March 3, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Premiere Review: “The Following”



With the exception of those whose livelihoods depend on it, is there anyone who really wanted a third season of THE FOLLOWING?  After a promising start, the mass murder thriller wallowed in gore, torture and plotting that was pretentious, repetitive, and often downright silly.  The ratings reflected that, plunging by more than half in Season 2.  When the show was renewed despite all that, the promise was that it would be rebooted, with series creator Kevin Williamson off to work on his new Stalker and a triumvirate of showrunners put into place consisting of writers Alexi Hawley and Brett Mahoney with director Marcos Siega.  But the Season 3 premiere, written and directed by the new team, strongly suggested that little if anything has changed.

Viewers will recall that serial killer and noted Edgar Allen Poe scholar Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) had managed to survive the carnage of the first two seasons, and had merely been arrested by troubled FBI agent hero Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon).  The producers swore that dead or alive, Joe was off the show, but when we picked up the action a year later, it was as if he’d hardly left, still a brooding presence over Ryan’s life and everyone else’s (he’s supposedly a month away from execution), and constantly talked about, not to mention still listed in the cast credits.  Further demonstrating the show’s inability to move forward, the orchestrator of the premiere’s half-dozen or so brutal murders was another figure from past seasons, twin nutjob Mark Gray (Sam Underwood), who was unable to get over Season 2’s killings of his brother and mother by, respectively, Ryan and fellow FBI agent Mike Weston (Shawn Ashmore).  Mark has taken to sticking a mirror in a a dummy’s neck so that he can feel like he’s talking to his twin, and like the show’s other wackos, he’s had no problem attracting others to join in his killing spree (one of them Hunter Parrish, from Weeds).  His specialty is restaging the deaths of his loved ones with freshly-murdered bodies standing in for the original figures.

There were hints that Mark won’t be the season’s Big Bad, and that there’s a larger and even deadlier conspiracy behind him, but the premiere didn’t provide much incentive to stay tuned and find out who that was.  The characters, although well played by Bacon and the rest of the cast, are just as superficially tormented as they were in the previous seasons–Ryan and his Fed niece Max (Jessica Stroup) have both been given love interests, but it’s only a matter of time before at least one of them is revealed to be a member of the season’s cult, a victim or both–and the murders themselves are elaborate but lacking any transgressive thrill at this point.

The Following probably isn’t the most violent show on television, at least as long as Hannibal is on the air.  But its murders are the queasiest, thanks to their mix of savagery, innocent victims and sheer plenitude.  The series is no longer tense or even shocking, just grim and no fun at all.  If The Following had a reason, unlike most of its cast, to survive its second season, that’s not evident so far.



About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."