Monday, January 21, 2013

'The Following' Premiere Review - 1.01 Pilot

        On the series premiere of FOX's The Following, FBI agent Ryan Hardy is called out of retirement to rack down serial killer Joe Carroll after he escapes from prison; the investigation also leads Hardy back to Claire Matthews, Carroll's ex-wife and the mother of the criminal's young son, Joey; and Hardy soon discovers that Carroll has created an ever-growing cult of followers.

        After months of a million forms of promotional material, FOX finally decided to premiere its new drama, The Following. The series from Kevin Williamson (The Vampire Diaries, Dawson's Creek, Scream) and starring Kevin Bacon (in his first regular TV role) and James Purefoy is essentially FOX's last attempt to find a critical success this TV season. To that extent, The Following is well-poised to be that series for FOX because of prestige in front of and behind the camera as well as its more cable-esque premise. In fact, FOX heavily promoted this show as the show more well-suited for cable but done on broadcast TV. That's an interesting approach that could work. We won't know if the show turns into that success story for the network until the numbers come in tomorrow morning. So instead, let's turn to the actual content and whether or not the material warrants the critical acclaim.
        The Following has proven to be one of the most diverse new series from the 2012-2013 broadcast season. Some critics have lauded it as the best pilot of the year while others have found it very problematic and not worth a lengthy run. Both sides are probably right in that people who tuned into the premiere tonight will either really love it or really hate it - there's truly no middle ground here.
        The cast assembled here is very impressive. Bacon is a formidable movie star with a lengthy career span of respect and here he is able to elevate the character of Ryan Hardy into a great damaged leading character. That character right now is just a summation of different flaws that just exist but never emerge into something grander. His performance is finely entertaining but the character is a little questionable. Purefoy has been a great character actor on TV for awhile now. His appearances have been a bit sporadic in terms of greatness or dud. He frequently goes more towards the hammy side of delivery and performance - which can sometimes derail a specific character arc (just look at his appearances on Revenge last season for proof of that). But here, the drama has crafted a character that plays to his strengths and he does walk the line of overly hammy but - at least in the pilot - he doesn't cross over it. In the premiere, none of the supporting characters made an especially significant stand out in terms of character portrayal. They mostly existed to lay the groundwork for whats to come ahead - which is when they will truly get to shine.
        In terms of narrative pacing, the pilot had two distinct speeds. It was either action-action-action or overly explanative. Pilots are a very fickle beast to conquer. You need to craft this wonderful piece that introduces the characters and the plot but still keep it moving at a brisk pace so as not to have too much exposition or be boring. The pilot here almost has too much happening at the same time or it is trying too hard to be scary or to showcase how good their makeup department is. This creates a feeling of too much flash and not enough in-depth substance. The potential is most definitely there but right now it's separated pieces that just aren't collectively moving together yet. On the other hand, there were moments of people talking and talking and talking. Seriously, all the Poe stuff was beaten into our heads so forcefully. Those conversations also felt too worked in that they needed to be said in order to advance the plot forward. Besides that great final act, it didn't feel like any of the characters were having truly honest conversations with each other that informed us as the audience of the dynamics and feelings between them. We were told what they were but how we saw them wasn't executed as well.

So what did everyone think of the premiere? Will you tune in to Episode 2? What was the best moment (aka the moment that freaked you out the most)? Share your thoughts in the comments.