The first season of Fox's The Following comes to what's sure to be a terrifying and bloody conclusion Monday night (9/8c) — and even star James Purefoy, who plays escaped serial killer Joe Carroll, is unsure about what's going to happen.
"I don't know exactly how the show ends," Purefoy tells TVGuide.com, explaining that the actors were each given different endings. Purefoy said he shot scenes and did voiceover work that would line up with at least two different conclusions.
"[Creator] Kevin Williamson is a mischievous and twisted boy in so many ways that you can never quite believe what he's got up his sleeve for you," Purefoy says. "One of the great pleasures and one of the great frustrations working on the show has been the fact that you never quite know where you're going to go with this character — especially when you're playing somebody as completely mad as Joe Carroll."
Based on what he does know, however, there's one thing Purefoy can promise about the finale: "If you're asthmatic in any way, you're going to need an inhaler, because it's going to get very tense. You're going to need that puffer right with you on the couch."
Well, alright then! With that in mind, get your oxygen tanks ready and let's outline seven burning questions for the finale:
1. Who will triumph, Joe or Ryan? Or neither? That's the big one. All season, The Following has been building to an ultimate showdown between Joe Carroll and Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon). The previous two episodes would seem to indicate that Ryan has the upper hand, with Joe coming apart at the seams both psychologically and physically (that stab wound has to be infected by now, no?). But will he defeat Joe once and for all? And, in some twisted logic, is that what Joe actually wants? "In a way, [Joe's] become much more dangerous since he started becoming unhinged," Purefoy says. "Because you really can't predict what he's going to do at all." Adds Williamson: "Joe Carroll has a vision for his ending, which sort of comes to hero vs. villain, who will win? ... This gothic horror story reaches its conclusion, which usually ends in someone's descent into insanity."
2. Who's going to get the girl? The girl, of course, being Claire (Natalie Zea), Joe's ex-wife and the love of Ryan's life. Joe's already told Ryan that the revised version of the story he's authoring involves Claire's death. "Although, is she going to die, or is he just using her as bait to get Ryan out?" Purefoy muses. Our money's on the latter, and here's why: From a writing standpoint, if Ryan's going to stick around in Season 2, it wouldn't make much sense for Williamson to kill Claire in the finale, since then Ryan would really have nothing to live for.
3. Does either Joe or Ryan have to die? The three most likely scenarios for the finale are Joe killing Ryan, Ryan killing Joe, or Joe winding up in prison again. As visceral as Ryan's hatred is for Joe, our favorite grizzled former FBI agent would be wise not to let emotions get the best of him in their final showdown. After all, Joe has an entire cult of followers who still pose a threat to the world at large. So Joe being carted off to jail seems like the most logical conclusion. "I don't think he'd be against being in prison again," Purefoy tells TVGuide.com. "But the trouble is, he has to be in prison with enough information that they don't put him into the chair. ... Obviously he doesn't want to die in that way." But it might not even matter. In a way, both Joe and Ryan are dead already, which Joe realizes when he hears Ryan say as much in last week's episode. "'You can't kill me. I'm already dead,'" Purefoy repeats. "That's I think probably how Joe feels ... that his soul is dead, and there's nothing alive in him. That's what makes [him and Ryan] such a compelling pair together. They're like zombies."
4. Is Parker going to survive? When we last saw Agent Debra Parker (Annie Parisse), she was gasping for air in a wooden coffin, having just been buried alive by two of Joe's minions. Not the best situation to be in. Williamson has already promised that some characters will die in the finale and unfortunately, Parker seems like the leading candidate to bite the dust (literally) at this point. But previews for the final episode show her on the phone with Ryan begging him for help, so maybe there's still hope? Our prediction: the climax will come down to Ryan having to choose whether to save Claire or Parker. Which will he pick?
5. What's going on with Molly? Who knows if Ryan's neighbor/friend with benefits Molly (Jennifer Ferrin) will even make an appearance in the finale? We're guessing Ryan won't have much time to kick back at home or fit in a little afternoon delight in the final episode. So let's think big picture. For kicks, let's assume Joe is either killed or arrested. Molly still may be on the loose, which would be a great segue into Season 2. How long would it take Ryan to figure out that Molly's actually been working for Joe? And if she ended up joining forces with Emma (Valorie Curry), let's just say we wouldn't want to get on the bad side of these crazy ladies. Speaking of which ...
6. How will Joe react to Emma killing Jacob? Perhaps not at all, according to Purefoy. "I don't know if he finds out actually in [the finale]," Purefoy says. "He has gone off with Claire on the boat and that's the last he sees of her for the time being, I think." Hmm. Could that mean that's also the last viewers see of Emma, at least until Season 2? Which brings us to our final looming question ...
7. Will the Joe vs. Ryan story line continue in Season 2? "You'll see," Williamson teases. "You'll know in the last minutes of the finale where we're headed, and you'll see how the show will continue." Of course, this is assuming both Ryan and Joe both make it out of the finale alive. Viewers probably shouldn't rule out the notion of Williamson killing off all the main characters and starting fresh in the sophomore season. "It's called 'The Final Chapter' for a reason," he hints. "We do conclude the story. We bring a close to the story, and some people live and some people die."
What do you think will happen in the finale? Who will survive? And where do you think Season 2 of The Following is headed? Weigh in below — and check out a sneak peek at Monday's episode below:
The Following airs Monday at 9/8c on Fox.