Pilot Perception: The Following

Welcome to Pilot Perception, our feature in which we break down the first episode of each new show in order to help you decide whether it’s worth your time.

The Show: The Following, FOX in the U.S. and CTV in Canada, Mondays at 9/8c

The Pedigree: The show was created and written by Kevin Williamson of Scream, Dawson’s Creek, and The Vampire Diaries. The pilot was directed by Marcos Siega (Dexter, The Vampire Diaries), who is executive producing along with Williamson.

The Cast & How You Know Them: The Following stars Kevin Bacon (I trust you know who he is) and James Purefoy (Rome, Revenge). Other regulars include Shawn Ashmore (X-Men movies), Natalie Zea (Justified), Kyle Catlett (Unforgettable), Annie Parisse (Rubicon, Person of Interest), Nico Tortorella (Make It or Break It), Valorie Curry (Veronica Mars, Breaking Dawn), and Adan Canto.

The Premise: When literature professor turned serial killer Joe Carroll escapes from prison and starts killing again, former FBI agent Ryan Hardy, who caught him the first time, must return to help with the investigation. But Hardy and his team soon realize that things are worse than they thought: Carroll has been recruiting followers to kill in his name.

A Taste:

First, a Note: You’ve likely heard a lot about the violence and disturbing elements of this show. This is not intrinsically a positive or a negative; whether you like it entirely depends on your taste. But those elements are present and the show will definitely not be for everyone. For what it’s worth, I tend to get scared easily, and was not as frightened or disturbed as I expected by this episode.

What Works: I was immediately pulled into the show by the premise and specifically the connection to Poe, which seems to be better constructed and more thorough than I’d expected. The main characters are complex and compelling, and the cast is outstanding, especially, of course, Kevin Bacon, James Purefoy, and Natalie Zea. The cult/follower aspect makes it more interesting than a standard serial killer hunt. And the writing and overall tone are twisty and twisted and really felt different from anything else I’ve seen on TV.

What Doesn’t: As with any crime series focusing on a singular case, I worry about how they can keep it going without making it annoyingly convoluted or repetitive, but we’ll see; the cult aspect gives them more options here. And the risk with super-charismatic villains like Joe Carroll is that the writers and actor need to walk a fine line in order to keep the audience feeling like he’s scary and evil. Other than those concerns about the show’s future, though, I really loved this one.

Our Favorite Line: “I’m sorry I didn’t call you.” “It’s been eight years, Ryan. I got the hint.”

You Might Like This if you like twisty, character-driven crime dramas, literary allusions, and not-too-scary horror. Or if you want to see two great actors facing off in complicated roles with a fascinating, twisted dynamic.

If You’re Interested: Watch the pilot on the FOX or CTV sites, or when it reruns on Fox on Friday at 9/8c. Then set your DVR for Monday at 9/8c.

(Photo courtesy of FOX.)

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