Since I’ve started my blog my focus has been mainly on movies and music. However, I am a big TV fan as well, and no current TV show has me as excited as The Following on FOX. Joe Carroll, played by James Purefoy, is an imprisoned serial killer caught by the FBI. However Carroll escapes, and soon becomes backed by a cult. And, you guessed it, everybody in the cult are murderers themselves! The FBI calls for Ryan Hardy, played by Kevin Bacon; the man who previously caught Carroll. What has followed over the course of this season is a dark, creepy game of cat and mouse, which has set a new bar for acting and directing in a network TV series.
The Following currently has the best ensemble cast on network TV. Nico Tortorella and Adan Canto all play emotional, nuanced performances as cult members who have may have gotten in too deep. Valorie Curry does an excellent job playing a crazy, homicidal, yet vulnerable girl who is influenced too much by Carroll and his teachings. And Annie Parisse plays a tough FBI agent who has a dark history with cults. While all of these performances are phenomenal and deserve a lot of credit, the show survives on the acting performances of its leads.
Kevin Bacon’s performance of Ryan Hardy is the best of his career. Hardy is an incredibly complex and difficult character. While on the outside Hardy may appear a typical TV cop, gruff and without mercy, in all actuality he is anything but. Hardy is haunted by his past encounters with Carroll, becoming an alcoholic and estranging himself from his past life. Hardy also developed a relationship with Carroll’s wife, played by Natalie Zea. While there is still plenty of chemistry there, it is clear that something has come between the two, not just the looming shadow of Joe Carroll. Every time Bacon and Zea are on screen together, they demonstrate an element of nuanced, subtle acting you usually don’t expect to see on network TV. While Ryan Hardy and Claire Matthews may make for great TV, their relationship cannot compete with that of Hardy and Carroll.
In much the same way that Silence of the Lambs was dominated by Hannibal Lecter, so too is The Following owned by Joe Carroll. The shadow of Purefoy’s character hangs heavy over almost every moment of the show. However, Carroll is not just a copy of Hannibal Lecter. Carroll is not a high class maniac who would eat someone’s liver with a glass of Chianti. Carroll is instead the embodiment of pure evil. Carroll is much darker, and not nearly as willing to help. Part of what makes The Following so scary is the fact that anyone could be part of the cult. And the cult is scary solely because they worship Carroll, a character who we grow to hate for all the right reasons. Purefoy plays Carroll incredibly well, with a performance that deserves the immensity of his character.
One of the things that sets The Following apart from other network shows is its maturity. The show never talks down to the audience, letting the plan unravel without feeling the need to explain itself. The show is also unapologetically violent. Their are numerous times throughout the season where the audience must grit its teeth through some very horrific moments. However, these scenes are not without their reason, and are not simply thrown in for effect. Instead, they help make the gravity of the cults actions and murder hit home much harder. When a character dies in the first episode, they don’t just show the body. They show the corpse with all of the desecration the cult has given it. Scenes like this bring the audience in closer to the heroes and heighten the hate for the villains.
However, not everything is black and white in The Following. While Joe Carroll is definitely evil, and Ryan Hardy is definitely good, every other character is up for grabs. This is not a straightforward show. Instead, The Following brings a steady dose of thought to the table, and makes you question everyone’s morals. If the past few episodes are any indication, the last half of this season is going to get very interesting. The Following in on at 9:00 on Mondays on the FOX network.