Joe Carroll is a serial killer. The good news is he's in jail. The bad news is he's had access to the internet, and used his decade inside to cultivate a countrywide cult of like-minded believers - these are 'The Following'.
Cue the latest big-budget offering from the States - what its creator Kevin Williamson is calling "part procedural, part soap opera, part horror".
'The Following' - EVERYTHING you'd expect from this kind of TV thriller, rescued by Kevin Bacon
Last night's UK debut on Sky Atlantic was some kind of meta-nod to everything that's ever gone before in primetime - as well as star Kevin Bacon's own, early-on, horror-flick portfolio.
Joe Carroll, we learn, is a man with inevitable Edgar Allen Poe pretentions ("he didn't just eviscerate 14 female students, he was making art" - NATURALLY), played with ersatz-Lecter, scenery-chewing relish by James Purefoy - who somehow sounded like he was faking his British villain accent even though he's actually British. Once he'd escaped from jail, courtesy of 5 blood-splattered guards, it was up to one man to track him down.
You may have met Agent Hardy before... in every FBI TV lunchtime movie listed in IMDB. There he was sleeping late in his apartment, alone in the world except for the clinking whiskey bottle, chewed up and spat out by the Bureau, until... the call came.
"Hello Ryan, it's director Franklin of FBI, it's been a while.... I know it didn't end well... but we need you in Virginia." Beautiful words. Everything we could possibly have wanted to know in a few neat seconds. I'd be surprised if this wasn't the pitch to Fox TV executives a year ago.
But... Ryan is Kevin Bacon, making his debut transfer to the small screen and, as ever, he elevates average schlock into something memorable. He may not be able to save the script - "18 months I worked the case... I made so many mistakes" - but he remains enduringly watchable.
It was a bit early in the series to have a face-off between him and Carroll (considering both men have signed up for a possible seven seasons), the man he put away but not without cost - the visible valve in his chest testament to that - but it gave Purefoy the chance to set out his stall of horror, even if he winced at the word 'cult'.
"I like to think of them as my friends. It's important to have friends..." he told a hollow-eyed Ryan. "I will be your friend... even though you slept with my wife, the only woman I ever loved."
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