If you knew there was only one series this fall created by Kevin Williamson, the guru behind Scream and The Vampire Diaries, it’s doubtful you’d think it was this one. Cult, a CW show that plays with horror-movie tropes, seems a much more likely candidate, but apparently Williamson had a stone in his shoe and felt like conjuring up something a lot nastier.
The Following is a thriller that pulls no punches, casting Kevin Bacon as a washed-up former FBI agent Ryan Hardy, whose epic battle with the Edgar Allan Poe-obsessed serial killer Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) left him battered and broken. But when Carroll makes a bloody escape from prison, Hardy is called back into action to try and recapture him.
It becomes apparent, though, that the danger has gone far beyond Carroll himself. During his time in prison, Carroll used his wit and cunning to gain Internet access to spread his madness to a network of rabid followers who want to continue his horrific legacy. The pilot goes places the more jaded viewers won’t expect, and while the meta-literary themes are a bit played, The Following has enough character development and genuine chills to make up for it.
Natalie Zea is a welcome presence as always, playing Carroll’s ex-wife and the mother of his young son. She also has a past with Hardy that, well, complicates things. It’s also nice seeing Bacon embrace a TV role, bringing a depth to Hardy that your average Central Casting actor might not. As long as The Following doesn’t go overboard with Poe references and can find fresh new ways to keep the story going, it could be one of the fall’s best shows.