During the San Diego Comic Convention preview night last month, we were shown the pilots of five TV shows that will premiere in the coming months. Of these, one of them stood head and shoulders above the rest:  the chilling, haunting and downright terrifying The Following, which will make its debut sometime in early 2013. My verdict: 3.5 out of five stars. 

The Following

Kevin Bacon and James Purefoy star in The Following ©Fox

I did a review of The Following in a guest post for geek website The Nerd Machine, which is the handiwork of former Chuck star and soon-to-be Thor: The Dark World star Zachary Levi. You can see my post right here. Do check it out, the post is reproduced below too:

 

Of the five TV pilots screened at Ballroom 20 on July 11, SDCC preview night, one show stood out as the one with the greatest potential to become a hit: The Following.

Arrow went for a Green Arrow Begins vibe but ended up being clunky and cheesy. 666 Park Avenue tried really hard to be dark and gloomy but largely failed, while I got lost in Revolution‘s overly-ambitious premise. And wishing to prevent pneumonia and/or frostbite, I left Ballroom 20 before Cult started.

But it was The Following that got my fullest attention with its dark, gritty and intense tone. The graphic content on display reportedly even led to some audience members walking out of the screening venue. This is a show for adults, and not everyone will take to its bleak, unrelenting tone.

The Following is the story of burned out ex-FBI agent Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon), who is recalled to hunt down Joe Carroll (James Purefoy), the serial killer he once helped apprehend. While the story of the gifted profiler hunting down a brilliant serial killer has been well explored – c.g. Silence Of The Lambs – , the producers bring an intriguing twist to proceedings. With an obsession with Edgar Allen Poe and the Romantics, Carroll has inspired a literal following: disciples who will do his bidding, as well as his killing.

While the notion of an academic turned serial killer may seem preposterous, the producers go full steam ahead with the premise and make things very believable. First and foremost, picking the evergreen and classy Bacon to play the lead was right on the money. If nothing else, he certainly looks the part of an emotionally and physically scarred man. Gaunt, unshaven and swigging vodka from a mineral water bottle, Bacon manages to convey pain without saying a single word.

Bacon looks like the strongest link in a fairly mediocre cast, but he is fortunate to have a strong antagonist in Purefoy as well. Quietly simmering with murderous rage, he matches Bacon stride for stride without descending into pantomime villain. But I do wonder if the show’s writers can come up with a credible origin story to explain just how a professor can turn into a mass murderer.

The audience is not fully clued in as to Hardy and Carroll’s relationship in the pilot, but the use of flashbacks give tantalizing hints of just what Hardy had to do to catch him, and fleshes out the story very nicely. The violence is graphic and unflinching – eight deaths in the first episode alone, with one victim getting her eyes gouged out – but can they keep up the body count without numbing the audience?

Personally, I’m really looking forward to see how things pan out. This is definitely one new show to follow.

Are you looking forward to The Following? Or are serial killers not your thing?