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The Following - New Blood - Advance Preview

The shadow of Joe Carroll still looms large over “The Following,” but as the title of the third season premiere suggests, the show is also ready for some “New Blood.”

It’s been a year since the events of the season finale and, to emphasize that period of peace, the central characters are first seen gathered for the wedding of one of their own. Ryan has found happiness with Gwen (Zuleikha Robinson, “Lost”), a doctor who seems to have helped bring down some of his walls. Max is now a full-fledged FBI agent. Mike is the most outwardly damaged by last year’s events, his obsession with catching Mark Gray having made a mess of his relationship with Max, but even he is all smiles for the bride on her wedding day. And with Joe’s network of followers dismantled and his execution scheduled, they all seem ready to close that chapter once and for all.

But you’re not watching “The Following” for feel-good warm fuzzies. So with a splash of blood, it all starts falling apart. Soon, the Ryan/Mike/Max trinity find themselves faced with two brutally murdered victims, elaborately arranged in a familiar tableau. They’re being taunted by someone who wants them to pay for their perceived sins (a flashback reveals that the trio concealed the darker truths about their actions during the manhunt for Joe, particularly Mike’s cold-blooded execution of Lily Gray) and who has no problem hurting innocent people until they confess.

The premiere makes really effective use of misdirection. The incident at the wedding – which the promos have been teasing and the show does a nice job of building the tension to in the opening minutes – swerves in an unexpected direction, but still packs a punch. When a young woman is approached in a bar, it’s hard to tell who is the predator and who is the prey. And I liked the beat the show plays of Ryan reflecting on all the needless loss of life his and Joe’s pursuit of each other left in its wake and how that ends up tying into the bigger story.

Unsurprisingly, Mark Gray – driven further into madness by the deaths of his mother and brother – is pulling some of the strings. As someone who thought Sam Underwood’s performances as the deranged twins were one of last season’s undisputed highlights, I was so bummed that the hilariously snarky Luke was killed off. But, without spoiling the exact circumstances, the show continues to play that dynamic (there’s another creepy family dinner scene) and Underwood is as fantastic as ever.

Naturally, “New Blood” also introduces new followers. There’s Andrew (Michael Irby, “True Detective”), who has an eerie gift for mimicking emotions. And more entertainingly, there’s Kyle (Hunter Parrish, “Weeds”) and Daisy (Ruth Kearney, “Primeval”), a true Bonnie and Clyde whose lust for killing is second only to their lust for each other. But you can’t have new followers without a new leader and Daisy hints that their games with Mark are only a cover for the real master plan (see you soon, Michael Ealy!).

The third season premiere of “The Following” airs Monday March 2nd on FOX. Until then, follow me over to the comments section.