This writer had high hopes for The Following prior to its debut and when it wasn't quite the show I'd hoped it would be, I was critical - some readers of this site would argue too critical. So with episode three, 'The Poet's Fire', I made an effort to give the show a second chance and take it on its own esteem.
Last week's episode climaxed with one of Carroll's acolytes - a mystery man wearing an Edgar Allen Poe mask - setting fire to a seemingly innocent bystander. We learn here that the 'innocent' man was targeted by Carroll for writing a scathing review of his novel - surely he has a bigger agenda than simply using his murderous cult to settle old grudges?
Joe though claims that he is indeed indulging in such "petty" revenge, using a young firebug named Rick (Michael Drayer) to target those who "destroyed" him - first, the book critic and next a college dean who denied him tenure years before.
So far, The Following has taken the rather unusual decision to delve more into the lives of its antagonists - the members of Carroll's cult - than of its protagonists. There's nothing wrong with well-developed villains - that's absolutely a good thing - and the evil kidnap trio's plot to gradually transform Carroll's son Joey into a serial killer is genuinely creepy.
But the FBI agents who surround Kevin Bacon's Ryan Hardy badly need more to do than spout exposition - it's telling that when Mike Weston (played by the likeable Shawn Ashmore) starts to open up about his past, we don't get a chance to learn much before Hardy storms off in pursuit of a clue.
You get the feeling that the show's writers would much rather be scripting another jump-scare than any real character development. That feeling's amplified when Billy Brown's Agent Reilly - who's denied so much as a first name - is unceremoniously offed by Rick's wife Maggie, who is as much in Carroll's thrall as her husband.
The one 'hero' character beyond Kevin Bacon's on-the-edge Fed to receive substantial screen-time and enamour themselves a little to the viewer is Annie Parisse's Agent Debra Parker - who may or may not be a mole for Carroll.
Parker helps undermine some of Hardy's more tiresome 'maverick' characteristics - calling him "vodka breath" made us titter - and though we're denied a Hardy / Carroll interrogation room face-off this week, Parker's own interaction with Carroll was certainly intriguing enough. Thankfully we do get an added dose of Bacon / Purefoy screen-time too, as we glimpse their congenial first meeting back in 2003 and see the beginning of their twisted hetero-romance.
In addition, following a brief respite last week, the violent scenes that attracted The Following so much attention prior to airing - some good, some bad - return with a vengeance here. We're personally in favour of the gore - this show wants to be the TV equivalent of a popcorn horror thriller and all the slashing and stabbing certainly helps keep the adrenaline pumping throughout.
So did The Following win me over this week? Not entirely. In the show's defence, it boasts pleasingly complex villains and at least makes an effort this week to develop a few of its protagonists.
It's also absolutely a great deal of fun - a dark and gory rollercoaster ride - and James Purefoy's Joe Carroll is a wonderful pantomime villain. But the emphasis remains firmly on the 'pantomime' - it's still utterly impossible to take this show seriously.
That's not a criticism, merely an observation. The Following remains, as indicated above, a "popcorn horror thriller" - the TV equivalent of a fun and bloody B-movie - nothing more, nothing less.