HAVING finished the second season of The Following, I felt compelled to write about the genius of the show. I was utterly mesmerized by James Purefoy’s performance as the charismatic psychopath Joe Carroll, whom gathers a following of people that share his desire to kill; I couldn’t wait to watch the next series. You might argue that the serial killer plot line might be a little bit clichéd and unrealistic. Yet, therein lies the brilliance of the show. His cult are not just mindless killers – rather, in the words of Carroll himself: “Death should be valued, it is a gift”. His literary background proves to be a game changer, which sets the show apart from other psychological drama/thrillers out there. Ex-literary professor Carroll and his following re-enact scenes from Edgar Allan Poe’s darkest works in the first series. Arguably these murders are a subconscious attempt to make up for his failings as a writer and in that justifies his desire to kill. Death and murder, in his opinion, are a poetic release that should be valued. However, Joe’s followers have stories of their own, too. Most are young and have issues with society, or perhaps their upbringing, and Joe’s charismatic charm draws them into a life where the feel wanted, where the belong, and where they all “play their part”.
All I need to do next to convince you to watch Kevin Williamson’s critically acclaimed show is to introduce ex-FBI agent, and Joe’s nemesis, Ryan Hardy. Hardy, played by Kevin Bacon, falls into what becomes a life mission not only to capture Carroll, but to eventually kill him. His desire to stop the cult and Carroll is fuelled, not only by a need to protect the public, but to face his own demons. In the pilot, we discover that Carroll escapes from the Virginia State Penitentiary after Ryan sent him there for the brutal Virginia Campus Murders, where 14 women were violently killed. In the nine years that Carroll carried out his imprisonment, both he and Hardy created novels. Ryan, as you would expect wrote a book detailing Carroll’s eventual capture, however revealed much about himself in the process – of which Joe uses against him. Joe intends to write a sequel with Ryan to his first dark novel ‘The Gothic Sea’, a tribute to Poe’s ‘The Light-House’. Throughout the first series the novel is metaphorically staged with acts of murder based upon Poe’s work, involving Ryan in some way or another. It would probably be pertinent to inform you that Ryan slept with Joe’s ex-wife, Claire Mathews.
This connection binds Joe and Ryan, as they both share a love for Claire and they begin to send metaphorical messages to one another. Joe’s cult, which he assembled from behind bars through visiting sessions and unlimited access to the internet, stage murders that emotionally manipulate Ryan. He knows that Carroll is behind the wrong-doings, and is driven to bring him to justice.
If you’re into gripping and intelligent, fast-paced dramas with dark humour (e.g Breaking Bad) then this is definitely for you. Kevin Bacon and James Purefoy are simply sublime, and their on-screen relationship has you gasping and laughing in places that you really wouldn’t expect. If you enjoyed Purefoy’s performance as Marc Antony in HBO and the BBC’s ‘Rome’, you’re going to be in for another treat. The third season of The Following is rumoured to have been commissioned, but whether or not that includes Ryan Hardy and Joe Carroll facing each other once again is unclear… I certainly hope it will!