[Warning: This story contains major spoilers about Monday's episode of The Following. Read at your own risk!]
R.I.P. Emma Hill.
The protégé, lover and literal partner-in-crime of Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) on The Following met a gruesome end on the penultimate episode of Season 2 Monday, when she was killed by Joe's vengeful ex-wife Claire (Natalie Zea). And according to actress Valorie Curry, those who are wondering if Emma isn't actually dead shouldn't get their hopes up.
"They really wanted to drive the point home," Curry tells TVGuide.com. "It's so funny, because people are on Twitter like, 'She's just in a coma! Maybe she's alive.' I'm like, she was stabbed, she was thrown out a window, and then staked like a vampire. There's no coming back from impaling."
Certainly one of The Following's most divisive characters, Emma has also been one of the more interesting elements of the show, whose second season has been uneven at best. And though she seemed resigned to her fate throughout Monday's episode, the end of her story arc is still a tragic one.
"I'm glad that [her death] is polarizing," Curry says. "I'm glad there are almost as many ... people who are sad that she's dying, who see her the way that I see her — which is, I always saw her as Joe Carroll's greatest victim. My heart always broke for her. ... She's this abused girl who was manipulated from childhood. She didn't die for him the way that people have. She gave up her own life and her identity, and that was just really heartbreaking to me."
Read our full interview with Curry to find out how she reacted to learning Emma would be killed off, as well as whether more blood will be shed in next week's season finale.
When did you learn that Emma was going to die?
Curry: A couple weeks before we shot it. I was at the studio in my dressing room before doing a long day. It was Valentine's Day, of course. I get this knock on my door, and I open the door and there's Marcos [Siega], our executive producer, just looking sheepish and apologetic. And I'm like, 'I know. It's fine.' I was kind of expecting it. He's like, 'We actually knew two days ago, but I didn't want to tell you because it was your birthday.'
So what was your reaction to the news?
Curry: I can't say it wasn't emotional. I went through a lot of emotions about leaving. Not just Emma dying, because I do love her probably more than anybody in the world. But also, it's been the last two years of my life and it's really an amazing group of people that I get to work with on the show. It's been like a family for the last couple years. So that's what, more than anything, made me sad.
Do you think there was more of Emma's story left to explore?
Curry: What's great about Kevin Williamson's writing is that all of the characters are so multidimensional and have such depth that there's always room to explore. But it's also a show where anyone can go. That's part of what's captivating about it and that's part of what's frustrating about it. You wouldn't care when he killed off characters unless they were interesting ...and you wouldn't be frustrated unless you felt like there was more to tell. And of course, Emma contains multitudes, so there would have been years' [worth of material] to explore.
There was a lot of foreshadowing throughout Monday's episode that Emma was going to die. Had she accepted that?
Curry: I do think that. When I read the script, I loved the monologue that she got to have in the car about death and silence. Like, 'Oh, she wants to die now.' On the show, the characters are constantly putting themselves in life-and-death situations. And Emma in particular — and she's said it before — always knows that she could be asked to give up her life at any moment. But in this moment, part of what's heartbreaking is [Joe's] obsession with Claire is the reason he's willing to send her into what is very likely certain death. And she knows that, and that's part of her heartbreak. She knows as much as she loves him, that he doesn't love her.
It was an interesting choice to have Claire kill Emma, and have Joe not even be present in that scene since they've been so intertwined. I feel as though Emma harbored this fantasy that when she did die, it would be at the hands of Joe or in a shared moment with him.
Curry: I certainly always wanted it to be Joe who killed Emma. I understand why it's Claire. That's a great thing for the fans, and for the good guys to win. It kind of brings it full circle. But I still feel like, nobody can kill Emma but Joe Carroll. She either wanted to go down in flames with him or be killed by him. But I also don't think she ever really expected to die for him the way that other cult members have. She was never going to do a dramatic gesture, setting herself on fire or hanging herself.
How do you see Emma's journey this season?
Curry: I think it's been a really tragic season for Emma. ... Her life, if it was pathetic before, it's gotten miserable now. Because she was on her own and she didn't have Joe, and she was devastated about that, and she didn't exist as a person without him. But then she got him, and she was still empty and she was still just being used. She wanted some peace.
With Claire back in the picture, do you think there was just nowhere for Joe and Emma's relationship to go?
Curry: I don't feel her frustration, her anger, was about being threatened by Claire in a romantic sort of way. Season 1, certainly that would have been true. But she's a different person in Season 2. The same thing with Mandy. She wasn't threatened in that way. It's more about, everybody needs to be able to do their job. Nobody ever listens to her. Nobody can just do their job. And she knows Joe. ... She knows what he's like when he loses focus and loses control and becomes impulsive. And Claire is the worst [cause of] that. She really doesn't want to go through that again, and that's why she wants to eliminate Claire.
Do you think Emma became a little disillusioned with Joe this season, when he started focusing on almost creating his own religion?
Curry: Absolutely. I had some really interesting meta moments as an actor and as a character, standing in the Korban Hall and watching him conduct these ceremonies and ramp up this crowd, and of Emma seeing that and knowing that it's fake, ostensibly, because it's a way of controlling them, but knowing that a couple of years ago that was her. And it becomes this question not just of disillusionment — because I think the disillusionment happened after he left her and then came back. ... But instead, it's really a questioning of like, what's real? And that's when she starts to really understand, without letting herself face it, that he really doesn't love her, and that he's really just the biggest narcissist. (Laughs)
It's kind of sad for her in a way.
Curry: That's what's so sad about it to me, is that she knows she's just a pawn. She knows [Joe's] just using her. But she also knows it's worse to be without him than to be with him. ... That's so sad. She'd rather have the charade and lie to herself and be near him than face the truth and be without him.
A lot of people are unequivocally cheering Emma's death. How do you feel about that?
Curry: It's a conversation and an argument that I'm always willing to get into when people talk about her being the worst, or how much they just hate her. It's visceral, and sometimes it's really upsetting. It's been really eye-opening to watch the audience reaction to her, especially in juxtaposition to the male villains. ... For whatever reason, people have a reaction to women doing these things. That's been a really fascinating, sometimes upsetting thing to learn about in audiences and society, I guess. But at the same time, I've been gratified that she has such an effect on people. She's so polarizing. She's so upsetting. If you're going to play a villain, there's no greater compliment than being told that you give people nightmares. I never thought I would be the actor that would give people nightmares.
Is there anything you can tease about next week's finale?
Curry: There's one person in this world who mourns Emma. ... There's one person who really has a reaction, who mourns her. You'll see who that is, and may or may not be surprised by who that is.
Can fans expect any other major deaths?
Curry: This is The Following, is all I'll say. ... I think they shot three different endings, and I'm not even sure which one they've gone with. The story was kind of changing a lot. ... I'll watch it with everybody else. Anyone and everyone could really go.
The Following airs Mondays at 9/8c on Fox, and if you didn't catch this week's episode, watch it here. Will you miss Emma?