I’ve decided to use my first television review to honor one of my favorite shows: “The Following.” If “Doctor Who” didn’t exist, “The Following” would surely earn the place of being my all-time favorite show. Even so, it’s creeping its way up the ladder (especially after Season 8 of “Doctor Who,” but we’ll get to that later).
“The Following” is a dark drama that follows our rebellious, damaged hero, Ryan Hardy (played by the main man, himself, Kevin Bacon), as he assists the FBI with their manhunt for the charming, infamous serial killer and “cult leader,” Joe Carroll (played by the incredibly talented James Purefoy), who has escaped from prison. Over the course of its three seasons, “The Following” continues to provide surprising twists; introduce new, intriguing characters; and, given the dark nature of the show, provoke the sinister feeling that anything can happen. No one is safe, including many of our main characters. Though the series was canceled after three seasons, I would (and do) still recommend it to as many people as possible. Despite the abrupt halt, it’s worth your time, and, unlike many other shows that have ended unexpectedly, it still manages to leave us with a fairly satisfying conclusion.
The first thing that struck me as intriguing about “The Following” was how unique the story is. I’ve truly never seen anything like it, and with the plethora of available media these days, that’s not an easy feat. Aside from the invigorating plot, however, what continuously impressed me about this show was the amazing quality and incredible talent of everyone involved. After “The Following,” I now have many new favorite actors, and given their talent, I’m shocked that I had never heard of many of them prior to the show. Everyone knows Kevin Bacon rocks, and Shawn Ashmore has always been an old favorite of mine, since “Animorphs” and the “X-Men” films, but this show introduced me to a lot of new (or at least new to me) faces. James Purefoy, Valorie Curry, and Sam Underwood, in particular, have become some of my favorite actors, and I’m always anxious to see what new projects they may be working on (such as the beautiful short film “Bus Stop,” starring Sam and Valorie, created by Jamie Sims. Seriously, check that out like now: https://vimeo.com/106475235). I also believe that having such amazing talent from every actor involved has to be a sign of a good Director, so props to Marcos Siega for that.
Another aspect of “The Following” that blew me away was the writing. First of all, it can be tough to follow a story with so many characters, but the show never left me confused as other shows sometimes do. For example, in the recent seasons of “Vampire Diaries,” I often find myself sitting down to watch a new episode and I can’t remember what’s going on in the story because everything is too complicated and there are too many characters to follow. With “The Following,” however, not only was I never confused about the rabbit trails that were taken, but I actually cared about them. Even the smallest of characters, such as one of Joe Carroll’s loyal followers who is only on screen long enough to sacrifice themselves for him, were intriguing enough to make me wonder about who they were and how they got there. The writers of “The Following” were great at creating intricate back-stories for all of their characters, and those back-stories were always revealed at the perfect moments, little by little, just when we were starting to want to know more about them.
I think the biggest challenge the writers faced (and conquered), however, was the challenge of creating and maintaining a character that is so absolutely abhorrent, arrogant, psychopathic, and frightening… and yet, we still kind of like him…. We still kind of want Joe to “win” in some way. We still kind of don’t want him to go to jail, and we still kind of want him and Ryan to be BFFs and have sleepovers together. And the best part is, the writers didn’t just accomplish this once, but many times. At least in my opinion, they succeeded at maintaining this fragile balance with Joe, Luke, and Mark. Not to mention side characters that evoked such emotions, such as Emma, Jacob, Daisy, and probably many others that I can’t remember at the moment. That idea of creating a villainous character that everyone loves and feels some compassion for intrigued me so much, as a writer, that it inspired me to take on the challenge myself, which lead to the accomplishment of a goal I’ve been working toward my entire life: successfully finishing a novel of which I’m proud and my family enjoys. For that, I cannot thank the creators of “The Following” enough. I needed that inspiration to get back into the writing world, and it has since grown and developed into a deep passion that has become a core piece of who I am. Writing is in my blood; it’s who I am, and in the words of Joe Carroll, “I am inevitable.”
So, overall, watching (and re-watching… and re-watching) “The Following” has been an immense pleasure. It’s become an important part of my life and something I want to share with those close to me. If you have Netflix, you can start binge-watching now. Or, if you’re like me and already love the show, you can buy the entire series now, on DVD/BluRay! Also, if you feel like getting me a Christmas present, you can use this as a helpful guide.