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‘The Following’ puts Kevin Bacon back in primetime television spotlight

Contributing Entertainment Writer

Published: Thursday, January 31, 2013

Updated: Thursday, January 31, 2013 09:01

Kevin Bacon fans, be excited! That's right, a couple Sundays ago Fox Television released the premiere episode of its new and edgy crime thriller, “The Following.” This shiny new detective show, stars Kevin Bacon who plays the disgruntled former detective with a haunted past. Naturally, he is forced out of retirement three minutes into the first episode when his old enemy Joe Carroll breaks out of prison in a dramatic sequence full of search lights and fake blood.

Carroll, played by James Purefoy, is a your typical charming serial killer who kills attractive female victims in dramatic ways in order raise the show's ratings. Anyone who watched “Rome” on HBO a while ago will remember that Purefoy does a great job giving off smarmy and charismatic vibes. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that he has somehow, from the confines of a high security prison, been able to acquire a massive army of brainwashed copycat killers who obey his every command.

You see this is where “The Following” veers away from the standard detective versus serial killer show where there's only one bad guy per episode. Not only do you have Joe Carroll, who may or may not be in prison at any given moment, you've also got a massive array of random side-characters who have been either hypnotized or inspired by Carroll to pose as gay neighbors or baby sitters and then suddenly go on murderous rampages. The most frightening part of this twist is that most of these "cult members" haven’t been introduced by the show yet, so there's no telling who they could be!

Don't worry though. I'm sure Kevin Williamson, the brainchild behind this whole show, will expose their collective pasts with a series of flashbacks and accompanied "woosh" sounds. That's right, the first episode of “The Following” had at least as many explanatory flashbacks as the whole of “Lost” and the “Saw” franchise combined. One thing “The Following” does particularly well in its first episode is establishing a set of interesting and relatable characters. I'm actually just kidding though.

We learn absolutely nothing interesting about Kevin Bacon's character in the pilot episode other than the fact that maybe he was based off of John McClane in “Die Hard.” Oh, also he apparently had an affair with the killer's ex-wife–scandalous! Maybe that will cause some drama in future episodes if Fox doesn't cancel the show first. I suppose writer/producer Williamson, wants to take the show in the direction of “Dexter,” where the serial killer is the most interesting character. This is fairly obvious because Joe Carroll is depicted as an extremely interesting person. You can tell he's interesting because he has an English accent and he reads books.

Carroll, whose name certainly isn't inspired by Lewis Carroll, has an obsession with young women and literature from the Romantic Period–particularly the works of Edgar Allen Poe. Apparently after reading “The Tell Tale Heart” in his freshman year English class, Joe Carroll came up with the ingenious idea that when Poe had written a story about murder and eyes he actually meant that it was a great idea to murder people and gouge out their eyes.

So, as soon as he becomes a professor, our villain decides to carry out Poe's legacy by murdering his female students and stealing their eyes (maybe he didn't want to grade their papers?). Regardless, Joe Carroll, aka Professor Carroll, aka Hannibal Lector sure comes across as a fascinating and intriguing character in this first episode, just as inspiring and articulate as that annoying person who sits in front of you in class and overanalyzes stuff for the professor.

There you have it! Anyone can be a killer because Joe Carroll read too much Edgar Allen Poe and learned how to brainwash people in order to have an extensive amount of villains to stretch the show out with. “The Following” is off to a great start as this year's “Alcatraz.” Sure, it is kind of fun to watch but I highly doubt it will continue to be a hit after the next few episodes. Clichéd and overly edgy, “The Following” is a perfect example of a producer trying too hard to make an interesting show.

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