I once heard about this little breakfast joint a couple of towns over that served great bacon. For some reason that’s all anyone seemed to know about it. Perhaps everyone just ordered bacon and loved it so much that they never went any further, or maybe they tried everything and only the bacon stood out. So, I went and I ordered the bacon. The bacon was great. But I also tried the pancakes, then the eggs and the hashed browns, then the orange juice, and I loved everything! I went initially for the bacon but it’s much more than just the bacon that keeps me coming back.
That story is a complete fabrication, but it’s an apt analogy for my relationship with The Following. There’s not much that I don’t love about Fox’s new nail-biter from Kevin Williamson (Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer). There’s mystery, suspense, a psychopathic serial-killing cult, plenty of Poe references, and then there’s Bacon. See, when I first heard about The Following I wasn’t aware that it was created by the guy who did Scream. I didn’t know any of the other actors. I hadn’t even heard of James Purefoy (he plays the bad guy, Joe Carroll) who, for some reason, everyone else seems to have been aware of. All I knew was Bacon. I’m a fan of Bacon, both the food and the actor, and I will go anywhere or watch anything that serves or stars bacon, or Bacon. It is for that reason that I chose to give this series full of people I’ve never heard of a shot.
Like many, many others, for me the pilot episode of The Following was a bit like your first trip down a hill in a shopping cart. There was plenty of blood, to be sure, no small number of hair-whitening scares, and it ended with a scary looking, make-up wearing, skeleton-thin man creepily crooning a Eurythmics song – In case you missed it, that was me trying to draw a parallel between dumb-idea-induced-unconsciousness and Marilyn Manson’s rendition of Sweet Dreams – In any case, despite some unpleasantness, at the end it was all worth the ride, because this show delivers.
Throughout following episodes my infatuation with the series has only grown. It’s not just the career-invigorating performance by Bacon, who deftly portrays the ex-FBI-agent-turned-washed-up-alcoholic, Ryan Hardy. It’s not just the brilliant portrayal of a sociopathic genius and E.A. Poe aficionado by Purefoy. Heck, it’s not one thing. It’s everything. The cast is brilliant, from the good guys to the bad guys, and everyone in between. And there certainly is an “in between” because in The Following gray area abounds. I’m telling you, as a guy who has quite a lot of studying in the areas of ethics and morality under his belt, this darn show could have moral giants the likes of Mother Teresa, Gandhi, or any Tommy Lee Jones character who chases down innocent people who have been framed for murder, questioning their deeply rooted belief systems. If you doubt just watch a few episodes and get back to me.
If I go on any longer the likelihood of spoilers slipping out increases exponentially, so I’m going to bring this thing to a close, but seeing that Bacon is in the title I figured I would share with the readers my inner reaction to his character, Ryan Hardy, in this past episode. I’ll set it up first. Now, I’m not going to say who, or where, or what, but someone somewhere pushes him, just a wee bit, and gets a mid-sentence bullet in the chest just before Hardy runs remorselessly past his/her/its newly lifeless body. I’m not a man who curses much but the only words that my brain would allow in that moment were, “Ryan Hardy is a bad____!” I think I even said it out loud.
It was one of those moments. You know, the moments that 80’s action movies were full of – Whenever Willis or Stallone or Schwarzenegger or Van Damme or Seagal shot, stabbed, beheaded, blew up, drowned, eviscerated, or dropped off a cliff or into spinning helicopter blades, that feeling of vicarious revenge welled up inside. It was a cool moment of bonding there between Hardy and I. He was cool before that, but at that moment he became the Ryan Hardy we all knew he could be.
I’ll leave you, kind reader, with a strong recommendation that, if you haven’t been watching The Following on Fox, you bring up Hulu or On Demand and watch the first several episodes. This is one of those rare TV series that has you right out of the gate. For me Lost did it. Heroes did it. Dexter did it. Breaking Bad did it. And now The Following has done it. I hope it does it for you too.