"What took you so long?"
Those were the words that convicted serial killer Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) used to greet his nemesis, FBI Agent Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon), on last Monday's episode of The Following. And fans may have been wondering the same thing.
After anchoring the series as its Big Bad in Seasons 1 and 2, Joe has remained off camera entirely this season, showing up for the first time in the final seconds of Episode 5. It remains to be seen how his return will affect the momentum of the show, which has certainly experienced an uptick in Season 3, unburdened by the Carroll/Hardy rivalry.
But one thing is certain: The Joe/Ryan dynamic will be very different going forward. Look for the two to adopt a Hannibal Lecter/Clarice Starling-esque relationship. When Ryan turns to Joe for help in locating Dr. Strauss (Gregg Henry) and his cohorts, Joe - who's still a "master manipulator," Purefoy notes - makes an interesting demand of Ryan in return.
"There will always be a quid pro quo," Purefoy told TVGuide.com during a recent set visit. "If he's prepared to give information, what are they going to give him? Are they going to give him more [time]? Are they going to give him something else? There is always something to be gained in those situations on death row, otherwise you just keep your mouth shut and don't say a word. ... What he gets from these interviews enables him to have a little glimpse into the outside world, a tiny little path of light that he can find his way back into the world again. ... And then how he uses that something will be crucial to the plot."
Purefoy and Bacon, who spoke to TVGuide.com shortly after filming their first scene of the season together, both point out that the relationship between Joe and Ryan smacks of codependency (as evidenced by Ryan's literally visceral reaction to his first conversation with Joe, in Monday's episode). After all, each of the men has been in a position where he could have killed the other one, and both passed on the opportunity.
"There's just this kind of inexplicable connection that [Ryan] has to this guy," Bacon tells TVGuide.com. "It is a strange sort of bromance."
"Their relationship is always going to be special. Yes, it's hate, but it's also love between them," Purefoy adds. "The trouble is, they actually do enjoy each other's company. That's one of the kind of shocking things that has happened. ... So there is this thing between them."
And, as we've seen before, the hold that Joe has over Ryan extends beyond his work life. When Joe's around, Ryan has a tendency to shut everyone else out. Will that change with Gwen (Zuleikha Robinson)?
"[Ryan's] trying to have this relationship with this woman, and it's almost like [Joe's] the other woman, or the other lover," Bacon admits "She starts to get hip to it. 'Buddy, you've got to be here with me.'"
All of this raises an important question: How will Ryan react to Joe's impending execution? "He's been such an important piece of [Ryan's] life," Bacon says. "And the question is, when something that's that important in your life, whether it's good or bad, goes away, does it leave a hole that needs to be filled up by something else? That's the question that we're dealing with this year."
Are you happy Joe Carroll is back on The Following?
The Following airs Mondays at 9/8c on Fox.