To say that season one of The Following ended on unsteady ground would be rather an understatement – with FBI’s most wanted, Joe Carroll (played to chilling effect by James Purefoy) apparently killed in a fire, and his long standing enemy, FBI’s Agent Ryan Hardy (played by everyone’s favourite six degrees, Kevin Bacon) lying bleeding out in his own kitchen after being stabbed, alongside Joe’s ex wife and Ryan’s current lover (it sounds very much like a soap opera when you frame it that way). With three main characters dead or almost so, the new season couldn’t have come sooner.
At times the show can cross the line from the extreme to the ridiculous, which can pull you out of the elaborate game of cat and mouse that Joe and Ryan are playing, aided by several other characters who have their own demons to wage war with. The episode started a few moments before the last left off, and predictably, Ryan survives his wounds. Claire, however, does not. One year later, and a book is being released about Joe and his cult, and Ryan is attending AA, and teaching criminology.
The episode starts a little slowly, but this is a welcome reprieve considering the fact that the show very rarely let’s up on the momentum. We see Ryan living his very normal life, with family around him. This happiness doesn’t last long, as people wearing Joe Carroll masks are ruthlessly attacked in a subway car. Two new characters with a penchant for murdering women then playing house with their corpses is introduced, and it is clear that they will be players as the series continues. The blonde is found posed as a character in Joe’s book in the park, which raises the question of how these men are connected to Joe.
Valerie Cundy’s Emma is still present, with a new punk make over, and it is clear that she is not in charge of this new cult – which begs the question of who is running the show now. Hardy’s niece is introduced, as part of Ryan’s investigations into Joe’s cult (because he was never going to let it go, let’s face it, with his obsessive personality). 90210‘s Jessica Stroup gives a convincing performance as Ryan’s niece, if a little unremarkable, which is to be expected given the limited screen time she gets. Again, unsprisingly, we are told that Joe did not die, and is somewhere hiding out.
Personally, I have alyways enjoyed the fact that Carroll is a professor of literature with an obsession with Edgar Allen Poe. Poe’s penchant for the macabre in his tales of mystery and the supernatural certainly make for dramatic scenes of murder and drama. This element tailed off somewhat towards the end of last season, and it seems that an obsession with Poe is being replaced with an equally creepy preoccupation with Carroll being resurrected. Only time will tell whether this will be as compelling as the focus of last season.
The episode ends with creepy music, and more questions, as we get a glimpse of a very bearded James Purefoy watching Ryan on TV.
8/10 – Overall, a solid opening episode which set the ground for an interesting season.
The Following is broadcast on Tuesdays at 10 pm on Sky Atlantic. Episodes are available to catch up online on Sky Go for a limited time.