For a broadcast network show, Fox's new serial killer drama "The Following" has a surprising amount of blood and gore. In fact, the graphic violence depicted in the show (almost entirely against women, I might add) has already earned it some negative attention from critics, who are suddenly more sensitive about violence on television (I'm curious to see if those objections hold over to the next season of "Sons of Anarchy").
But after watching the pilot episode, in which former FBI agent Ryan Hardy, played by Kevin Bacon, is called out of retirement to help recapture an escaped serial killer he put behind bars years earlier, I have to admit that the gory scenes aren't the ones I remember most.
I won't go into specifics and risk spoiling some of the more heart-quickening moments in the opener (as many other reviewers have). I'll just say there were certain scenes in "The Following" that had me peeking at the TV through the ten fingers covering my face. And those scenes, full of dark, quiet suspense, are the ones I think about when I recommend this show to others.
"The Following" is the latest from North Carolina native Kevin Williamson, whose long list of credits includes the spoofy horror film "Scream" and hit TV shows "The Vampire Diaries" and "Dawson's Creek."
Bacon is really good as a grizzled FBI agent, which should surprise exactly no one. And James Purefoy (from HBO's "Rome") is creepy as heck as the former American Lit professor-turned-killer. (Natalie Zea from "Justified" and Annie Parisse from "Law & Order" also star.) Purefoy's character, Joe Carroll, is an Edgar Allan Poe aficionado, and his obsession with the dark poet and storyteller is a thread that weaves throughout the series. Or at least throughout the first four episodes I've seen.
Carroll isn't the only bad guy in "The Following." As the title suggests, he has a league of crazies running loose in the world who are devoted to him and dedicated to carrying out his work. These ruthless, brainwashed killers, who seem to pop up anew in each episode, keep everyone -- TV cops and viewers alike -- on their toes. Carroll's followers always seem perfectly normal. Until they don't. So we're never really sure about some of those alleged good guys we're watching, which makes for fun viewing. A sly look here, an awkward pause there… Who can be trusted?
This isn't high art. There are plenty of plot holes to pick apart and bits of sketchy logic here and there. But I found it downright scary and suspenseful.
"The Following" debuts Monday night at 9 on Fox.