TV Talk with Breanna: Quoth The Following Nevermore

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There are few shows on television that actually manage to scare me anymore — sure, there are moments in any show that will surprise me or make me jump, but to have one genuinely give me chills has become somewhat of a rarity. Earlier this year when The Following premiered on FOX, I was finally able to find a show that would give me shivers episode after episode.

The Following features Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon), an ex-FBI agent whose main mission while at the agency was to arrest Joe Carroll (James Purefoy), a former professor turned serial killer who murdered 14 women and was eventually convicted in 2004. The pilot begins with Carroll’s escape from prison, which causes the FBI to call Hardy requesting that he return as a consultant to help them catch the killer once again. Having led the case against Carroll years earlier and then having written a book about it, Hardy is the perfect man for the job; but after being stabbed in the heart by Carroll during their final showdown, he’s not the agent he used to be.

Hardy reluctantly agrees to join the case and soon discovers that Carroll has developed a cult-like following that is centered around Edgar Allan Poe, the American poet best known for mystery and macabre, who also happens to be the serial killer’s hero. Along with Mike Weston (Shawn Ashmore), a young FBI agent who wrote his thesis on Carroll, and Debra Parker (Annie Parisse), a specialist on cult behavior, Hardy must put Carroll behind bars once and for all.

From the first episode, The Following lives up to its categorization as a psychological thriller, as it is constantly making viewers question the loyalties of its characters. The show is so suspenseful because Carroll’s followers are seemingly everywhere, and a previously good character could be revealed as a member of the cult at any moment. This is demonstrated in the first episode, when Joey, the son of Carroll and Claire Matthews (Natalie Zea), is taken away by his nanny Emma Hill (Valorie Curry), who is part of the cult. Because she had worked her way into their everyday lives, it isn’t until several days later that Joey realizes anything is wrong.

Another compelling aspect of The Following is its constant allusions to Poe. Carroll is so obsessed with the author that he writes a book based on Poe’s last unfinished work, which in turn leads to the formation of his cult. Poe serves as an inspiration to Carroll and his followers, and many elements of his works are implemented in the bizarre religion that he has created. His followers are frequently seen wearing Poe masks, and some of them are even given names based on Poe’s characters.

While it may not be for the weak hearted, The Following is certainly a beautifully acted and fantastically written show. It has been described by USA Today as “…certainly the most frightening series ever made by a commercial broadcast network.” The series has a dark and frightening tone that could even be described as creepy, and it will definitely keep you on the edge of your seat with a hand over one eye (or both). The Following’s first season is currently on Netflix and iTunes, and the show returns on January 27th, with a special preview on January 19th after the NFC Championship game.