On April 29, "The Following" airs its season finale, "The Final Chapter," which promises a long-overdue showdown between serial killer Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) and former FBI agent Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon).
The Huffington Post talked to Purefoy ahead of "The Following's" season finale, and the British star had plenty to tease about whether either Joe or Ryan could make it out of this season alive, the impending confrontation between the two and where Joe's master plan might take him next.
Joe's already questionable grip on sanity has been steadily unraveling over the past few episodes as more things go wrong for him, so how would you describe his mental state in the finale?
Well, some people have said that he’s mad even for a serial killer, which is a strange thing to say because obviously serial killers are mad. I’m not sure how unhinged you can go to be deemed over the top when playing a serial killer. The trouble is that Joe, he’s mad. So, whatever kind of logic you try and apply to him, whatever kind of consistency will always be inconsistent because he’s mad. So, if you’re looking for a pattern it’s like tea leaves in the bottom of a cup. There is no pattern. The only shape is what you see in it. It’s like shapes in the fire, it’s what you as a viewer make of him. I can’t really make any excuses for him apart from that. He is insane. I think one of the most important things he said is, there’s an episode where he’s conducting this conversation through the glass with Ryan and Ryan says something like, "it’s so wrong, Joe." And Joe goes, “No, it’s not wrong. It’s insane of me.” He is aware of his own insanity. That’s a plus point, isn’t it? From the first moment the audience met him, he was sane but within his own insanity. So, there is no logic to him that I can explain. I don’t really know what happens between action and cut. It’s all very much in the moment and what I decide to do.
In the last episode, we saw Emma (Valorie Curry) kill Jacob (Nico Tortorella) because he suggested leaving Joe's cult. I'm guessing he doesn't feel quite the same sense of loyalty to her as she does to him, so how expendable is she in terms of his plan?
I think everybody’s expendable, including himself. There was a moment at the beginning of the last episode where he was saying, “They can’t kill me, I’m already dead. They can’t kill me, I’m already dead.” He was repeating something that Ryan had said but that could equally apply to Joe. He knows that his soul is damned and his soul is dead in a way. So, there is nobody on this show ... maybe Kevin Bacon, probably, is the only person who has to live for the show to continue. I have no idea. I don’t really know how the show ends. That’s the other thing -- there were some endings that were in the script that we saw but then there were other things that I know they shot that I wasn’t really party to. So, does Kevin Williamson know how the show ends? Does Rupert Murdoch know how the show ends? I don’t know who knows how the show ends. That’s what’s so exciting about it. I’m watching it with bated breath.
I'd say the show is at its best when you and Kevin get to share the screen, but obviously you had to keep those moments limited so as not to lessen their impact ...
We didn’t get as much as I’d have liked. We were trying desperately. We were thinking maybe they could have Skype conversations, but that kind of thing is not televisually very dramatic. [Laughs.] They have been few and far between but we do have, obviously as their two paths converge in the finale, there has to be a scene in the finale. That was quite an explosive scene to shoot.
Just one scene?
There are a bunch of scenes they cut with other things. But obviously they do have to meet up because they’ve got unfinished business. They have to have a conversation about all this unfinished business, which is exciting.
Regardless of what actually happens in the finale, where does Joe see himself going from here? If he hypothetically succeeded in killing Claire and Ryan was "reborn" as a result, where do you think he would go if he actually got what he wanted?
That is a question for the remarkable and twisted mind of Mr. Williamson. [Laughs.] It all depends. It depends what the viewers want. That’s the wonderful thing about American network television, you live or die by how many viewers you have. If the viewers want Joe to continue then he will continue, I guess. But if they don’t, then he dies. They have his life in their hands in a way. As far as I’m aware, we’ve only dealt with followers on the Eastern seaboard in quite a localized area of Richmond, Virginia. As we all know, the Internet is global and Joe’s messages and that following will be global. As we know, there are serial killers who are right now banged up in prison, not naming any names obviously -- I wouldn’t want to give them that kind of satisfaction -- but we know there are serial killers who are mad as march hares who still have large followings. So, nothing is inconceivable in the world of the cult serial killer.
Arguably, if Joe and Ryan keep encountering each other and allowing each other to live, it almost undermines how competent both of them are in their chosen "careers." Do you think that there's any way for them both to credibly make it out of this alive, or is this a quest that ultimately has to kill one of them, if not both?
Well, we all like to think that we learn from our mistakes and that perhaps both Ryan and Joe learn on their own different paths, learn from their own mistakes and maybe get better at what they’re doing. That’s a possibility ...
The show is frequently and fervently discussed online; do you follow any of the reactions to the episodes as they're airing or do you try to stay distanced from it?
I like to follow it, but only as a general picture. You become a little bit obsessed with that kind of thing if you’re not careful. One thing that I am very sure of is that the majority of people who watch television just watch TV. They don’t bother going onto online forums afterwards. So very much the online forums and people who chat about it are in a very small minority of our audience and tend to be very vocal in either their love or their hate for the show. To get drawn into it in any kind of detail is a big error because it’s all just part of the big picture and everyone’s a critic these days.
What can you preview about the finale to whet our appetites?
I think that people are going to find it satisfying and probably very explosive. You might be looking to gasp for some air. That’s one of the things. I mean we sort of led people to believe that from the last episode that something’s going to happen to at least one of the leading characters that makes them feel a little bit asthmatic ...
Do you think Joe and Ryan will both make it out of the season alive? Who else do you think is in danger this week? Share your predictions below!
"The Following" Season 1 finale airs Monday, April 29 at 9 p.m. ET on Fox.