Don’t expect “The Following” to follow the same path as Season 1 just because James Purefoy‘s Joe Carroll is back. That was the main takeaway from showrunner Kevin Williamson during the show’s TCA 2014 winter press tour panel on Monday (Jan. 13).
“It’s a different show. This year it’s a different story,” Williamson says.
That said, though, Joe remains integral to Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) as a person. “The truth is he’s incredibly important to me. Sadly, the most important thing in my life,” Bacon says.
The first episode of Season 2 will spend its first two minutes resolving the unanswered questions at the end of Season 1, and then will flash forward a year as “Ryan’s new chapter begins.”
“This is the type of show where I think it can change every season,” Williamson says. “We’ve taken Ryan Hardy to a brand new world. … We’re in New York City. We have a brand new template to paint on.”
Even though, as Williamson notes, “we need to bring in some new characters because we killed them all,” there will be several familiar faces in Season 2. Purefoy’s return, for instance, came as something of a surprise for viewers.
“I’m sorry, I was lying to everybody,” he says. “I always knew I was going to live.”
But it’s how Joe affects Ryan that will make Season 2 engaging in a new way. “This second season, seemingly, I have lost my obsession for Joe. I have stepped in a different place in my life and he is no longer burning inside my heart in the way that he was in season one,” Bacon says. “But like everything on ‘The Following,’ things are not always the way they seem.”
Masks will be a theme in Season 2. Beyond just the masks being worn by the new following, there are also the metaphoric masks the characters are wearing. Bacon says you “find out in Season 2 that a lot of us have these masks that we’re living.”
In Season 2, Ryan is no longer a member of the FBI. Williamson admits that was a response to criticism of the FBI seeming incompetent at their job in Season 1.
“Looking back on Season 1 … any time you have sort of a serialized show where your main character’s in the FBI task force and they’re not catching the bad guy … then when you look back, you’re like that guy’s really stupid,” Williamson acknowledges. “That’s a justified criticism.”
But there still will be a connection to law enforcement. Ryan’s niece Max, played by “90210” alum Jessica Stroup, is a New York City detective, and is part of the family Ryan creates for himself the way Joe did in Season 1. But Williamson notes there’s a “tone shift” in Season 2, and reminds that it’s “not an FBI quest of a show.”
“This show’s about Ryan Hardy. … It’s about his struggle to find some hope in his life; to find some reason to live,” Williamson says. “It’s about my midlife crisis. … They’re all sort of trying to have this second chapter.”
Bacon adds to a question about the show ending in the distant future — like Season 9 — with Joe’s death at long last, “Wouldn’t it make more sense to end the show with Ryan Hardy dying? … We should be so lucky; ninth season.”
“The Following” premieres Sunday (Jan. 19) following FOX’s coverage of the NFC championship game, and moves to its regular time period on Monday, Jan. 27.