Returning for a third season of graphic violence and gore, the Monday, March 2nd season premiere of Fox’s The Following (9:00 p.m. ET) is the Worst TV Show of the Week.
With brilliant and charismatic serial killer Joe Carroll finally captured, arrested, convicted, and sitting on Death Row, Carroll’s “following” of like-minded serial killer groupies has similarly been disbanded, with many killed…but not all.
Carroll’s schizophrenic sycophant Mike (who on occasion believes he’s his own brother – with whom he “talks” while looking into a mirror) is still on the loose, and is determined to avenge himself on FBI agent Ryan Hardy and his team, who in the course of stopping Carroll killed Mike’s mother and brother. In the course of following this plan, the show’s viewer is subjected to horrific levels of sleazy sex and graphic gore.
Take the opening scene. A couple, Kenny and Natalie, sit in a hotel lounge. Natalie approaches a call girl at the bar and propositions her.
Natalie: “My husband thinks you’re stunning.”
Call girl: “That’s sweet.”
Natalie: “So would it be wrong if I asked if you were working?”
Call girl: “I’d be happy to make your anniversary something to remember. Just so long as you know couples cost a little bit more.”
In the next scene, Kenny throws the call girl onto the bed and kisses her roughly, as Natalie stands at the foot of the bed, watching..
Call girl: “Hold on, Kenny. This has to be fun for both of you.”
The call girl steps behind Natalie and unzips her dress, stripping Natalie down to her bra and panties. She leads Natalie to the bed, and produces a scarf. The call girl orders Kenny to tie Natalie’s arms to the head of the bed, and he does so. Natalie watches as Kenny and the call girl kiss right above her. A knocking sound is heard.
Call girl: “What the hell was that?”
Natalie: “It sounds like it’s coming from the closet.”
Kenny opens the closet and finds a maid, tied up. The call girl suddenly produces a knife and stabs Kenny in the throat. Then, as Natalie cowers in terror, the call girl stabs her in the abdomen. A close up shows Natalie’s bra-clad breasts as blood fountains out of her stomach.
The door to the room opens, and a man carrying suitcases enters. Kenny’s corpse, blood spread across its naked throat, chest, and stomach, is seen.
Man: “You started without me, Daisy?”
The call girl rips off a wig, and hops into the man’s arms, straddling him with her legs. They kiss.
Daisy: “They were on their second wedding anniversary.”
Man: “What am I going to call you?”
Call girl: “Natalie. And your name is Kenny. I’m a bad girl.”
The corpses of the murdered couple are shown lying on the hotel room floor.
Later, investigating the murders, Ryan and the FBI team inspect the crime scene, where the couple’s corpses have been propped up in a tableau. Quick camera cuts show Natalie’s blood-smeared, underwear-clad corpse, with close-ups of her breasts and bloody stomach, and Kenny’s torso, covered in blood, with his entire body shackled to the wall, strung up by his arms and throat. “Ryan Hardy Lies” is written in blood on the wall.
Nor is this the last such sinister and gory murder. After another killing, Ryan and his team enter a house where dead bodies have been propped up with wires to appear standing or kneeling. One body is lying on the floor. This time, the bloody writing on the wall reads, “Max Hardy Lies.” (Max is another member of Ryan’s team.) The team realizes that Mark is posing the corpses in positions exactly corresponding to the deaths of his brother and mother.
The psychotic Mark and his accomplices kidnap a woman who resembles Mark’s mother. Mark drives the kidnapped woman to the secluded woods, her muffled screams and cries coming from the trunk. Eventually, Mark pushes her along a path, where he forces her to her knees. She kneels, sobbing and begging him, “Please, don’t do this!” Mark ruthlessly shoots her execution-style in the forehead. Then the insane Mark hugs the body of the woman he just murdered and sobs, “Please don’t leave me, Mommy!”
When Ryan and the team arrive at the scene, Mark has arranged and entire group of corpses, dressed them in FBI jackets, and strung them up with wire in a tableau recreating the death of his mother. The words “While You Lie, More Die” are spray-painted on the ground.
Murder mysteries have been a staple of television programming since its beginning; but it is only in the last few years that the murders themselves have been emphasized. In past crime dramas, murders were almost perfunctory, occurring only to set the plot in motion while the viewer dwelt on the police officer or private detective who was committed to solving the crime and catching the killer.
Not so on The Following. Mike and his henchmen don’t simply kill their victims; they kill them in the midst of sexual encounters (thus increasing the sleazy quality of the show), then arrange them in “creative” tableaux, carefully posing the corpses in provocative positions, with their nudity on display. The camera lingers slowly and lovingly on the bloodied, naked corpses, with the entire program combining sex, murder, and depravity in a singularly stomach-churning manner.
This is something new for television; but sadly, on shows from NBC’s Hannibal to A&E’s Bates Motel and even MTV’s teen-targeted Eye Candy, this combination of violence and sex has become standard. Simply making shows that are entertaining is no longer enough; apparently, today’s networks feel their shows must be sickening, as well.
For combining sex, gore, and disturbing imagery – and rating it appropriate for children – Fox’s The Following is the Worst TV Show of the Week.
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