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By Doug Rice

Society as a whole seems to be in a much darker place. You don't have to look far these days to see what I mean. The popularity of intense/violent films, video games and most surprisingly television, have risen dramatically over the past decade. Not really astonishing I suppose, considering that you can't even turn on the TV or get online anymore these days without seeing some shocking or scandalous news story where someone has committed horrible acts against his/her fellow man.

That darker side of humanity is even more utilized in print, presently being the driving force behind most novels and works of fiction.Which brings us exactly to the point of the new suspense drama on FOX, The Following. (Premiering Monday January 21 at 9 pm)

One of the most (if not the most) sensationalized criminal in American history is the serial killer. That couldn't be more true than in the reality created by the show. We are very quickly introduced to the series antagonist, Joe Carroll (played by JamesPurefoy), a serial killer imprisoned and on death row for the murder of 14 women. Of course, his character wouldn't initially be as compelling if he wasn't breaking out of prison as soon as the show begins! More bodies are left in his wake and with this deadlypredator back on the loose, the FBI immediately calls upon the former agent responsible for his capture. Enter Ryan Hardy (played by Kevin Bacon), now "retired" due to his drinking problem and the pacemaker in his chest, as a result of an his interaction with our villain.

Hardy, being an expert on our English professor turned killer, reluctantly agrees and The Following begins.

Don't be fooled! This isn't your typical Fugitive-style, chase show. If anything, we realize very early on that this prison break is not wholly what it appears to be. Carroll isn't simply content with being free from confinement. Instead, Hardy believes that he is intent on starting a new body count... as well taking care of a little unfinished business. In the ensuing manhunt, we quickly learn more about both our hero and villain. Between the present day pursuit and some well placed flashbacks, the vieweris shown just enough to begin piecing together the events that unfolded between the two a decade prior.

Amidst all of this, one of the main points driven home is that Carroll isn't your typical knife-wielding psycho. In fact, before becoming a serial murderer, he was a brilliant college professor who had a knack for connecting with his students. He had also penned a novel (an ode to his hero, Edgar Allan Poe) that gained substantial underground popularity.

If anything, Carroll's killing spree and then eventual capture, incarceration and trial, only increased his notoriety... turning him into a kind of twisted celebrity. Imagine him to be what, Charles Manson, would have been if he had the looks, charisma and swagger of, George Clooney. It becomes apparent soon after his gory prison escape that he has in fact been using his prestige and charm to influence a slew of others, bringing them into his fold.

 And that's what makes The Following a different animal than most of the other crime/suspense dramas on TV these days.It isn't so much about the chase and it certainly isn't so much about catching the one bad guy. If you didn't piece it together yourself, by the end of the first episode, the table is set for a classic cat and mouse game not just between hero and villain, but between hero and an army of the villain's puppets... who has masterminded an epic plight for said hero.

 The acting is strong, with both Bacon and Purefoy selling their characters and more importantly, their character's history. The writing (at least for the few episodes I've had the privilege of viewing) is exceptional. Guess it's not a huge surprise, since the show's creator is, Kevin Williamson, who was the writer of the popular horror franchise, Scream, and the smart slasher, I Know What You Did Last Summer. Suspense builds at a fair clip and the pacing holds it all together. While not terribly gruesome, The Following, certainly doesn't leave much to the imagination. The show is definitely violent, but not just for the sake of being violent. Everythingis very grounded in the fact that we're dealing with a brutal reality which carries dire consequences.

 The best thing I can say about the show, at least for the initial few episodes, is that it should leave you guessing. Just when you think you've got a handle on how things are going to play out, they pull the rug out on you and leave you guessing all over again. I suppose that is the one strength that a show of this nature can bring. With a potential slew of endless bad guys and co-conspirators, you never know who to trust or where the next threat will come from. Then again, if done half heartedly or just too repetitiously, it might become a little stale or even unbelievable. Only time will tell, I guess. Regardless, with a solid creative team, great casting and a twisted premise, The Following, is worth a look. I'd go one step further and say that if you're into suspense, scares and the darker side of human nature, this show will leaveyou wanting, nevermore.        

 

             

 

             

 

 

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Friday, November 21, 2014
, Watertown, NY

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