January 19, 2014

THE SKED Season Premiere Review: “The Following”


THE FOLLOWING:  Monday 9PM on FOX (starting Jan 27)

The blood-drenched, increasingly grandiose literary pretensions of THE FOLLOWING grew tiresome by the end of last season’s run.  It seemed like very good news that in the season finale, Edgar Allen Poe scholar, brutal serial killer and unaccountably irresistible cult leader Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) appeared to be blown to smithereens, but of course it was too good to be true, since like Nicholas Brody on Homeland and The Governor on The Walking Dead, Joe proved himself a character producers and network just couldn’t bear to lose.

Instead, the Season 2 premiere of The Following, written by series creator Kevin Williamson and directed by Marcos Siega, wasted no time in dispatching Joe’s ex-wife Claire (Natalie Zea), stabbed within about 15 seconds of the episode’s start by the neighbor of heroic ex-FBI agent (and love of Claire’s life) Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon), which neighbor we’d been previously tipped was one of Joe’s lunatic acolytes.  (Her brief appearance here, combined with her Skyped role on Justified, is making Zea the season’s queen of cameos.)  With that violent attack (the neighbor stabbed Hardy, too, not quite as fatally), we skipped forward a year.  Hardy appeared to be returning to a kind of normalcy, teaching Criminology at a NY college and attending AA meetings (his sponsor is played by Keith Carradine), but actually he had a locked room in his apartment for his Carrie Mathison-esque obsessive wall-boards of all things Joe Carroll.  Helping him with his unofficial investigation was newly-acquired niece Max (Jessica Stroup, one of the only reasons to watch the rebooted 90210), herself an NYPD detective.

On the one-year anniversary of Joe’s supposed death, a group of Followers donned Joe Carroll masks as they once wore Poe masks (these kids must be dynamite on Halloween) and massacred almost all the passengers in a subway car chanting “The Resurrection is Coming!  Ryan Hardy Can’t Stop It!”, the only survivor being a likable, intelligent art gallery owner (Connie Nielsen), who if this season is going to be anything like the last, will eventually be revealed as a psychotic cult member.  For now, though, she’s recovering in the hospital, while the FBI, including consultant Mike Weston (Shawn Westmore), begged Hardy for help on the case and he adamantly insisted he wanted nothing to do with Joe Carroll or his insane fans–while running off to spend all his spare time in his secret investigation room.  By the end of the hour, we’d glimpsed newly-bearded Joe, as well as his echt-loony Follower Emma (Valorie Curry) and her new pink hair, and met several fresh young people deliriously happy to kill for Joe, including one (Camille de Pazzis) who speaks subtitled French, and identical twins Luke and Mark (Sam Underwood), one or both of whom strangle a woman, live with the corpse for a while, then pose her in the park with (naturally) a copy of Joe Carroll’s book.

The premiere’s action was swift and violent, and Bacon brings plenty of stature to Ryan Hardy.  But there’s a reason The Following‘s ratings slumped by 30% over the course of its season (they rebounded for the final couple of episodes), and it doesn’t seem as though Season 2 intends to be much different than last year.  The show was a diminishing return machine of twists and ghoulishness, with little interest in credibility or character development, and although Carroll hasn’t yet had a chance to say much, last year his pompous windiness made him less scary whenever he opened his mouth, and much too much time was spent with the internal politics of his cult.

The Following didn’t take the opportunity to reboot with a new adversary this season, so now the hope is that it keeps itself more in check with part 2 of Joe Carroll’s saga.  Although the initial hour was entertaining enough, it didn’t exactly raise a viewer’s hopes on that subject.


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."