First Joe Carroll, now this! Fox reported via Deadline, that The Following will be cancelled after its third season. In 2013, The Following became a smash hit for Fox on Monday nights behind massive lead star power (Kevin Bacon) and a chilling and psychotic villain, Joe Carroll (James Purefoy). Carroll was a former literature professor who used his position in front of countless impressionable minds, to build a following of serial killers in the name of his idol, the gothic poet Edgar Allen Poe. Bacon’s Ryan Hardy doesn’t just have a professional stake in the case, he has a personal one, as he was dating Carroll’s ex-wife Claire (Natalie Zea). Hardy is joined in his quest to stop Joe by Mike Weston (Shawn Ashmore), a rookie FBI agent and his niece, agent Max Hardy (Jessica Stroup).
Season one was all about Ryan and Joe. After followers helped him escape, the pursuit was on. Joe’s evoking of Poe created some truly horrific moments. Those moments (as I quickly referred to them as HOLY SH*T! moments) included a follower covered in Poe writing committing public suicide in graphic fashion.
The Following 2nd season saw Joe survive his explosive “death.” I have a theory that actors will never leave a show until they have a new gig, so no one ever really dies. The main culprits of season 2 was the Gray Family led by matriarch Lily (Connie Nielsen) whose murderous twins Mark and Luke (Sam Underwood) commit Joe-like crimes, even wearing Joe-masks as a callback to Joe’s followers who wore Poe masks. Lily was trying to bring Joe out of the shadows to join her family. There was also a cult trying to recruit Joe, but I’m sure you could predict how that went. Soon Joe and Lily were enemies and the conclusion had the unlikely tag team of Joe and Ryan teaming up to stop the Grays.
This season, unfortunately now the final one for Team Hardy, has been plagued by an overabundance of villains. First it was Mark Gray, the lone holdover from season 2… joined by Kyle and Daisy, a pair of star-crossed lovers who happen to be serial killers. With Joe on death row, his teacher Arthur Strauss (Gregg Henry) became the main villain… or so we thought, as he was dispatched by his “best student” Theo (Michael Ealy). Have you lost count yet? Theo is phenomenal, but even then there was too much reliance on the other lesser bad guys. Theo has a sister, Strauss, other followers, hell, even the FBI has an angry potentially evil agent (Max’s disgruntled boyfriend).
While season 3 of The Following has provided some great moments, its parts have more than the whole, and I started asking each week, where the show could possibly go in seasons to come. Ryan has been through several important relationships, and ruined them all. He’s been on and off the sobriety wagon too many times to count. Most of all, this season gave us my favorite episode, the one in which Joe escapes his execution (albeit temporarily). The problem was that Ryan confessed to Joe that he was the most important person in his life. Sure, I know Joe’s ghost is stalking and helping Ryan, but the pursuit of Joe Carroll, the threat of Joe Carroll drove the show and characters forward. With Joe gone, the writing was on the wall.
For 3 years, The Following has provided constantly compelling, often disturbing, and nightmarish television. It was a staple for my friends and I on Monday nights. The characters, and images will live on, especially Joe Carroll…quoth the Raven… Nevermore.