Season 2 of “The Following” feels like a completely new show compared to Season 1, and a lot of that is thanks to Joe Carroll’s (James Purefoy) absence from the action. While everyone (except for Ryan Hardy [Kevin Bacon] and a select few followers) thinks Joe is dead, he’s actually just been in hiding for the past year.
“He’s just been being very quiet because that’s what he needed to do,” Purefoy tells Zap2it. “He really needed to melt away which is why nobody knows that he’s alive apart from these two, Mandy [Tiffany Boone] and her mother [Carrie Preston]. I think that’s pretty sensible, when you’ve been Joe Carroll you really need anonymity.”
Purefoy reveals that Joe hasn’t been up to anything in the past year. He really has been laying low, with nothing but his own thoughts to keep him company. “He’s just been quietly living there, contemplating what his future is, contemplating the failures of his past and what he’s going to do next,” Purefoy says. “He’s realizing that he’s no writer, he’s no father and he’s no husband, but he is a very good teacher and he’s a very good killer. So how is he going to put those two things into play?”
Of course, all that came to a head last week when Joe was forced to kill the reverend who realized that “Darryl” was actually presumed-dead Joe. As Joe drove the knife through the reverend’s chest, he shouted “I am inevitable,” and Purefoy thinks he meant exactly that. “There were a lot of choices that he was mulling over about what he was going to do with his life and he realized in that moment that what is inevitable is him as a serial killer, as a psychopath,” Purefoy explains. “He is inevitable. Nothing is going to change the spots on this leopard.”
The murder scene was intense, and Purefoy says that’s because it was the first murder he’d committed in a year. “I think that he enjoyed it as more than just a sexual kick that he gets out of it, but he also needed it,” Purefoy says. “He’s kind of like a vampire in that sense. Once he gets the taste of blood again, it’s going to be unstoppable. But for him, it’s not just about the thrill of the kill. It’s also in the art of it, the metaphysical. To him, giving someone the gift of death is the greatest gift you can give anybody.”
This “taste of blood” is going to kick-start the return of the old Joe. “He is emerging slowly from being in this chrysalis state that he’s put himself into for the past year and the old Joe will reemerge from that chrysalis state in the coming couple of weeks,” Purefoy says. “That means the beard will probably have to go.”
The reverend’s murder isn’t just going to affect Joe, as Mandy saw the whole thing go down with wide-eyed interest.
“I think Mandy has a kind of macabre fascination because she knows who Joe is and she knows what he is,” Purefoy says. “Her mother is a fan of Joe’s. She’s not a follower, she’s a fan. She wrote to Joe a great deal and believes he just needs the love of a good woman to get him to change his ways. And that will change drastically.”
When pushed to elaborate, Purefoy stopped short to avoid revealing any spoilers. “You’ll see that in the next episode, something happens,” Purefoy teases. “We do know that Mandy’s very, very fond of Joe. Her father wasn’t around, she probably doesn’t even know who her father is as he was clearly a client of her mom’s. So she needs and craves that male authority in her life more than she needs anything else.”
While Mandy and her mother truly care about Joe, Purefoy wouldn’t reveal if Joe truly cares about them or whether he’s just using them. “You’ll have to decide that for yourself,” Purefoy says with a laugh. “Joe, like all other great 100 percent psychopaths, to him it’s all about Joe, really. What you’ll see is really a master class in manipulation. He behaves with people to get them to be what he wants them to be. Whatever you see is pretty much always self-serving.”
One of the most interesting parts of the beginning of Season 2 is how little Joe and Ryan have interacted — a.k.a. not at all. But Purefoy reveals that won’t be the case in the future.
“I think one of the pleasures that Joe is getting in his year that he’s been away is he’s imagining that Ryan thinks that Joe is dead,” Purefoy says. “He’s imagining that Ryan is stopping his drinking and that he’s getting himself fit. He’s imagining that Ryan is getting his life back together. And that of course is great for Joe because there is nothing better than to bring somebody down that has gone an awful long way up.”
Purefoy teases that Joe is in no way done with inflicting pain on Ryan, even though he doesn’t know Ryan is seeking revenge on Joe. “Joe’s relationship with Ryan has always been a long game,” Purefoy says. “It’s about how do you inflict maximum damage on someone? One of the ways you do it is you let them think that their life is coming back together again, and just as it’s getting back together again you play one of your high cards. That will drag him back down into more pain and more suffering.”
Unlike Ryan, Joe’s number one follower Emma (Valorie Curry) thought Joe was dead for the past year, and started to get an idea that maybe this wasn’t the case last week.
“I suspect that Emma is not going to be very pleased when she finds out that Joe is alive, because he hasn’t been in touch with her and he’s put her through a tremendous amount of grief and trauma,” Purefoy says. “But Joe has a peculiar relationship with Emma, because I think he’s fond of her in as much as she will do anything for him. If you are the kind of man that Joe Carroll is, then having someone who will do anything for him — including die — then that’s very useful.”
And as for Season 2’s newest terrifying duo, psychotic twins Luke and Mark (both played by Sam Underwood), Purefoy warns that when they inevitably meet Joe, it will be an interesting dynamic. “Without giving too much away, that will all play out next episode with Luke and Mark,” Purefoy says. “You will find out something very important next episode about their relationship that they have with somebody else. And that relationship will push forward into the next two or four episodes. But giving more than that away would be wrong.”
Purefoy is really excited to explore new sides of Joe this season. “You’re going to be able to see lots of different aspects of Joe. He is a really multi-faceted character and what we’re trying to do is surprise the audience,” Purefoy says. “I think one of the things that the audience is enjoying about Joe is that slightly mad sense of humor of his. A good sense of humor always endears itself to an audience member, I think.”
He continues, “One of the things we play with on the show is that you’re enjoying Joe’s company one minute and then you’re slightly horrified with yourself for enjoying it so much in the next minute. Playing with that enjoyment/non-enjoyment factor is what makes Joe such a fun villain to play.”
As for what’s coming next, Purefoy simply says, “I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. If you’ve been enjoying it thus far, you will enjoy how the story unfolds.”
“The Following” airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on FOX.