carrol intensifies, then this might be a very cool ambitious little show.
As for the cast, Bacon is serviceable (in a cliche role) but it’s Purefoy who’s exceptional. He really makes you believe in the power of his charisma and the possibility that he could have established such a devout following. I was also impressed by Natalie Zea as Carroll’s ex-wife Claire. She’s a gorgeous likeable actress whom I’ve never seen before, and who obviously has layered and complicated relationships with both men. Bacon’s female partner however (her name eludes me) is extremely annoying so let’s hope she’s written out of the show sooner rather than later. If she suffers a horrifying fate, it wouldn’t be the worst thing.
I have to give the show another episode or two just to see what direction they’ll take, but as a pilot, this was a sufficiently unsettling and well-executed thriller. Not bad at all.