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Comic-Con: James Purefoy Returning to 'The Following,' Panelists Tease Season 2

The news came when the actor made an unscheduled appearance at the Friday afternoon panel in San Diego.

The Following Comic-Con Panel - H 2013
Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc.
"The Following's" Kevin Bacon and executive producer Kevin Williamson

SAN DIEGO — Looks like Joe Carroll isn’t dead after all.

The news came at the start of The Following’s second Comic-Con panel Friday afternoon, when Kevin Bacon received a call with the voice on the other line being James Purefoy before joining the panel.

Purefoy was not on the original lineup for The Following’s participating castmembers, which included Valorie Curry and Shawn Ashmore, and the actor’s serial killer/cult leader mastermind was presumed dead at the end of the season finale.

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“Yeah, I guess he might be alive,” creator/executive producer Kevin Williamson suggested moments later, adding that Joe Carroll will factor into season two. Added a bearded Purefoy: “It’s a phoenix risen from the ashes.” At a TV Academy screening of the finale in late April, Purefoy said of his possible return, then unclear: "I believe so, but that’s not a guarantee."

As for where Joe Carroll has been all this time, Purefoy has his ideas. “I suspect he’s been doing a little bit of soul-searching,” he said. “I suspect he’s trying to see where the plan went awry. He’ll come back with double the strength I hope and double the force … He’ll have some time on his own, out of the city.”

Added Williamson: “He was a little selfish last year; he wants to get his family together and write a book. He may just have to figure out a new way and reimagine himself in a new way as a man and a new killer.”

Flashbacks informing viewers of Joe’s past should be expected. They would likely focus on family life when he was a child and as a young adult. “[We want to] explore all those areas,” Williamson said.

When season two picks up, there will be a major time jump on the hit Fox thriller. “We will jump forward a year with our surviving characters,” Williamson said, adding that the story moves away from the FBI and will be more “character-driven.”

Bacon added that “everyone we meet next year is in a different place,” with Ryan Hardy in a "lighter" place in life.

Williamson has been vocal about his love of sophomore runs on TV shows. “I love second seasons. You figure out what works and what you did wrong,” Williamson said. “It becomes a richer, more meaningful experience. You get your sea legs and you’re ready to rock ‘n’ roll.”

The extended finale scene shown to the Ballroom 20 crowd confirmed that Claire (Natalie Zea) won’t survive, and Williamson hinted that there will be major new characters joining the second season.

“No one’s been cast yet, but we’re going to have new characters, some new leads to interface with [everyone],” Williamson said, adding that some may be good and some may be bad.

The Following returns midseason on Fox.

E-mail: Philiana.Ng@THR.com
Twitter: @insidethetube