Fox’s new series The Following aims for grit

What happens when Hannibal Lector is cooked together with “Criminal Minds” and seasoned with Bacon?

Fox’s new series “The Following” is the product of that recipe.
The new series starring Kevin Bacon, James Purefoy, Natalie Zea and Shawn Ashmore is set to debut Monday, Jan. 21, but The Tropolitan received a preview of the first four episodes courtesy of Fox.

Kevin Williamsom— known best for his work on the movies “Scream” and “I Know What You Did Last Summer”— is the show’s producer, and his goal for the show is to create a psychological horror with grit and gore being keen.

“No one is safe on this show,” Williamson said on the DVD’s extra.
The stakes are high in “The Following,” and characters are seemingly expendable during every moment of the show.

However, can the show deliver on its promises of grit, gore and thrill?

The premise of the show is FBI agent Ryan Hardy’s (Kevin Bacon) chance at redemption and reclaiming former glory. Hardy’s antagonist is Dr. Joseph Carroll (James Purefoy), an incarcerated serial killer who thematically based his killings on the gothic poet, Edgar Allen Poe.

Carroll is brilliant and charismatic but decidedly demented.

Hardy formally thwarted Carroll despite taking a near fatal stab in the heart, which resulted in Hardy requiring a pacemaker (Poe’s references are everywhere), but his illicit relationship with Carroll’s ex-wife, Claire Matthews (Natalie Zea), combined with his injury led to him resign as an FBI agent.

The pilot episode begins with Carroll’s escape from prison, and, subsequently, Hardy is called in to assist with capturing him.

After causing some mayhem, Carroll allows himself to be caught. His escape from prison was part of a divisive plan to reunite himself with Hardy.

It is revealed that Carroll, while in prison, has accumulated a mass following on the internet (no doubt using his charisma and charm) riddled with serial killers and other troubled souls, and he plans to orchestrate storyline for Hardy— the hero— to solve.

Hardy and Carroll’s deep connection is apparent from the beginning. Hardy has dedicated significant time to studying and unraveling Carroll’s psyche and Poe’s works. They share a “cat-and-mouse” connection that can only be achieved between a detective and his subject.

It doesn’t hurt that they are also in love with the same women— Carroll’s ex-wife.

The Following’s premise is enticing. The genius and despicably likeable Carroll fuses literary techniques into his master plan, which gives the story novelty. A story grounded in realism and the spontaneous sadism of serial killers also has a lofty, poetic side.

Despite the interesting nature of the plot, the series will have a lot of things to prove.

The first and most important question is if “The Following” can deliver on its gritty promises.

The cinematography and soundtrack really subtract from the grit of the show, especially the ladder. The soundtrack is full of youthful, angst-filled music, which oftentimes feels out of place and awkward during scenes (see: Marilyn Manson).

The primary cast is the strong point of “The Following,” but it feels a little top heavy.

Carroll’s core following of fellow serial killers is filled to the brim with angst-filled youths with twisted and sadistic minds. They seem to be captivated and entranced by Carroll’s charm, but they also come across as defiant nonconformist instead of true social outcast.

The situations these individuals find themselves in are gritty, but the characters do not seem to capture the dark realism. The show does not only present the situations and problems of serial killers; it also presents weird real-world gender problems, typical of a teenage drama.

Outside of the core following, the other members are more complimentary of the shows themes, and it’s too bad that they feature a less prominent role.

The writing for the show is acceptable, but it has its fair share of cheesy pseudo-hardcore lines. And it’s not to be forgotten that this is a show about cops, and these shows are always about the dumb things incompetent cops do and say.

“The Following” has a chance to rise above the sea of mediocrity that is non-comedy network television, but it’s going to have to flesh out the lesser characters, introduce interesting new characters, steer further away from typical T.V. drama and really capitalize on the ability to creep viewers out by investigating the mind of serial killers.

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