Regardless of all the creepy, disturbing and vile bad-guy characters he’s played, I personally like Kevin Bacon. Bacon is one reason why I became intrigued by The Following as the premise was interesting enough to invest my television watching time.
Ryan Hardy (Bacon) is your clichéd, scarred, former bad-ass FBI agent who helps discover that manipulative and incarcerated serial killer Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) has a posse of copy-cats committing heinous murders on his behalf. A bit like Charles Manson, Carroll becomes quite talented at pulling strings and watching his followers do his bidding, like a bunch of brain-washed marionettes.
Each episode and season attempts new plot twists, introducing new Carroll followers. The show has a similar structure to that of Twin Peaks, The Killing, Broadchurch, The Fall, and True Detectives in which there is one murder to solve throughout the season rather than a different one each episode. In the case of The Following, there are new murders that are introduced, but the same story line or premise throughout. In other words, you sort of solve the entire case at the season finale. Despite the fact we don’t always see him, Carroll, a former English Professor, novelist and Edgar Alan Poe fanatic turned serial killer, though, drives the story line. While I normally love this type of structure and prefer it above those of CSI, Criminal Minds and others that present new characters, murders and a mystery to be solved at the end of each episode, I haven’t been able to truly connect with The Following.
I’ve watched most of the episodes but don’t feel strongly enough about Carroll or his followers for me to really connect with the story. As a matter of fact, Carroll doesn’t come across manipulative or dangerous enough to elicit a cult-like following let alone manipulate them to commit murder. His character is too weak as is the entire plot, and thus neither could hold my attention for long. To each his own, I know, but just a few days ago the article FOX Predictions: ‘The Following’ Is Likely To Be Canceled discusses the show’s low ratings and the likelihood it will be canceled.
A great villain can truly make a show, especially a detective-thriller type of series that banks off of disturbing yet likeable characters that you are drawn towards, disturbed by and can’t get enough of. But, a weak, one-dimensional villain that you feel removed from and have no connection to does little for a show and actually can kill it when it should be killing people.
Take Hannibal and The Blacklist. Both offer superb antagonists that you’ve formed a love and hate relationship with. Seriously, as a fan — and I’ve spoken to other fans who feel the same way— you root for the villain to some degree. They can be despicable, but at the same time they’re likeable and you grow to empathize in a way with why they may be deranged and dangerous. Raymond ‘Red’ Reddington (James Spader) of The Blacklist and Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) of Hannibal are two superbly three-dimensional, dangerously brilliant antagonists that drive the story forward. Most importantly their intricate quirks and personalities are believable, their idiosyncrasies making them human and that much more fascinating. These two NBC shows definitely beat Fox when it comes to the best suspenseful detective shows with the absolute best villains.
Regardless, The Following manages to be better than other Fox shows and I’ll keeping tuning in with the hope that with each passing episode I’ll start to care. So far, I’m a little disappointed with the start of Season 3. A Variety article reviewing Season 3 echos the same disappointment in the show as well. I am not at the edge of my seat the way I am with shows like The Blacklist or Hannibal (can’t wait until June 4 when Season 3 premieres). But, we’ll see, we still have more episodes and the rest of the season to go.