If you watched Season 1 of “The Following” thinking it is just a story about serial killer Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) and the former FBI agent (Kevin Bacon as Ryan Hardy) who is trying to track him down, you’d be wrong.
According to the show’s creator and executive producer, Kevin Williamson, it is also about “guilt, salvation and redemption. All those things were running through our characters. I always saw this show as about rebirth. As you saw, everyone died. I just felt it was about second chances and second chapters.”
Which means, of course, that someone in the group may survive to have that second chance.
“There will be some returning characters and a whole bunch of new characters with a brand-new story,” Williamson told XfinityTV at a press event at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in Los Angeles.
“We will continue, but we will also bring in a new element to the story. Season 1 was a building block from which we can now grow … Clearly, we have some loose endings there that we need to clean up as we push into a new story, but there is a huge, big story to tell.”
Despite the fact that Williamson knew he had a second season on the horizon, he chose to end Season 1 with a lot of seemingly dead bodies — Joe, who died in a fire, and Claire and Ryan, who were stabbed.
“We had three endings,” he says. “I think everyone collectively weighed in and this seemed to have the biggest, come-back-next-year feeling. We had one that stopped sooner. We had one that went further. We just figured that people weren’t mad enough at us. In this version, everyone is dead.”
If Joe should somehow survive — he could have switched his dental records before he perished in the flames — Purefoy tells XfinityTV that what he would like to see for his character is “revenge, more revenge, dripping revenge. There are so many places you can go with these characters. There are so many stories to tell with these people. We have exhausted only a few of his followers on the Eastern Seaboard. He has been a very big presence on the Internet. We could go anywhere.”
Williamson declared he was taking two weeks’ vacation time before trying to lay out Season 2. So while he may not yet know the fate of Joe, Ryan and Claire, it is a fact that Agent Debra Parker (Annie Parisse), who suffocated before Ryan and Agent Mike Weston (Shawn Robert Ashmore) found her burial site and dug her up, will not be back.
“Annie asked to go out with a bang,” Williamson said. “It is hard to talk about why I chose to kill [Parker], why I chose that to be the emotional anchor of this piece. It is going to go into next year. I am going to hold back and say that it is what Joe said to Ryan, he keeps killing anyone who resembles a family member to him. There were two women who were close to him this season: One of them was Agent Parker and the other one was Claire, and he intended to kill both of them.”
As to how Williamson plans to bring the show back for a second season without making the FBI appear incompetent, he says he is very aware that that is an issue and he does have a solution for that, but he won’t reveal what it is.
He does point out that had the FBI been successful in catching Joe Carroll, there would have been no series. So, instead, he tried to include little wins along the way, or at least, to make Ryan Hardy the smartest man in the room.
And, in Episode 3, for example, the FBI used methods not unlike those used in Boston to track down the marathon terrorists.
“We found Rick Kester [Michael Drayer] with surveillance cameras, with everybody’s iPhones. We used the same devices,” Williamson said. “It is just that Joe Carroll is always elusive, which makes the FBI seem behind the ball. But we are going to solve it.”
For Bacon, the issue is easier. He told XfinityTV, “I don’t think of Ryan as an FBI agent. When you meet me at the beginning of the show, I am not an FBI agent. I left the FBI probably because I made some bad decisions and I wasn’t ultimately that good of an agent. I get pulled back in by the FBI, so I think Ryan screws up. He is flawed.”
“The Following” will return in the 2013-2014 TV season on Fox with the identical number of episodes — 15 — it had for its debut year. And Williamson is hoping for many more after that.
“There are all sorts of ways to make the story go forward,” he says. “Think of it this way. Season 1 was the first book in a series and next season will be a new book with a new story. Whoever survived, or whatever threads were left over, will go into the next one.”