“I’m so bored of you. I’m so bored of you and Edgar Allen Poe.”
When Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) says those lines to his nemesis Joe Carroll (James Purefoy), a cult leader and serial killer, in the final chapter of Season 1 of FOX’s cult crime series “The Following,” they could be viewed as cliche and predictable. But we are are bored of Joe Carroll. We are bored of his obsession with Edgar Allen Poe and his quest to write the perfect ending to his book.
However, we aren’t bored with Hardy, an alcoholic, emotionally damaged retired FBI agent who is brought in as a law enforcement consultant to help investigate killings that an imprisoned Carroll’s cult has been planning for years. From the moment Carroll’s ex-wife, Claire (Natalie Zea) asks to speak with Hardy and only Hardy, we know he plays a bigger role than a washed up ex-agent.
Bacon, who has a house in Sharon, Conn. with his wife, Kyra Sedgewick, has come a long way from a foot-tapping teen in “Footloose,” but continues to do a dance with his enemy in “The Following” and playing the role of the tenacious underdog who won’t stop fighting. But the dance sometimes clouds his judgment, leaving us constantly asking who is one step ahead, Hardy or Carroll? Bacon’s rugged charm gives us doubts and confidence at the same time that the hero will be the victor.
Would his triumph be a predictable television ending or will the show go in the direction of a heroic tragedy?
No character is really safe in this series and many if our favorite leads die in Season 1 alone. We can trust no one, as Carroll’s followers infiltrate society from neighbors to law enforcement.
The question is whether Hardy is safe or fair game. Is Joe’s following so deep that our protagonists are in danger even if he loses?
That’s the suspense that Carroll’s literary motives and dark Poe symbology do provide to his credit. But we think we know better than his followers and their misguided cult psychology.
Yet we follow the story and hang on its every word. Bacon is why we watched the show in the first place and why we keep watching.
We are bored of Carroll, his evil and his false hope of reuniting with his ex-wife and son. We are bored of the stretch of weaving Poe’s writing into the philosophies behind his cult. We are bored of the Poe masks the cult hides behind. But we never bore of the hero trying to defeat the villain. That story never gets old.
While “The Following” isn’t as addicting as “Breaking Bad,” “Dexter,” or “House of Cards,” all very different series, I can’t wait to start watching Season 2 now that I’ve finished my Netflix binge of Season 1.
“The Following” airs on Mondays at 9/8 Central Time on FOX (Channel 6 in Connecticut).