PASADENA, Calif. - Great villains never die. Figuratively, for sure. But sometimes literally.
If you watched season one of The Following and haven't heard a damned thing about season two, which begins Sunday, Jan. 19 on Fox and CTV, consider this a SPOILER ALERT. But it's a bit of an odd spoiler alert, in the sense that, advertising for season two and recent press outings haven't hidden anything at all.
So here goes, and turn away if you don't want to know:
Joe Carroll is alive.
I know this personally, having said to actor James Purefoy at the Television Critics Association tour, “So ... you're not dead.”
“No, I'm sorry,” said Purefoy, who plays Joe Carroll. “I was lying to everybody.”
So did you always know your character was going to survive?
“Yeah, I did tell everybody that I thought I was dead,” Purefoy said. “But I always knew I was going to live.”
You sneaky devil.
But then again, Purefoy's mere presence at the TCA panel for The Following would have been a reveal, even if I hadn't already seen the first episode of the new season. And ads for the show essentially have confirmed it for everyone.
So Joe Carroll is back to torment Ryan Hardy, played by Kevin Bacon, in season two of The Following. However, there has been a re-set of the story, as you know was required if you saw how season one ended.
“Of course, I’ve considered it,” series creator Kevin Williamson said when asked about getting rid of Joe Carroll. “But we’re not done with the story yet. You’ll see, when the story’s done, that’ll happen.
“I'm sorry, James, but I don't know if you're going to be sitting here on the ninth season.”
To which Bacon added, “Wouldn't it make more sense to end the show when Ryan Hardy died?”
Okay, okay, let's not get too far ahead of ourselves.
For the uninitiated, The Following is a psychological thriller that pits cult leader Joe Carroll against tortured pursuer Ryan Hardy. They are linked together by a deep history. They can't get away from each other, even if they wanted to do so.
“I feel like now we’re on to the obsession (between Joe and Ryan in season two),” Williamson said. “We saw Joe unraveling at the end of last season, because he was sort of obsessed with Ryan. But now you're telling a full-on love story. You’ve got these two men who are 100% obsessed with each other. And certainly, they need each other. They fuel each other.
“It’s almost reaching a point where, all Ryan wants to do is put a bullet through Joe’s head. That’s all he wants to do, he’s obsessed with it, because he wants vengeance. He wants revenge for everyone who has died. That’s what’s driving and motivating him. But through the course of the season, that’s a false goal, because Ryan’s a human, and so it’s going to be interesting. His journey this year is how that goal sort of changes over the course of 15 episodes.”
The Following is a violent show, by network-TV standards. Or is it? Is sure feels violent. But Williamson insisted it isn't as gory as people seem to think it is.
“You guys could disagree, but I find it less violent (in season two) than last year - am I the only one that feels that way?” Williamson asked his cast.
“Uh, yeah,” said Bacon, prompting laughter.
Williamson continued, “I mean, this year it's a different story, so we sort of write to the story and what the shocking moments are. You know, I don't run away. I don't shy away from violence. But I never ever just want it to be gore for the sake of gore.
“It always has been to sort of shock and push the story forward and make you gasp and also make you truly be afraid and truly be scared of these characters and the situation. So it really is just what the situation, what the story line, calls for. I don't really see that it's gory. I guess it's subjective. But I like a little violence, sorry.”
Either way, Williamson can't ignore his own body count.
“Clearly, we needed to bring in some new characters because we've killed them all,” Williamson said.
Well, not all of them.
“I love Joe Carroll, I love James Purefoy as Joe Carroll,” Williamson said. “There was so much last year where we were just trying to find little Joey, find Joey (a boy Carroll's followers had kidnapped). There was so much of the cult and Joe Carroll and what he was about and what he was doing that we didn’t get to tell.
“There were so many of those stories, that we just kept saying, 'Well, we’ll do those in the second year.'"
And here we are.
The Following will be its own tough act to follow.
Kevin Bacon prepares for killer comeback
You know how psychiatrists always will tell you that it's good to talk about something? Um, not always, according to Kevin Bacon.
“You know, it is definitely a whirlwind, and included in the whirlwind is the emotional piece of it,” said Bacon, discussing his role as Ryan Hardy on The Following.
“The work is completely exhilarating and fun and we love it. I mean, we love to be on the set even when we're working in horrible conditions weather-wise and the hours are extreme and you've just done seven scenes and there's still seven more to go. We still all, I think, would rather be there than be almost anywhere else.
“But there's also this pressure to talk about it, and that's not really what any of us, I think, signed up for initially. But as they say, it goes with the territory.”
In other words, in some ways being on The Following is easier than promoting The Following.
“Being on that kind of a treadmill, promotional treadmill, sometimes can be the piece that is the most exhausting,” Bacon said. “And for me personally, I feel a lot of responsibility for the show, for it to be good and for people to embrace it week after week and for it to remain viable and on the air.
“So there is a lot of stuff that goes with that, along with, you know, pretty much every day, somebody that I care about is in peril, I'm about to be shot or have been shot or have been stabbed or I'm about to kill somebody else. That's pretty much what I do when I go to work, and that does take its toll, there's no doubt about it.”