Joe Carroll was once a highly liked professor of literature, specializing in gothic romance, specifically that of Edgar Allen Poe. Then, pretty young co-eds at his college started turning up dead, victims of horrendous murders. Agent Ryan Hardy got Joe in his crosshairs, finally nailing the heinous killer for his crimes, but not before falling for Joe's now ex-wife, fellow professor Claire Matthews (Natalie Zea, Dirty Sexy Money). With Joe in prison for the last decade, Hardy has spiraled into a deep pool of icy vodka, that is, until he gets a call for help early one morning from his former FBI comrades. Joe Carroll has escaped prison and left a bloody trail in his wake.
As Hardy struggles with the request for his assistance in once again catching the man who destroyed his life, physically, professionally and emotionally, he soon comes to discover that Joe isn't acting alone. In fact, he has an entire cult of very methodical crazed killers at his disposal that emerge from the shadows and seem to permeate every facet of life. How can Hardy combat those he doesn't even suspect?
Hardy is teamed up with veteran agent Debra Parker (Annie Parisse) and rookie tech specialist Mike Weston (Shawn Ashmore, the X-Men series), who is a huge fan of Hardy. Together with many fellow agents, they work to protect Joe's ex-wife and his young son, Joey (Kyle Catlett), as well as his final victim, survivor Sarah Fuller (Maggie Grace from Lost), "his unfinished work." Hardy and the rest of the team will soon discover that no one is safe, no one can be trusted, and they have vastly underestimated the power and organization of Joe's following. The entire season becomes a cat and mouse chase where the FBI constantly feels as though they are one step behind Joe and his followers, and they feel that way because, well, they sort of are.
First things first, James Purefoy is, well, Pure Evil in this role. He is simply fantastic as Joe Carroll and with even the simplest look can both chill you to the bone and charm you at the same time. He is the perfect enigmatic leader for this cult of killers and he plays his role to the hilt. On the flip side, you have Kevin Bacon as Ryan Hardy, who is also perfect in his role. You can easily accept him as the flawed hero and he is just incredible in his role. But these two leading men are just the tip of the iceberg. Natalie Zea, Annie Parisse, Shawn Ashmore – everyone is great. Then you've got Valorie Curry as Emma, Nico Tortorella as Jacob and Adan Canto as Paul, all devoted followers of Joe that you will both love and hate at different times. The characters are all deeply flawed, yet you have sympathy for them once you learn why they were drawn to Joe and what they've suffered in their lives. It's no excuse, but it helps the viewer be a little more sympathetic to them, well, at least sometimes. I also really enjoyed seeing who might show up next on The Following: The Complete First Season. It was clearly an exciting project to work on and don't be surprised if you see some familiar faces from Dexter (Billy Brown and David Zayas) and even Kristine Sutherland from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
I didn't get a chance to watch The Following when it aired on TV, but I will admit I binge-watched it when the review copy came in. I couldn't tear myself away. I literally burned through the entire season in two and a half evenings, sometimes sitting on the edge of my seat - quite literally. This show is one of those that is constantly dropping bombs on you. I cursed A LOT and frightened my dogs that were curled up next to me, because the show would throw these continuous curve balls at you and they just kept coming. All the way down to the very last minutes of the very last episode. There are indeed some shockers in this season and I expect nothing less from the next season.
Special features are great and include a slew of deleted scenes, several behind-the-scenes featurettes covering specifics such as the sets, Joe's followers themselves, and iconic imagery such as the Poe mask, as well as commentary with Williamson and Director Marcos Siega (Vampire Diaries) on the first and last episode, with about 15 minutes of breakaway focus points with cast and crew during the first episode. It's all good stuff and while I typically don't enjoy commentary, I loved listening to these. They were highly interesting.
Watching The Following: The Complete First Season was like watching an incredible 45 minute movie, and then watching the next one right after. The Following on high def Blu-ray is vivid and intense, whether you are seeing lush green landscapes or blood-washed crime scenes. Surround sound also makes it exceptionally creepy, as the sights and sounds of Joe's followers envelop you. If you like crime drama, The Following: The Complete First Season is must-see material. The production value is high, the acting is stupendous and the storyline is chilling. This is action/ drama/ horror at its absolute best and you can bet that I will be glued to my TV when Season Two starts back up on January 20th.