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[Warning: Major spoilers from Monday’s “Chapter Two.”]
There’s more than meets the eye on The Following.
“You can almost pretty much bet that you’re not going to meet someone who doesn’t in some way ultimately matter in a big way,” executive producer Marcos Siega told The Hollywood Reporter. “That’s the nice thing about it being a serialized show. We can plant a seed, kind of leave it there, and all of a sudden 10 episodes in you’re like, ‘Oh! That’s why.’”
That much is true in regards to the identities of the three followers. The first two episodes of the Fox thriller, from the mind of Kevin Williamson, has solidified that imprisoned serial killer Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) has a master plan, and everyone — including FBI Agent Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) and ex-wife Claire Matthews (Natalie Zea), grieving over her young kidnapped son — plays a crucial role.
But what unfolds in present day is only half the mystery.
“Present day, you’re coming into the story in the middle, and the flashbacks give us the beginning,” Siega said, “and then we’re working our way toward the end.”
Siega, who said there are “some big season-long arcs,” talked to THR about the aftermath of the “Chapter Two” events, what viewers can expect moving forward (including the mysterious arc of Joe’s three followers) and Ryan’s next move.
The Hollywood Reporter: The arc of the three followers, Emma (Valorie Curry), Jacob (Nico Tortorella) and Paul (Adam Canto), really begins to take shape in this episode, and their significance to Joe Carroll is slowly unveiled. How does this particular storyline continue as the world begins to fill out?
Marcos Siega: The pilot sets it up and kicks it off. The end of the pilot gives you a good idea that there are other people out there. Episode two sets up the first part of that. Clearly we’re going to start with the three people who have taken Joey (Kyle Catlett), but you’re going to see how that grows and evolves into an even bigger group of people. Our stories will be fairly elaborate and serialized. As far as including these three, we knew when we were doing the pilot that they would be a big part of the series, and we’re going to meet other people in subsequent episodes who are just as big as they are.
THR: It’s safe to say not all the characters are as they seem, especially with the trio. How much more will be uncovered about who these “followers” are and how they came to be?
Siega: We haven’t revealed all the layers as far as these characters go. I believe in the pilot, it’s said that these guys [Paul and Jacob] pretended to be gay, but I don’t know that we know that for sure yet. It’s a layer that will slowly be peeled away and explain itself. With Denise, we learn in episode two her real name is Emma Hill; we see how she met Joe Carroll, and it’s a device I really enjoy in the show. What you’re watching in real time is the end result. The real story is how did this all come to be, how did they all start to follow Joe, and how did Joe touch their lives?
THR: Talk a little bit more about utilizing flashbacks. Will that be a recurring storytelling device?
Siega: When we set it up in the pilot, it’s a great way to get our characters to interact and to fill in the blanks without scenes of exposition. It’s always fun to see something happening as opposed to hearing how it happened. In episode two, when Emma kills her mother, you realize that that was the first time she killed somebody and you see how she met Joe Carroll. Maybe that was all Joe’s doing, him convincing her to take that step. We could hear about that in dialogue or she could explain it to someone, but I think it’s infinitely more powerful to see [everything].
THR: Will we see how the other followers became connected to Joe?
Siega: As we introduce major characters, you’re going to get to see how they were touched by Joe, whether it’s a flashback with Joe or a flashback with another follower that’s following Joe. The device of the flashback really serves a purpose in terms of setting up the characters you’ll be meeting.
THR: We also saw that Claire will do absolutely anything, including confronting her ex-husband, in her quest to get Joey back safely.
Siega: I’m a parent, and we talk about these things. I imagine if someone took your child, your state of mind is going to be one of desperation. You really truly would do anything. We may look at them and say: Why would you put yourself at risk and do that? Well, because you want to save your child. It’s nice to have that setup because we can keep Claire very active that way and also see some history of her in more flashbacks in the future.
THR: Does she serve as a reminder that this is how high the stakes are in this world?
