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The Following: When Both The Protagonist and Antagonist Are Writers

The Following-James Purefoy-Kevin Bacon

The Following starring Kevin Bacon (on the right) and James Purefoy (on the left). Image via

What can be more exciting than the battle of good vs. evil when they are both smart, published authors, and their actual professions are FBI agent and English professor-turned-serial killer? Not to mention, the serial killer wants to write a second book, with the agent as the protagonist and himself as the antagonist. You get one exciting weekly thriller.

Let me lay the background first:

What The Hell Is The Following?

The Following is a thriller/drama/crime series starring Kevin Bacon and James Purefoy, who respectively play the agent and killer. It was created by Kevin Williamson (the creator/writer of Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer, The Faculty…), and each episode feels like one well-edited, solid movie, also thanks to the brilliant cast. Whether you liked Williamson’s slashers or not, The Following is a lot more than that.

The Plot

Charismatic, inspiring and Poe-obsessed literature professor, and the author of the critical/commercial flop The Gothic Sea, Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) takes his obsession with “romance of death” a bit too far and starts killing his students.

By the time FBI agent Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) catches up with him, he has already killed a lot of girls-but Hardy manages to save his latest victim. Unfortunately, he doesn’t get away unscratched: Joe punctures Hardy’s heart.

After 8 years of sentence and a short time away from being executed, Carroll escapes from prison. During his imprisonment, his book and the notoriety of his crimes have gained him a cult following, ready and willing to kill to impress him.

While his first action is to go after his remaining victim, we also learn that:

1)      Ryan has written a book on him, a book well-read by Carroll.

2)      The Gothic Sea has turned into a hit.

3)      Ryan has had an affair with Carroll’s wife Claire, who didn’t have a clue what a monster her husband was until he was caught, and not before they had a kid together.

4)      Ryan has quit the FBI as his heart wouldn’t let him be a field agent anymore.

5)      His “following” includes the two “nice” neighbors of the surviving victim and his son’s nanny.

After killing the girl, Carroll surrenders, knowing he can’t be executed. Not with an unknown number of following killers out there and with his son kidnapped. Ryan is called back into action, and he is more pissed and haunted than ever.

The Second Book – Killer Wants to Write It with the Agent

Carroll’s following are out there, being violent and dangerous, Claire is going crazy and Hardy has to deal with a not-so-brilliantly operating FBI. Carroll openly complains about Ryan’s first book, so Ryan asks what his sequel will be about at the end of the first episode.

Below is a part of their dialogue:


I thought I might go more traditional this time. You know villain, good vs. evil. I need a strong protagonist so that the reader that can truly invest. A flawed, broken man searching for redemption. And that is you. You’re my flawed hero. Yes, I insured that by killing Sarah. She was the inciting incident, the hero’s call to action. This is merely the prologue, this is just the beginning.


Yes, it is a bit disturbing, but I assure you, even with all the gore, The Following is PG-13 compared to any Tarantino movie. The acting is good, the pace is satisfactory and good vs. evil had never been so literal and literary at the same time…After all, not only we have Hardy and Carroll’s books, Poe’s poems and stories are always supporting characters…

I recommend that you try the first episode. If you don’t like it, you will have analyzed a story on what didn’t work. If you do…well, there are many benefits to that (which I’ll be covering soon in another post.)

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