The Following went out with a boom last night, bringing its first season to a conclusion that ratcheted up the body count and ended with an explosion and a final surprise that provided more questions than answers.
To recap: Before fleeing with Claire (Natalie Zea) in a boat at the end of last week's episode, Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) had left "a trail of breadcrumbs" to lead Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) to his location. The chain of events starts with Emma (Valorie Curry) paying a young messenger $20 to don a creepy Edgar Allan Poe mask and deliver a phone number to Hardy and Mike Weston (Shawn Ashmore) at the FBI. They call it and reached Parker (Annie Parisse), who was quickly running out of air after being buried alive during last week's episode. After a near-ambush, Hardy and Weston are able to obtain Parker's location from one of the Followers through some, shall we say, advanced interrogation techniques... but it's too late. By the time they reach the grave, she's already dead.
Ryan, enraged, makes short work of his informant, shooting him in the head, and uses the manuscript of Joe's book (which had been helpfully left in the coffin with Parker) to find out where he's supposed to go next. Ditching Weston, Ryan goes alone to a boathouse, where he meets Emma and another Follower, who drug him and bring him to the island house where Joe is holding Claire and another guy. After some psychological warfare (and Joe brutally murdering the other guy to prove a point to Claire), Ryan and Joe tussle in the lighthouse and Ryan fires a gun into gasoline tanks, sparking an explosion that ostensibly kills Carroll. (We could have sworn there was a third person screaming in that fire, but we're told later that Joe's remains are identified through "early DNA" and dental records.) Emma, disguised in a red wig and glasses, having fled to a diner in Alabama (??), is too distraught upon hearing of Joe's death on the evening news to even finish the cheeseburger she's ordered for dinner.
Happy ending, right? Not so fast. Ryan and Claire head back to his place for some takeout and what-have-you, but wouldn't you know it? Joe's minion Molly (Jennifer Ferrin) crashes their homecoming, stabbing Ryan and then Claire in the episode's final scene.
But who's really dead? Did Kevin Williamson do the unthinkable and kill off both his leading men? TVGuide.com spoke with executive producer Marcos Siega to (try to) get some answers to our lingering questions.
Debra Parker: "It was always the plan" to have Parker die, according to Siega. And fans aren't the only ones who are lamenting the loss. "You don't realize who you're going to fall in love with as characters, and I got to a point like, 'Oh, I really hope this thing that we've planned changes, because I love her,'" Siega admits. But it appears that Parker's death has a larger purpose looking ahead in the series. "Her dying is a huge part of a building block in Ryan Hardy's character. That event is going to have a profound impact on who he is, just like losing Sarah Fuller (Maggie Grace) in the pilot did. He has to carry these burdens with him, and knowing he wasn't able to save her, I think, is important to how his character evolves." We'll miss you, Parker.
Probably Not Dead
Ryan Hardy: The mere fact that Hardy's character presumably continues to evolve in Season 2 is a pretty good indication that Molly's stab wound wasn't fatal.
Joe Carroll: If you play the scene back, it really sounds like there is a person screaming in the fire who's not Joe or Ryan. Just poor sound editing? Or could that have been a decoy, meaning that Joe somehow escaped? Emma's beefy buddy, perhaps, who shoved the needle into Ryan's neck and was never seen again in the episode? Then again, there's also those pesky DNA and dental records. Could the coroner be a Follower? The show's creators are content to let fans speculate. "Part of the fun is having people say, 'I loved last night's episode. I can't believe you killed Joe' and some people saying, 'Seriously? Do you really expect me to believe you killed Joe Carroll?' And that's the fun of it. That's why we do it. It's a very deliberate device. And I know that it makes some people angry, but I approach it from, what are the things I enjoy about entertainment? ... Clearly we don't want to give answers away."
Could Likely Be Dead
Claire Matthews: Claire's fate could go either way, and Siega isn't talking — beyond saying that the "big game plan" for The Following's sophomore season hasn't changed. "Next season is a completely different season of television, but at the same time feels very much like a continuation." Truth be told, the more interesting relationship between Joe and Ryan, not Ryan and Claire, has always been the show's focus. But with Claire dead, what would Ryan have to live for?
And so begins the long off-season stretch until The Following returns this fall. One thing Siega promises: Season 2 will pick up minutes before or after the end of Season 1. "We have to answer the questions pretty quickly that we left dangling out there," he acknowledges. Until then, guess away! Who do you think will be back for Season 2? And were you sorry to see Parker go?