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[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the third season premiere of Fox’s The Following, “New Blood.”]
The Following‘s third season premiere caught the audience up with FBI agents Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon), Mike (Shawn Ashmore), Max (Jessica Stroup) and Mendez (Valerie Cruz) a year after the capture of Joe Carroll (James Purefoy). Each had moved on from the case and the their roles in the various murders in their own ways, but none could truly escape the horrors of what they had been through.
Season two villain Mark Gray (Sam Underwood) was back, too, and blonder and more unstable than ever. His twin brother may no longer have been around to physically help him commit his crimes or stage tableaus, but he was there in Mark’s mind, guiding him and giving him confidence and companionship. But while Ryan looked at the new crime scenes that called out his and his team’s lies from the previous season and saw that Mark now had followers of his own helping them, some of the new players we met were stronger and saner than Mark, begging the question of just who the real puppet master — and therefore who the season’s “big bad” — was.
Daisy (Ruth Kearney) and Kyle (Hunter Parrish) carried out crimes and helped stage new murder scenes like the ones of Ryan’s past, but Andrew (Michael Irby) seems to be the only true sociopath right now — a man who can perfectly mimic human emotion but seems to feel none at all. His actions at Mendez’s wedding got the ball rolling again and officially had the FBI on Mark’s trail, though Mike had been hunting him for the better part of the year leading up to it. Though he claimed a mysterious “he” would kill them all if the murder scenes weren’t staged perfectly, his chameleon-like nature lends itself to lying.
Yet to be seen on-screen in season three is Michael Ealy, whose character has been described as “a new face of evil,” and of course, Joe Carroll himself, who is currently sitting on death row. With so much new blood — no pun intended — The Hollywood Reporter caught up with co-showrunner and director Marcos Siega to break down the events in the premiere and how they set up the show’s new chapter.
“New Blood” introduced a bunch of new bad guys for season three, but none of them felt like the one “big bad” or antagonist for Ryan in the way that Joe had been. Why hold that card back?
Honestly there’s a foundation we need to build before we get to that. And we didn’t want it to be the off-season build. We could have introduced a new big bad in episode one, but I didn’t want it to be just like the pilot where you just launch into Joe Carroll because we have to honor the demise of Joe Carroll and then the birth of this new big bad. And that just required a little bit of storytelling. The evolution of the show just requires some time for everyone to kind of see how. It just can’t be, “Oh, now there’s a new Joe Carroll.”
Do you consider Michael Ealy to be that new big bad?
I don’t call him the big bad, and it’s really hard because I don’t think Joe Carroll is replaceable. And it’s not a dig on Michael Ealy; it’s just our story: The Following is so rooted in that Joe Carroll/Ryan Hardy relationship. He goes away in the way that we’re used to seeing him, but Joe Carroll has had such a profound impact in their world and such a profound impact on Ryan Hardy that he’ll never fully go away. That will manifest itself in a number of different ways [this season], and we’re aware that that foundation is something that audience members love.
But now that we are seeing the show can go on without Joe’s physical presence, should the audience worry that Ryan’s line about leaving “when the time is right” means the show could go on without him?
That’s not where we’re going. It’s interesting. I’m glad you caught that line; I think people should catch it. That will play a part into season four. Like everything we do on the show, I hope, it’s not exactly what you think it is.
At the end of the second season, Mark called someone to come pick him up, and now that’s been revealed as Andrew. At what point did you know who that driver and what his connection to Mark was, and did his role in the season three story change as time went on?
That became such a thing on social media — who was driving the truck! That blindsided us. It wasn’t by design [to be] the big season finale cliffhanger. It was just that we needed Mark to get away, so we knew someone had to pick him up. We had a couple of different ideas of how that person would be embedded in Mark’s life, and it was really just about how our story was going to evolve. So we knew, but did we know specifically the character? We had some ideas, and we stuck to one of those ideas.
How does Andrew fit into things?
Everything will be revealed in terms of how that character dovetails into Mark’s life and then how that brings us forward. With each [new] character that we meet, you’re going to understand how they got to where they are.
Just how much is Mark actually calling the shots versus just thinking he is? Is the unknown around him more of a threat to Ryan and his team than Mark himself?
There’s going to be conflict because of that; there’s going to be drama because of that; and there’s going to be propulsion because of that. Those are going to be the questions that you ask week to week, and then as we’ve always done, we’ll answer but surprise you with those answers.
Will the explanation come via flashbacks? So far in season three, the flashback device has only explored the lost year between seasons and even then, only for the FBI agents.
The conceit of flashbacks even going back to the pilot was to give us the ability to show an origin story, to give the audience some perspective on how characters crossed paths in the past. And we do more flashbacks this season, a little bit more like season one. We went away from them in season two because of what the story became, but in season three we do utilize flashbacks a little bit more to have the same effect they have in season one. That’s when we kind of flip the tone on its head [because] in the past, a lot of these flashbacks would fill in story on the side of our antagonists, and the flashbacks [in the third season] specifically are there to serve our protagonists. Hopefully in those flashbacks there’s just enough to give you some context so that when something does happen, you feel for them.
The Following airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on Fox. Are you enjoying the third season so far? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
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