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The Following “Pilot” 


Photo Credit:FOX
Photo Credit:FOX

          Do you know the FBI estimates that there are at least 300 serial killers active at any given time in the United States? – Joe Carroll (James Purefoy)

** WARNING: Spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen the episode yet **

I had heard that number before, but if the premiere of tonight’s highly anticipated The Following were a reality, that number was about to begin increasing exponentially.  Ever since I attended New York Comic-Con in October and interviewed the cast for this show, I have been convinced that The Following is one of the best new shows of the year.  For those who saw the Pilot tonight, I am betting you agree — unless you are still in shock, of course!

The focus of the series is on its two main characters – former FBI Agent Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) and Joe Carroll, a serial killer that Agent Hardy apprehended almost a decade ago.  Just weeks before his scheduled execution, Carroll escapes from prison, and with Hardy being the expert on Carroll, he is naturally asked to assist in tracking him down. However, they quickly discover that Carroll himself is not the real threat – the real nightmare is what Carroll has been secretly doing while being on death row for nearly 10 years.  Carroll — the very handsome, charismatic, charming former Literature professor obsessed with the works of Edgar Allen Poe — has been recruiting his own personal army of new serial killers, and these new “followers” are continuing Carroll’s work.  The terrifying part is that one of his followers is a death row guard who gets Carroll access to the Internet, and with the wide proliferation of social media today, the number of new serial killers could now be in the thousands and is only increasing.

Judging from the Pilot, what I think makes this series so engaging and horrifying is that the entire concept is truly possible in today’s world.  I can remember when the movie Jaws premiered.  This was an enormously successful movie, and one of the main reasons is that it really could happen.  We interviewed Executive Producer Marcos Siega at New York Comic-Con, and when asked if the series was based upon any particular serial killer, he said “no” but that there was some inspiration from Ted Bundy.  Ted Bundy was a serial killer from the 1980s who killed young woman, just like Joe Carroll.  And, just like Carroll, Bundy was extremely handsome, intelligent, and charismatic.  But, in the 1980s, the Internet was in its infancy, and there were no social media sites like there are today.  The big question is what if that technology did exist back then?  If it did, I think something like this happening with Bundy would have been very possible.  From what I have read, Ted Bundy had his fair share of groupies, but because of the lack of technology, he wasn’t really able to build a cult from behind the walls of the prison.  Some argue that we shouldn’t execute serial killers like this, and instead, they should be kept alive so that they can be studied.  However, just the remote possibility of something like this happening is the reason why they should be executed.  The risk is just too high in today’s technological world.

Besides that, all of the actors in this series are extraordinary.  Kevin Bacon does a fantastic job depicting a very damaged man but who is kept moderately sane with the knowledge that he did save Carroll’s last victim, Sarah Fuller (Maggie Grace).  At the end of the Pilot after Carroll finally tracks Sarah down and “finishes his latest work” as Carroll put it, Hardy realizes that he is actually the cause of Sarah’s death, as well as all of these new murders.  The horror on his face, his whole demeanor is priceless.

However, the real gem of this series is James Purefoy.  In a series of flashbacks, we get to see Carroll as this extremely intelligent, charming professor and even get to see some intimate moments with his wife, Claire (Natalia Zea) – seemingly just a normal man leading a normal life.  But, then, we get to see the other terrifying side, almost like a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  The man totally creeps me out, and I don’t scare easily.  And, that final conversation he has with Hardy after he has been recaptured in my opinion is the best scene of the episode and makes Purefoy Emmy-worthy already.

Photo Credit:FOX
Photo Credit:FOX

       Hardy: So, what’s my sequel about, Joe? Everyone outside is anxious to know.

       Carroll: It’s going to be a collaboration.  We’re going to write this together, Ryan.  My new story will play to a much wider audience.

      Hardy: We know about the prison guard, the gay neighbors.  How do they figure into your plot? We know about the cult.

       Carroll: I like to think of them as my friends.  It’s important that you have friends.  Do you have any friends, Ryan?  I will be your friend, even though you slept with my wife.  I need a true protagonist this time, a torn broken man searching for redemption.  And, that is you.  You are my flawed hero.  And, I insured that by killing Sarah.  This is just the Prologue, just the beginning.  Sara’s death was for YOU.

      Hardy:  If this sequel ends with anything but your death, you better plan for a rewrite.

Wow. Wow. Wow.  Purefoy was cast perfectly for this character and does an impeccable job in this scene.    Sorry, Kevin, we do so welcome you back to television, but the baddie is the star of this show — at least so far.

The Pilot ends with so many questions and leaves us on the edge of our seat.  My biggest question is how in the hell did someone like Carroll morph into a serial killer, just out of the blue?  Was it the rejection of his novel “The Gothic Sea” that sent him over the edge?  We asked him that at New York Comic-Con, and he did promise us that question would be answered soon enough.

The other question is just how widespread is Carroll’s followers?  We know new murders popped up in Boston, Seattle, and NYC.  But, could it possibly be worldwide?  There’s no limit on the Internet, and no telling how far-reaching Carroll’s cult is.

All in all, I thought the Pilot was excellent, and in fact, I thought it was perfect.  There’s nothing I would have changed.  The only concern I have for the series is how dark and disturbing it could turn out to be, especially considering it’s a network series in the early 8 p.m. CST time slot.  The series is focused on a serial killer, and so, naturally, the subject matter is not going to be upbeat.  But, with virtually no comic relief at all in the Pilot and the potential for increasingly gruesome murders and graphic violence, I worry that it could potentially scare off viewers.   Even crime dramas like Criminal Minds interject enough comedy to not make the show all about gloom and doom.  Hopefully, The Following will find a way to do that as well.

Most Memorable Quotes

  • Joe Carroll didn’t just eviscerate 14 female students.  He was making art — Agent Hardy
  • Poe equates death with what? – Carroll
    Poe equates death with beauty. Poe equated death with beauty and nothing was more beautiful than the death of a beautiful woman – Sarah Fuller
  • I can handle people, but kill a dog and I go crazy! – Agent Mike Weston (my absolute favorite quote in the episode!)
  • Do you know how many muscles are connected to the human eye? I removed each one individually. It’s actually quite hard to do – Carroll to Hardy
  • Sarah was his unfinished work.  He wanted to get the ending right. – Agent Hardy

The Following airs on Monday nights at 9 p.m. EST on FOX.



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