Siega: She’s more than just a reminder. Ultimately she’s the drive. What Joe is doing revolves around getting his family back together in some twisted way. This is sort of the first chapter in how he plans on doing that. He has to activate Claire in some way, and that’s what’s happening. You take the son, now Claire wants her son back and now she has to engage. If there’s no Joey, why would she go see him in prison, why would she interact? You wouldn’t. She’d shut herself off. This is all part of Joe’s plan. It’s all very calculated. The years he spent in prison plotting Sarah Fuller (Maggie Grace), her demise, he planted Emma at Claire’s house. The plan is all very thought out.
THR: So there’s a reason everything is happening?
Siega: All of the actions that the followers [do] are very deliberate to serve Joe’s greater purpose. You’ll learn what Joe’s greater purpose is in later episodes. We get to that. We answer that question. When you see things happening, you may not know that they’re deliberate and maybe in episode or two later, you’ll go, “Oh, that’s why that happened.”
THR: And it was Ryan who asked Joe what the endgame was.
Siega: Yeah, and I think it’s a fair question. You can enjoy the show but you may go, “Why is he doing this?” I feel like people will be satisfied with the answers.
THR: Going back to the flashbacks, there was more light shed on Ryan and Claire’s complex relationship.
Siega: Ultimately that’s what Kevin Williamson does best. You had a love triangle in Dawson’s Creek; you have a love triangle on Vampire Diaries; and here’s a love triangle. It sets the stakes really high on an emotional level. This is a complicated one. The audience watching Claire and Ryan and seeing their history, how they came together and why they didn’t end up together. Some great drama can be mined out of it.
THR: Why do Ryan and Claire still gravitate toward each other, aside from the Joey of it all?
Siega: We will see them fall in love in the past and it will answer the question why.
THR: When Ryan is investigating the Poe house, a masked figure knocks him out, but not before telling him he’s not going to die just yet. Another move by Joe?
Siega: Joe has a plan and he needs Ryan alive to execute it. That line is the first indication of that in the series. But we’ll see more of that and what that means.
THR: What’s Ryan’s next move?
Siega: His next move now — his No. 1 priority — is get Joey back. There is a bigger picture to Ryan. He has a death curse; everyone that he touches in his life, that he falls in love with, the people around him that he loves all seem to die in some way. We’ll discover that about him and he believes that he can’t really get close to people. Right now, his single driving force is to find Joey.
THR: FBI Agent Debra Parker (Annie Parisse) obviously knows a thing or two about cults. How would you describe her working relationship with Ryan moving forward?
Siega: We introduced Debra to fill in those blanks that Hardy could never fill in himself. She absolutely serves a greater purpose. She challenges Ryan. They don’t see eye to eye. She approaches the case in a very different way, which is also unconventional like Ryan. He can appreciate that and respect it, but they still don’t always see eye to eye. She’s definitely not a by-the-book FBI agent. She has her way of doing things, and that’s going to make for an interesting dynamic.
THR: In one of the final scenes Debra gives Joe a book in jail and there’s an interesting beat between the two, potentially introducing the idea that there could be more going on. Is that an accurate reading of that scene?
Siega: Maybe some people missed this. Joe asks for reading material and nobody gives it to him, but that’s what she does well: She listens. Maybe the way to get some answers out of Joe. … You want reading material, I’ll get you reading material. I love that people sit there and go “Oh my god she’s bad” or “She’s with them.” Those are the kinds of setups that Kevin does really well. I’m not saying it’s a misdirect, but misdirects work in these types of stories. It’s nice to surprise people, whether or not what they thought it meant really meant [that].
THR: How and when does young Mike Weston (Shawn Ashmore) come into play?
Siega: We don’t really crack open that Weston storyline until later in the season. A lot of what you’ll be seeing about him and the way he is, is setup for a bigger picture. He’s one of my favorite characters, because he’s that young, eager guy; he’s the comic relief in some ways. There’s nothing really funny about that show, but he has the one-liners and he doesn’t really know when he’s saying something inappropriate or not. It’s a nice way to break the tension and also address concerns that the audience may have, like when you kill a bunch of dogs and the audience is tweeting, “Oh my god they’ve gone too far!” When you come back from commercial the first line is Mike Weston: “You know, you can kill people, but just don’t kill a dog. It drives me crazy.” [Laughs] Weston has that everyman view of the world.
The Following airs at 9 p.m. Mondays on Fox.
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