James Purefoy, Kevin Bacon
[Warning: This article contains major spoilers about the Season 2 finale of The Following. Read at your own risk!]
Is it time to unfollow The Following? After a promising start, Kevin Williamson's serial killer drama felt unfocused, repetitive and overindulgent for much of its sophomore season.
On Monday's finale, Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) and Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) came face to face (again), but this time they ended up working towards a common goal. Twins Mark and Luke (Sam Underwood) had kidnapped Claire (Natalie Zea) and used her as bait to lure Ryan and Joe to their mansion in New Jersey. The confrontation at the house ends with Ryan holding a gun to Joe's forehead, but he can't bring himself to pull the trigger. So he calls for backup and has Joe arrested instead — and vows that this will be the last time they see each other.
Exclusive: Go behind the scenes of the Following finale
Other important developments:
- Mike Weston (Shawn Ashmore) survives a shootout, and he and Max (Jessica Stroup) celebrate rescuing Ryan and Claire by (finally!) making out.
- Ryan tells Claire he wants them to build a life together with little Joey — remember him?! — and she's basically like, "Sorry, that would be way too weird" and leaves. Poor Ryan's horrible luck with the ladies continues.
- Luke is killed in the shootout at the house, but Mark survives. He drags Luke's dead body out of the house and they get picked up on a back road by a truck. "I didn't know who else to call," Mark ominously tells the driver — whom we don't see. (Could it be Carrie Cooke? She was nowhere to be seen in the final moments.)
And that's it!
Clearly the show is positioning the next season to follow Mark and Unnamed Truck Driver — and presumably Joe will have a hand in tracking them down from behind bars. Having Joe Carroll no longer be the primary villain could be a positive step forward for The Following, but that's not the only change the series needs to make heading into Season 3.
The Following's Valorie Curry: "Emma is Joe Carroll's greatest victim"
Here are the six biggest missteps The Following made in Season 2, and how it can get things back on track next year:
1. Introducing new characters only to dispose of them: Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of Season 2, especially in the first few episodes, was the introduction of several new characters who seemed to only distract from the story at large. The decision to focus so heavily on Lily Gray (Connie Nielsen) and the twins, especially after Lily started working against Joe, was a real head-scratcher. If Joe Carroll was not going to be the focus of Season 2, why didn't the producers just have him actually die in the Season 1 finale? And what purpose did Mandy (Tiffany Boone) serve exactly? Between her and Lily's deaths in the final episodes, it became clear that even Williamson & Co. eventually saw these new characters as disposable. If the driver is someone we haven't met before, the writers need to make sure they have a full arc planned out for the new character — and a compelling one at that.
2. Killing Emma: One character who wasn't disposable? Emma Hill. And yet she was killed off in the penultimate episode. There's something to be said for incorporating random deaths into a thriller to keep viewers on their toes, but in Valorie Curry's hands, Emma was one of the more interesting parts of the show. The Emma-Joe story line was nearing its inevitable end, but it's disappointing to think about all the elements of Emma's backstory that will remain untold.
3. Making Joe Carroll less scary and more silly: Joe Carroll somehow went from TV's most terrifying serial killer in Season 1 to a cartoonish psychopath bound by tunnel vision in Season 2. Joe's abandonment of his Edgar Allen Poe obsession in favor of his newfound fixation on religion came out of nowhere. And the Korban Cult, while creepy at first, became almost comically outsized by the time Emma and Joe got the hell out of Dodge. A more interesting choice (and hopefully the direction Season 3 will take) would be to focus on Joe having to work with the FBI to track down his followers who are still at large.
Finale Preview: Get hot scoop on 39 season-enders
4. Bringing Claire back: Ryan and Joe meeting in a final showdown over the woman they both love sounds awfully familiar, doesn't it? The show went from "reinventing itself" in Season 2 to merely rehashing the same logline of the first season-ender. Fingers crossed that Claire will keep her promise to put everything involving Ryan and Joe behind her.
5. Killing, killing, killing: Sure, The Following has never held back when it comes to gruesome violence, but the gore was so ubiquitous in Season 2 that it strayed into desensitizing territory. Are the producers unaware that violence's shock value diminishes with each grisly throat-slitting? Remember: Less is more.
6. Letting Ryan stagnate: It was a nice switch to see a happier, healthier Ryan Hardy in the season premiere, but his character became inert as the season progressed. The romance between Ryan and Carrie (Sprague Grayden) seemed more than a little farfetched, and even the scenes with him and Claire lacked the spark that they had in Season 1. A suggestion for Season 3: Ryan dates someone who has no connection to Joe Carroll whatsoever. Also, the decision to remove him from the FBI in order to make his rogue (read: incompetent) techniques more credible was a good thought, but it ultimately backfired. The least credible aspect of Season 2 is that Ryan made it to the finale without getting arrested.
What did you think of The Following's season finale? Who do you think is driving the truck? And will you be back for Season 3? Sound off below — and catch up on episodes of The Following here