Now that season two of The Following has started in earnest on FOX newcomers to one of the best crime thrillers on television may need to binge watch all of season one and get up to snuff on Kevin Bacon and his character Ryan Hardy. For those who have neither the time, nor the desire, to watch back-to-back Bacon a small recap of the previous 15 episodes may just be in order. Do not panic, it is not essential to go over each and every segment in order to segue effortlessly into the latest installment of the crime show.
Starting with the pilot episode and watching each segment in one long eye straining sitting it is easy to see how Bacon managed to tie for Best Actor on Television in the Saturn Award. For those not “in the know” the 55 year-old actor won the award, but, had to share it with Bryan Cranston from Breaking Bad who is another fifty-something actor who consistently knocked performances out of the park in his show about chemistry teacher turned meth kingpin.
The first season of The Following follows the twisting, tortuous and often shocking path of Ryan Hardy, ex FBI special agent who is matching wits with serial killer Joe Carroll. The backstory, told throughout the first season via a number of flashbacks; each with the year helpfully placed at the beginning of the scene, goes back and forth showing how the primary characters know one another and their past interactions.
In The Following each backstory moment hinges on some phrase or action that propels the viewer back to see just what transpired. All the characters, with the exception of Joey, Joe Carroll’s son, have past connections. It was very enjoyable binge watching the Kevin Bacon vs James Purefoy show aka, Hardy and Carroll; take turns at the bat without having to wait for a whole week to see how the story progressed.
In a nutshell, the story evolves around, fantastically popular with the students, lecturer Joe Carroll whom Hardy contacts, via Carroll’s wife Claire, to ask about recent killings of young women. It is through the lecturer’s interaction with Hardy that a connection is made with the American horror writer Edgar Allen Poe. The killer is basing his murders on stories of Poe’s that feature the deaths of women and\or stories where parts of the body are removed.
Poe titles are bandied about and linked to the existing murders. At the beginning of season one, Carroll is in prison, put there by Hardy who Carroll almost killed. Since the murderer’s incarceration, the former FBI agent has had a pacemaker put in, because of the life threatening knife wound made by Joe. Hardy is also an alcoholic and has a bad reputation with the FBI after having affair with Claire, Carroll’s ex wife.
Joe Carroll has been in prison for 8 years and in that time he has build up a huge cult following through a combination of the Internet and personal visits from the sick and twisted or mentally unbalanced who worship the ground he walks on. Carroll wrote a book titled The Gothic Sea which was his homage to Poe’s unfinished last project The Light-House. The book tanked and the writer/lecturer began to emulate Poe’s obsession with the “insanity of art” and the failure of his debut novel led him to begin murdering young girls a la Poe.
With many twists, turns, jumps, and there are quite a few moments where the viewer will be leaping from their chair, or cringing at the action on screen. Surprise and lashings of gore combine with terse thriller type crime drama to make this show almost un-missable. By the end of season one, Carroll is thought dead, Hardy and Claire – Carroll’s ex wife who is in love with Hardy and he with her – have been fatally attacked and Joey, the lecturer’s son, whom he kidnapped, has been hidden from his mad as a hatter serial killer father.
Kevin Bacon as the damaged former FBI agent turned author, he wrote a book after catching Carroll titled The Poetry of a Killer which apparently does much better than Carroll’s first book, convinces in every episode. He manages to convey weakness and addiction equally well along with torment. James Purefoy makes a splendid manipulative villain whom the audience will love to hate.
Natalie Zea as Claire, Carroll’s ex wife, also delivers as the mother who will do anything to get her child back as does Valorie Curry as the creepy, fractured and deadly Emma who loves Joe Carroll and is willing to do anything for him. A lot of the followers of Carroll easily fall into creepy territory.
It is easy throughout out the entire first season to see similarities between Carroll and real-life cult leader Charles Manson. Manson was adept at manipulating his “flock” and like Joe enticed them to commit murder in his name. It cannot be a coincidence that Curry, who bears an almost uncanny resemblance to murderous Mansion groupie Lynette Alice “Squeaky” Fromme, was not hired for just that reason.
In season two, The Followers begin with the not surprising news that Claire did not survive her fatal attack while Hardy did and is, at last, addressing his alcoholism. There is a rift between Ryan and special agent Westen since the first season. On a side note, it takes all of season one to stop seeing Shawn Ashmore and not think immediately of X-Men. Carroll is not, as initially thought a partially burnt out husk and he has “gone to ground” in Arkansas.
Despite their illustrious leader falling off the grid Joe’s followers are still attempting to writer his new book, which was his vision in the first season. Emma is convinced that the man she loved is dead and to facilitate her mourning has adopted a more “punk” look complete with piercings.
Two episodes into the second season and the show has not given off that same shocking, exciting, twisted plot mechanization that was apparent in the first one. The Following is still, however, just as addictive as the first season. Binge watching Kevin Bacon and catching up on season one is a great way to get up to speed on the show and continue watching it normally, i.e. one episode at a time. While not as much of a shocking rollercoaster ride as its opening season, the show is still wildly entertaining.
By Michael Smith