Chilling. Thrilling. TV that will keep you on the edge of your seat the entire hour. TV you don't want to miss. Those are just a few ways to describe The Following, and the premiere delivered everything it needed to and more. This is a dark show. There's violence. There are jump moments. There are twists. It's gruesome, it's terrifying, and like James Purefoy does as Joe Carroll, it draws you in. And the first episode ended on a high note, with an exchange between Carroll and Kevin Bacon's Ryan Hardy that left you satisfied and wanting more at the same time.
As the series premiere began, Carroll escaped from prison, dressed as a guard and leaving bodies behind. Ryan was brought in to consult because no one knew the man who had killed 14 women and removed their eyes (a nod to Poe) like he did. And with the note Carroll left for Ryan in his bookÂ—"I enjoyed your book. Have you ever considered a sequel?"Â—it began. Joining Ryan were Agents Riley, Mason, and Weston, who had written his thesis on Carroll. Soon after, the strength of Carroll's influence began to reveal itself. One of his "groupies" stood in front of them, stripped to her underwear and covered in Poe's words and, with Poe's last words, "Lord help my poor soul," stabbed herself in the eye. They learned that she had received a text reading, "Do it now." Though Carroll had restricted Internet access, that didn't stop himÂ—especially since one of the guards, Jordy, was one of his followers. When they got to his house, they found posters of missing dogs, video, and a disturbing sight in the garage. He had been practicing; the dogs' eyes had been removed.
Flashbacks were used to show Carroll before his capture, teaching Poe to a class that included Sarah, his last intended victim who survived because of Ryan. In his class, she answered that Poe equated death with beauty ("Nothing was more beautiful than the death of a beautiful woman,") and another flashback showed Ryan entering her house in time to save her from Carroll's attack, the same encounter that left Ryan with a pacemaker. Once Carroll escaped, Sarah was placed under police protection, but even having officers outside her bedroom door couldn't save her, not with two of Carroll's followers, posing as her gay neighbors Billy and Will, right next door. They got to her and left behind dead officers and a message: "Nevermore." Sarah was Carroll's unfinished work, like The Lighthouse was Poe's, and it was at the Lighthouse B & B that Ryan found them, only he was too late. After Ryan followed Sarah's screams, Carroll revealed that he had already killed her and removed her eyes, and as Ryan choked him against a wall and the FBI burst in, he called out he surrendered. But that was just the beginning.
The pilot touched upon the complicated past and the hero and villain's shared love interest, Claire Matthews, Carroll's ex-wife. She would only talk to Ryan once she learned of her ex's escape, and she knew that he wanted to keep killingÂ—and finish what was left unfinished. She had received a letter, but Ryan told her he was just guessing. No one else needed to know. Claire was just one topic addressed in the intense interrogation scene that followed Carroll's second capture and featured strong performances from both Bacon and Purefoy. The tension built and built as the scene went on, from Carroll sliding the cuffs up as he rested his hands on the table to the moment the music began playing in the background.
As Carroll explained, "Sarah had to die. ...She worked very hard to get her life back together and she'd done quite nicely, which is more than I can say for some. You've been quite the disappointment, Ryan." He ensured Ryan for would be his "flawed hero" by killing Sarah. "It was for you," he told him. And as for Ryan's "sequel," well, that would be a collaboration. "We're going to write this together," Carroll said. And as for his followers, he preferred to "think of them as [his] friends" because "it's important to have friends. ...Do you have any friends, Ryan?" He asked. "I will be your friend, even though you slept with my wife." Claire was very important, and he wanted to see herÂ—and he had something that could change her mind about that: her son. Denise, Joey's nanny, was one of his followers and had taken him, meeting up with Billy and Will.
As the premiere ended, the FBI began learning the extent of Carroll's followers. He had websites, blogs, and online forums dedicated to him. A sorority girl let Jordy into the house to check the windows and doors. Three more bodies were found in Seattle, Boston, and New York, their eyes removed. As Carroll told Ryan, "This is merely the prologue. This is just the beginning. ...It'll be a classic. It'll be our masterpiece."
So yes, The Following may have its moments of violence, it may be a show that's darker than what you're used to seeing at 9PM on FOX, but between the writing and acting alone, it's something worth checking out. The premiere was the perfect "prologue" to what could be a masterpiece of a show, just like Carroll said it could be their masterpiece. Don't be surprised if you find yourself watching the pilot more than once. And if for some reason you're not completely sold after the premiere, keep watching. You'll be happy you did.
What did you think of The Following series premiere?
Â© Meredith Jacobs 2013