After much hubbub and critical hand-wringing, FOX's new serial killer/FBI drama, The Following, finally premiered last night. I'll admit I was inclined to like it: I like other things (like The Vampire Diaries) from creator Kevin Williamson, and I was immediately pulled in by the literature connection. (The serial killer is a literature professor obsessed with Poe and other romantics.) And, of course, the cast is great - James Purefoy, Kevin Bacon, Natalie Zea. But a large percentage of the critics and journalists who saw the show in advance and were talking and writing about it were focusing on how violent and disturbing it was, so I wasn't sure if I'd a) like it and b) be able to handle it.
But the premiere made me entirely buy into the show. Sign me up. First of all, it didn't actually strike me as particularly violent or disturbing - though that is surely in part because all the hysteria made me expect it to be worse than it was. Don't get me wrong: there's violence and disturbing imagery and the show certainly will not be for everyone. And that's fine. The best shows are not for everyone. (No, I'm not claiming that this is among "the best" shows, whatever that means. More than one episode is necessary for that sort of evaluation.) I tend to be more bothered by creepiness than violence, and there were a few moments that scared me, but the rest of it was so compelling that I can get past that.
The reasons why I liked the pilot had little to do with the violence or the serial killing or any of the other things people are mostly talking about. I liked the amazing cast. I liked the literary references. I liked the damaged, tortured hero. I liked the villain who managed to be both charismatic and terrifying. I especially liked their scene together at the end. Sure, the violence was part of it all, but to me, it felt organic, not like random violence for the sake of it.
And really, the most promising sign for any pilot: I want more now.