Kevin Bacon sizzles in The Following
By Jackie Charniga
Editor in Chief
Hardly any words are spoken in the first few seconds of the opening teaser of “The Following”. The audience watches again the final scenes of season one: Claire is stabbed, Ryan Hardy already bleeding on the floor and powerless to stop it. The camera follows Ryan Hardy to the hospital, where he lays in bed, staring at the door. Hardy’s colleague, Agent Mike Weston, emerges from the hallway, and with tearing eyes and a barely perceptible shake of the head, the question is answered. The heart-pounding second season opens by immediately addressing the cliffhanger of the first: Claire is dead and Hardy is alone.
Fox’s hit show, “The Following”, continues to excite and disturb in its second season. According to “TV by the Numbers”, with over 10 million views, the show has amassed quite a “following” of its own.
Former FBI Agent Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) has suffered a great deal; his self-ascribed nickname is “Angel of Death”, prompted by the loss of his brother and both of his parents. This name is aptly given, as nearly all close relations to Hardy seem to drop like flies.
When working for the FBI, Hardy was tracking down a serial killer. His target made itself known in the form of Joe Carrol (James Purefoy). A former college professor, Carrol is struck by three obsessions: Edgar Allen Poe, murder, and finally Ryan Hardy. The obsession stems from Hardy’s devotion to Carrol’s ex-wife, Claire Matthews (Natalie Zea). In the course of his investigation, Hardy has an affair with Claire, making him a target and an object of fascination to Carrol.
Impressively persuasive, Carrol’s personality appeals to his cult followers which he recruited while teaching and in prison. As the series progresses, the cult members reveal their ranks to be in the hundreds if not thousands. Possessing unique skills sets, from weapon experts and former military agents to former FBI agents and members of a red-neck militia, the criminally insane gather in droves to aid and abet their serial-killing master.
Escaping from prison at the beginning of the first season, Hardy is called back into the field in a consultant position. He is quickly recognized as being an asset to the FBI, as Carrol and his cult waste no time proving that Hardy is their fixation. It also helps that Hardy is the most competent of the bunch: whenever the cult strikes, he springs into action.
Carrol is quickly recaptured and returned to jail, but not before he has killed again and sets his plan in motion, the details of which are made known to the FBI as they fall into a series of traps set by the cult during the course of the season.
The plotlines of the first season follow Hardy in his attempt to rescue Claire’s son, the heartbreakingly-adorable Joey Matthews (Kyle Catlett), FBI agents Mike Weston (Shawn Ashmore) and Debra Parker (Annie Parisse), Carrol himself, and a band of his devotees, his right-hand Emma Hill (Valorie Curry), Jacob Wells (Nico Tortorella), and Paul Torres (Adan Canto).
The goal of this particular band of followers is to get close to Claire in order to kidnap Joey. Emma and Jacob are an established item, and after spending years in the guise of a gay couple, feelings develop between Paul and Jacob. Originally sharp, Emma opens up to Paul and a bizarre ménage a trois emerges between the three of them, which later is exploited amusingly by Hardy.
Playing out his fantasy with the help of his disciples, Carrol treats the FBI agents as characters in his elaborate plot to destroy Hardy, the protagonist of his book. Through torturous displays of mayhem, Carrol spends the season deriving the maximum satisfaction of destroying all of Hardy’s relationships and chances of happiness.
In the series finale, audiences are allowed only moments between the relief of Carrol’s death before Claire is brutally stabbed by another of Carrol’s followers, coincidentally Hardy’s ex-girlfriend and next-door neighbor.
The second season centers around the copy-cat cult that has emerged in the year after Carrol’s cult disbanded. Hardy’s niece, Max, is also an agent which helps his covert continuance of the Joe Carrol case. Working out of a hidden panic room in Hardy’s apartment, they secretly track down the newest continuation of the cult. Wearing Joe Carroll masks, the new cult proves that Season 2 leaves the entire Poe plotline in the past. The obsession is now fueled by Carrol alone, and the blood-lust continues. Public exhibitionists, the new cult slashes subway patrons and stages corpses like dolls in public areas, puzzling the FBI.
Of their first attack, a lone survivor emerges: Lily Gray. Striking up a report with Hardy, the attractive art dealer appears to be a dull replacement for Claire. True to form, her meek personality is recovered only because it is a farce, as Gray turns out to be the malicious leader of the nouveau-cult and Hardy is played for a fool.
Surrogate mother of the creepy-twins, Gray travels the world adopting orphans with a penchant for butchery. Lead by Gray and her set of creepy twins Mark and Luke, both played by Sam Underwood. Their goal is to lure Carrol out of hiding, and resume his work of terrorizing Ryan Hardy.
Season two has chills, kills, and enough needless bloodshed to appease its fans. “The Following” can be caught Mondays at 9/8c on Fox.