4. A Fresh Twist on an Old Trope
A serial killer on the loose? Been there. A serial killer with followers? Done that. A serial killer behind bars whose followers do his bidding? Beam me up, Scottie!
While we’ve already seen shows about serial killers (Dexter, CSI-every-major-city-in-the-USA), we have yet to see one whose focus is not on the catching of the killer, but on a killer who’s already caught and law enforcement is still powerless to stop him. It’s a maddening conundrum for the Five-Oh and FBI, and to his credit, James Purefoy (Rome, A Knight’s Tale) masterfully pulls off the stoically braggadocious killer who has seemingly already won. Catching a criminal and putting him behind bars is simple black-and-white, good-and-bad morality. This show dares to dive deeper. Not only does it render the symbolic effectiveness of the bars useless, but it also drums up some serious philosophical questions about the power of the law. Is “behind bars” really a win? How far does it extend? Can the people in the law be trusted? Consider these questions rhetorical until we see more than just the pilot, but feel free to start pondering. That he’s confined yet in charge is a testament to the guile of his character, both how well he is written and how well he is acted. On both accounts, color me impressed.
3. The Graphic Content
If nothing else, FOX is unafraid to push the boundaries of primetime gore. Where lesser shows have pulled punches (Revolution), or overcompensated (True Blood), The Following utilizes the poignancy and power of blood and violence to a tee. It’s not gratuitous like a Tarantino film, but every bit as necessary to the preservation of a show with dead bodies as the formaldehyde that they’re incensed with posthumously. The Following is a self-aware show that both knows what it’s doing and knows its target audience, a rare trait in a crime drama on network television.
The writers of this show had the foresight to use the stick-man technique in the dialogue of the show. Undercover loyalist neighbors who pretended to be gay and befriended the one victim who got away from the serial killer just so that he can keep eventually get her? Seems like a stretch, right? When a point of the show is to focus on the charisma of the serial killer, that stretch tightens up a little bit-and that little bit is all it needs to keep the show grounded in reality. Or TV reality, anyway. And really, that’s all we ask for as viewers.
2. Kevin Bacon, Your Leading Man
Is there a more under-appreciated actor than Kevin Bacon? He who wowed us in the classic Footloose, made us uncomfortable in the indie film The Woodsman, starred in one of the more underrated horror films, Stir of Echoes, and singlehandedly brought the most influential antihero (Magneto) to his knees in X-Men: First Class. I would wager to say that Bacon is a tremendously talented and rangy actor. That he plays a tortured, alcoholic agent that’s brought out of retirement to be the protagonist to Purefoy’s antagonist is a cake walk for Bacon. He could play tortured detective in his sleep. Fortunately for us, his character struggles to sleep, and has limitations on how excited/agitated he can get due to a prematurely placed pacemaker in his heart, a remnant of his first bout with Purefoy’s serial-killer-self, a harbinger of things to come, and an emblem for his inability to escape the yang to his yin.
Plus, one of his best strengths mixes well with one of crime dramas’ biggest weaknesses: Bacon is not known for overacting, while crime dramas have a penchant for such things. And if you don’t believe that is gonna fly for 14 episodes, see: PACEMAKER, HEART.
1. Mondays, 9:00 pm PST on FOX
Honestly, what the hell else are you gonna watch on Monday nights? 2 Broke Girls? The Bachelor? Mike and Molly?
Not if you’re a self-respecting 18-49 year-old male.
As for the female audience members, stick around. Purefoy can very well be the charming bad boy you always wanted to take home to daddy, provided you can overlook the small fetish he has for serialized murder.