'The Following': James Purefoy on Enemy Pacts and 'Amped' Up Finale
As the Fox serial killer drama closes out its sophomore season, the star tells THR that the final episode is "all the bells and whistles."
The body count on The Following has been piling up with the fate of a major character in limbo.
"It's a heart-pounding rollercoaster ride amped right up," James Purefoy tells The Hollywood Reporter of the season closer, which will answer the question of whether Weston (Shawn Ashmore) is truly dead. After the deaths of Lily (Connie Nielsen) and Emma (Valorie Curry), anything is possible.
In Monday's finale, "Forgive," Joe is forced to work with his nemesis, Ryan (Kevin Bacon), in order to save Claire (Natalie Zea) from the unhinged twins Mark and Luke (Sam Underwood). "If all the other episodes are going up to 10, then this really goes up to 11. You just don't know what's going to happen, and the stakes are very, very high," Purefoy says. In a chat with THR, he talks about the season's climactic end, a tense team-up with Ryan and the odds of Joe surviving the season.
From where you stand, is this season far more brutal than last season in terms of bodies piling up?
I tend not to count, but it's been an interesting season. A lot of new things have been explored. I find the cult [aspect] really fascinating, and I find the way that Joe has manipulated the cult has been subtle and believable. Joe was much more confident of his abilities this season and taking his time, being much more patient, unveiling things very slowly. He knew exactly what he was going to do at the end of the season. He decided he was going to have a go at organized religion and landed on a church and landed on Kingston Tanner (Tom Cavanagh). Frankly it could have been any religion; Joe is an atheist, and he finds that there is too much hypocrisy in religion, and he wanted to go out with a big splash with that.
Last week's episode ended on a cliffhanger with a gunshot as the screen faded to black, prompting speculation over what happened: Did Joe kill Weston? Did Ryan get to Joe?
It was a great way to end the episode wasn't it? Fade to black, hear the gunshot and you don't know [who got shot]. It guarantees the people come back next week to find out. It's a big, big scene, and it was exciting to shoot. This finale is all the bells and whistles, and it flip-flops every 30 seconds. You know that old saying, "Your enemy of your enemy becomes your friend"? Something happens between Ryan and Joe where they're forced into a situation against the twins where they feel like they have to work together, and it's going to create extraordinary tension between them.
What does that even look like?
There was the episode before last where they had their first big scene together all season, and they sort of enjoyed each other's company. Ryan has definitely killed more people than Joe has this season. Joe's nihilism is kind of catching, and that's almost the worst thing he's done to the other people on the show -- he's created a cultural violence and death that has gotten under their skin so badly that they're not that far away from him. He doesn't celebrate it out loud, but there have been quite a lot of executions this season on behalf of the law enforcement officers, where people are not shot in the leg or taken away for questioning; they're shot to be killed.
How far do Ryan and Joe have to go with their face-off against Mark and Luke, who now have absolutely nothing to lose and have Claire?
Joe has a problem with the twins because they have no agenda. They feel no beauty in what they do whereas Joe has an albeit weird, strange, poetic philosophy to what he does, which is highly absent in the twins. But then will the twins survive? We've shot a bunch of different endings, and I don't know what happens at the end now. There are multiple endings where some people die and some people don't and then other ones where other people die and other people don't. I have, on purpose, avoided asking the question because I don't really need to know. I'll watch it with everybody else to see my fate on the show with vicious anticipation.
In your heart of hearts, do you think Joe can survive through all this again? He did once last season, so it's within the realm of possibility.
I don't know. He could survive, who knows. He might get caught, he might go back to prison, he might get shot, he might escape. There are all kinds of different scenarios you can play with. When we were shooting the finale, they weren't really sure what direction season three was going to go in and who they needed and who they didn't need. Hopefully over the last month [the producers] worked that out, but that's why we shot the alternate endings -- to give them a chance to sit down and work that out in the interim period.
What was your takeaway from Joe's arc this season?
I really loved Joe's sense of humor. He's become a lot more relaxed this season. His plan was to become infamous as the greatest killer of people outside of military scenarios. He wants his name up there with [Charles] Manson; Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper; Jim Jones, the priest in Guyana. He wants his name known all over the world, and by the end of the first season he already has that. Really it's just a question of how much more can he do? As a result, he's able to enjoy himself a lot more. I think audiences have come to be very confused by him this season. On the one hand, they sort of like him, and on the other hand, they forget he's a serial killer. People have been saying "I can't believe that Joe never cared about Claire and Emma." He's a serial killer. Of course. He's a coward. All serial killers are cowards. None of them are cool. None of them are nice. They're all unpleasant, so don't be fooled by charm.
The Following season finale airs Monday at 9 p.m. on Fox.