The Viewer: The Following, Six Degrees Of Serial Killing


Image via hitfix.

The Viewer is a huge fan of crime fiction and police procedurals.  What she chooses to do with the vast amount of knowledge she has gained from this predilection has evaded me to date, but I do occasionally feel that allowing her to watch them may in the future make me an accessory to any crimes she commits.

Just putting it out there.


Image via fanpop.

Kevin Williamson uses his intimate knowledge of crime fiction to more positive effect. He knows that most stories about serial killers have become hackneyed, cliche-ridden parodies of themselves, in much the same way as the horror genre had before the knowing, self-referential wink that was the ‘Scream’ series. Instead of allowing the inevitable cliches to weigh down his latest project, Sky Atlantic’s ‘The Following‘, he uses them as reference points to create a mise en scène that may end up reinvigorating this worn out path too.

imagesAs with Scream, innovative casting helps. The everyman of off-beat cinema, Kevin Bacon, plays the difficult, alcoholic FBI agent called back to duty when the nemesis he almost died capturing escapes from a high security jail to the opening bars of Marilyn Manson’s cover of ‘Sweet Dreams’. Dr Joe Carroll, played with a cold-eyed detachment by James Purefoy, has a Poe obsession, suitably complex motivations and more worryingly for the law enforcement agencies, great networking skills. This has resulted in innumerable devoted fans literally queuing up to do his bidding.

The Viewer is pleased by this promising approach, but this is insufficient to assuage her ire. She bet that the soundtrack would be by Trent Reznor and can no longer afford to buy the ice pick she had her eye on.

Once you’ve seen the show, you’ll realise this is probably a good thing.

But it’s only when the parameters have been established that we really begin to catch glimpses of how Williamson intends to steer his project above the dull roar of other TV shows, books and movies dealing with similar subject matter. Like Harry Bosch before him, Bacon’s character is not anti-social, he’s just intensely driven and as vulnerable to his emotions as the rest of us. Like Terry McCaleb, he has a heart problem that will invariably inhibit his ability to investigate the case. Like both of the above, in various stories written by the masterful hand of Michael Connelly, he is wide open to manipulation by a cunning psychopath, whose desire to finish what he started has driven him to lengths we, like the characters, cannot begin to fathom.

hanniballecterThe Viewer is very optimistic about the future of this series. It pairs an actor she might grudgingly admit to liking (Flatliners is a childhood favourite) with a smart arse screenplay that’s more than capable of tipping convention onto it’s side while it peacefully grazes in a field. Her only complaint at this point might be that unlike the Scream series, where female characters were strong, savvy individuals, the women we’ve met so far in The Following, including the detectives, are definitely of the school that if a masked intruder is in your house, the first thing you do is turn the light off and take a shower. She’d like them to sort that out. Stat.

At least I think that’s what she said. She was in the hockey mask at the time, so her words were quite muffled.

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