Kevin Bacon, Shawn Ashmore
Though The Following's second season doesn't officially get underway until Monday, Jan. 27, Fox will air a special preview episode after the NFC championship game on Sunday, which will catch viewers up on what's happened in the year since the (allegedly) fatal showdown between Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) and Joe Carroll (James Purefoy).
Sunday's installment, titled "Resurrection," finds some of Carroll's followers coming out of the woodwork to commemorate the one-year anniversary of his death by carrying out a bloody attack on the New York City subway. What does this mean for Ryan? Well, just when he thought he was out ...
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Here are nine things to expect from Season 2, based on Sunday's episode:
1. A new and improved Ryan Hardy: Season 2 gets underway in the same fashion Season 1 did — with Ryan waking up and going about his morning routine. Only this time around, rather than stumbling around empty liquor bottles and trying to ward off a hangover, the former FBI agent is eating healthily, watching the morning news and going for a long run, all before heading off to his job teaching forensics at a criminal justice school in Manhattan. "Last year, [Ryan] was at kind of rock bottom, and the involvement with the case almost started to heal [him] in a strange kind of way," Bacon told TVGuide.com at Comic-Con last summer. "This year, the journey is that I'm more together." But will it be able to last, or will his old demons resurface along with memories of Joe Carroll?
2. A different kind of scary: Judging from the first hour of Season 2, The Following is still as gory as ever, but creator Kevin Williamson says he's going for more of a disturbing flare this time around. "I'm not so much in love with blood and guts," Williamson said on a recent conference call. "I'd rather be scary. ... I think the challenge for network television is how do you do that without ripping heads off and showing innards and things like that. That doesn't interest me anyway." After seeing the subway slaughter in Sunday's episode, fans might question the validity of that statement, however. "I'm not going to pretend it's not scary and violent, because it is," Williamson acknowledges. "It just has a different tone and feel to it this year."
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3. Fresh faces: Among the many new characters this season are Lily Gray (Connie Nielsen), a woman who survives the subway attack and eventually becomes a love interest for Ryan; Max Hardy (Jessica Stroup), Ryan's niece who also works in law enforcement and tries to take care of her uncle; and Luke (Sam Underwood), a Carroll devotee who will likely take the prize for scariest newcomer on TV this season. There's a twist involving his character on Sunday's episode that no one will see coming — and he's also involved in what's possibly the creepiest montage to ever grace the small screen. We're still shuddering!
4. Less focus on the FBI: One of the main criticisms of the show in Season 1 was the incompetence of the FBI, who always seemed to be one or 10 steps behind the cult members they were trying to track. Creator Kevin Williamson has dealt with that problem by having Hardy completely removed from the organization. "Ryan Hardy's not really in the center of the task force," Williamson says. "He's doing his own thing." Hardy's partner Mike Weston (Shawn Ashmore) also eventually finds himself going rogue. "I don't want to give too much of that away, but it creates a situation where we're not necessarily needing to play by as many rules as we did last year," Ashmore tells TVGuide.com. "There was a frustration, I think, in the first season that we were always a step behind. And that is sort of remedied. ... I think a lot of it is that sort of instant gratification that crime procedurals have created for an audience, which is like, OK, the crime is committed and by the episode, we solve it. And that's not what our show did."
5. No more Joey: Joe Carroll's son Joey, who provided much of the impetus for the manhunt last season, is MIA this year — but in a different way. Viewers learn that the young'un is in Witness Protection with his grandmother, and shouldn't expect that to change any time soon. "With potential cult members lurking around, they're not going to take any chances with [coming out of hiding]," Ashmore says."Poor Joey's gone through enough. He doesn't need anymore."
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6. Watch out for Emma: Carroll's main minion, Emma Hill (Valorie Curry), is sporting a drastic new look this season — likely to disguise herself, as she's on the FBI's Most Wanted list, but also probably to fit in with her new digs in Brooklyn. And she's in for a big surprise. "She kind of is going to have an interesting journey, because she thinks Joe's dead," Williamson explains. "When she discovers that he, in fact, may not be, it's going to be a lot of mixed emotions. Did he abandon her? ... She is very conflicted, and she's going to want some solid answers. She's not so much follower anymore. She's a little bit more of a leader."
7. More character development: With Ryan no longer working with the FBI, the season will unfold as less of an episodic manhunt and will take more time exploring the relationships between characters, according to Ashmore. "What I really love about this season is that the ticking time clock of trying to find [Joe Carroll's son] Joey has been alleviated, and so ... you get to know these characters a little more," Ashmore says. "You see different dimensions and sides to every character, whether it's Joe Carroll, whether it's Emma, whether it's whoever. Everybody is given time to sort of shine." Adds Williamson: "This story is told from a different starting place. It's a little bit more of a character thriller and a relationship thriller, if that makes sense; rather than a procedural FBI hunt them down thriller."
8. Tension between Ryan and Mike: Through flashbacks, viewers learn that Mike and Ryan faced some legal ramifications in the intervening year between Season 1 and 2. (Don't forget, they did after all murder a detainee during the hunt for Carroll.) To say that there's now some friction between the two former partners would be an understatement — and after, witnessing firsthand Hardy hitting bottom, Mike's view of his hero is a little "tarnished," according to Ashmore. "The real dilemma and rift that starts to sort of happen between Mike and Ryan is ... they're both pulled back into this case and Ryan doesn't want to participate," Ashmore explains. "And Mike, for the life of him, can't figure out why he won't engage. He won't engage with Mike. He won't engage with the case. These guys are brothers in arms that have gone through this, and Ryan is blowing Mike off left, right and center. And Mike is just like, what is the deal, man? We didn't finish this. ... Let's finish what we started. Let's get revenge."
9. A New York state of mind: While Season 1 took place in various locations as the FBI tracked Joe Carroll and his cult here, there and everywhere, Season 2 is concentrated in New York City. The result is a series that feels grittier and more dangerous, and allows the followers more room to blend in with a crowd as opposed to being exposed in, say, a farmhouse. "I love that we're in the city," Ashmore says. "It's a whole new character. It adds a whole new dimension, being in New York."
The Following's preview episode airs Sunday following the NFC Championship game on Fox. Season 2 officially begins Monday, Jan. 27 at 9/8c on Fox.