In February I reviewed and recommended “The Following”, a Fox television drama series starring Kevin Bacon and James Purefoy. There have been a total of nine episodes so far, but this past week’s episode has made me recant my earlier review. How disappointed I am in this series!
The story is focused on two main characters: an FBI agent, Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) and a brutal serial killer Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) who has a cult following of wannabe killers, mostly young outliers trying to find a place to belong. But the last episode has overstepped the boundaries for even the psychologically wounded law-enforcement officer and the psychopath: excessive: gratuitously violent scenes that take attention away from the story.
In February I acknowledged that this is one of the most violent shows currently on broadcast TV (and the series has received negative press because of the extreme scenes), I also found the story compelling enough as well as fearlessly acted by Bacon and Purefoy to justify the violence as necessary for understanding the ferocious nature of a psychopath. However, with the last episode I fear that the long, bloody narrative has taken a backseat to violence for its own sake–a titillating, visceral thrill at seeing pain and torture. The difference, I think, between violence which supports the story’s plot and “pornographic” violence” is the degree to which the violent acts give a better understanding of the characters and the consequences of their actions. However, the story has become formulaic and has not moved forward in development of character or plot. At its extreme, which this last episode demonstrated, “The Following” has bordered on computer-game violence–visual images for their own horrific impact, appealing to an addictive fascination for some (especially young) viewers.. In this last episode the serial killer appears to have an orgasm after the kill. Enough is enough! Take this off the air. Too bad– not even Kevin Bacon and James Purefoy can resurrect this sickening and exploitative violence, a malignant chemistry that does not belong on either mainstream television or in cinema.