Five things we learned watching 'The Following'

Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - 10:23am

(CNN) -- Editor's Note: This post contains spoilers for the series premiere of "The Following" -- you've been warned.]

Monday night's premiere of "The Following" finally arrived after months of hype. Kevin Bacon, in his first TV series since "Guiding Light," stars as FBI agent Ryan Hardy, a man who knows serial killer Joe Carroll better than anyone else.

So how was the first episode? Well, it was certainly a learning experience. For example, we learned:

1. You can get away with a lot of gore on Fox

Just a few minutes into the episode, we see the grisly sight of multiple dead prison guards, which first puts Hardy on the trail of Carroll.

In an ode to Edgar Allen Poe, college professor Carroll gouges out the eyes of his (usually female) victims, so we saw many, many eyeless victims throughout the episode, including a woman who was brainwashed to publicly strip down and gouge her own eyes out. Lovely.

Fox hasn't played coy about their hope that this will be their series to challenge the HBOs, FXs, AMCs and Showtimes out there, so they're definitely pushing the limits of broadcast TV here.

2. "Homeland's" Carrie Mathison has company

If you're hungry for more investigators who are always right but probably crazy, Hardy will satisfy your craving.

It's clear that Hardy is constantly on the verge of a breakdown while on the trail of Carroll. This leads him to be dismissed on a regular basis by his colleagues. Carrie Mathison, anyone?

3. "Lost's" Maggie Grace won't exactly be a regular cast member

Williamson scored a coup getting Grace (also known for the "Taken" movies) to star as a girl Hardy saved in Carroll's initial rampage.

But by the end of the episode, it was clear she was like "Scream's" Drew Barrymore, a familiar face who was there as cannon fodder. Carroll killed her in horrific fashion, her eyeless corpse hanging upside down right in front of Hardy.

Hardy captured Carroll, but it didn't matter as Carroll has a seemingly-unlimited army of followers to do his bidding, including his son's babysitter, who kidnapped the boy away from Carroll's ex-wife.

4. Creator Kevin Williamson is still a fan of the "look-out-there's-someone-behind-you" fake-out

The best example of this was Sarah - whom Hardy saved from Carroll nearly a decade ago - coming upon her roommate, who collapsed to reveal Carroll had stabbed her in the back.

Immediately following Sarah's flashback to that moment, she was surprised by an officer who snuck up behind her. This kind of thing happened a lot in the episode, like when a dying dog snapped at Hardy.

If there's any doubt that this show was based on an abandoned Williamson ("Dawson's Creek," "Vampire Diaries") script for "Scream 3," "jump scenes" like this will convince you.

5. Serial killers are about to have a big TV moment

It's not just "Homeland," but that other big Showtime hit, "Dexter," which seems to be the grandaddy of another TV trend.

NBC's "Hannibal," likely to premiere in the summer, is based on the original charismatic psycho, "Silence of the Lambs'" Hannibal Lecter.

Unlike Dexter Morgan, neither Hannibal nor Carroll mean well by any stretch of the imagination. But Carroll is very much the star of this show, in some ways more so than Hardy.

So the question is, will audiences tune in to a show with material this dark and violent week after week on Fox?

On the one hand, dead bodies are paraded constantly on programs like "CSI," "NCIS," "Bones" and "Criminal Minds." The real question may be if the cat-and-mouse game between Hardy and Carroll is enough to sustain a series long term.

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