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The Following


Jan 21, 2013 Web Exclusive
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Confession time: I’m a serial killer with limited access to, y’know, prospective murder victims. I was hoping that a few of you, dear readers, wouldn’t mind doing a bit of violent mutilation and killing for me: animal torture, disembowelment, scooping a few pretty girls’ eyes out, that kinda thing. What’s that? You’re in? Great!

Thus is the premise for Scream writer Kevin Williamson’s new psychological drama The Following. Yes, building up a network of serial killers via society’s greatest threat, the dreaded Internet, is a silly gimmick that’s presumably supposed to prey shamelessly on stupid people’s biggest fears, but the show does manage to remain believable thanks to a grounding in every post-2000 police procedural trope going.

English bad horror movie stalwart James Purefoy plays Joe Carroll, a charismatic and brooding English Literature lecturer obsessed with Poe and graphic slaughter: The Guardian has neatly dubbed him “Hannibal Lectern.” Carroll’s nemesis is Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon), a hardbitten FBI agent who put the escaped mastermind away the first time and is brought in to recapture his opponent.

Hardy is a brilliant agent with a disturbing past, who fills his water bottle with vodka and speaks in dismissive grunts before occasionally shouting and throwing a thing: he is troubled. Carroll has the ability to hold sway over people (he texts one woman telling to stab herself in the eye with an ice pick, and she does) whilst Hardy has written a book that his colleagues admire and know cover-to-cover; Carroll feels compelled to kill a woman that Hardy knows he must save; Hardy is in love with Carroll’s wife… you’ll see what they’re doing here, because you’re presumably not eight years old.

As gratuitously-beige-lens-filtered graphic murder begets gratuitously-gray-lens-filtered-graphic murder begets shadowy flashback of graphic murder, our two leads and a cast of overly-attractive people stare into the middle ground with concerned faces; the FBI team looks less like investigators at a horrific crime scene and more a support group for people who have just been dumped. Or perhaps they’re all just wondering why everything looks so beige. Meanwhile in the post-Breaking Bad world, The Following knows that TV audiences are desensitized, violence loving, unshockable bastards, and so relies on a lot of jumpy bits along with comic book violence (but done, y’know, seriously and dark) to ratchet up the tension.

For all its literary pretensions and absurd quirks though, The Following remains a startlingly predictable piece of work; at one point the team discovers the word “Nevermore” scrawled in blood over a wall, and only when it takes Hardy minutes to make a link to Poe’s “The Raven” do you realize that he’s the only person never to have seen that episode of The Simpsons. This is essentially the most graphic and unpleasant episode of CSI that’s ever been screened, with little other than a decent performance from Bacon to justify it. (

Author rating: 3/10

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Average reader rating: 3/10


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