Only two episodes remain on The Following Season 1 - and while we wait to see who lives, who dies and whether Ryan Hardy can actually catch Joe Carroll, rest assured: Kevin Williamson has plenty more up his suspenseful sleeve.
I jumped on the phone with Williamson last week to talk about the challenges in crafting the first season, as the creator previewed what’s to come in both tonight’s penultimate installment and next week’s first season finale...
TV Fanatic: What’s been the biggest challenge for you in doing The Following since it is so different from your past work?
Kevin Williamson: There’s so many moving parts. It’s so different from anything that I’ve done. You want to make sure that the characters resonate in a very emotional way so that it all means something. The writing on network television with a six-act structure has been quite challenging for me.
Working with someone like Kevin Bacon…it hasn’t been a challenge but it’s been like a cherry on top of a huge sundae. And with James [Purefoy], the two pros, that’s been the thrilling part for me to be working with Kevin Bacon and James Purefoy and the rest of the cast – Valorie Curry, Shawn Ashmore – every show is unique in its own way and working with that cast has been quite special.
TVF: The tension on the show never lets up, which I love.
KW: I always kind of fashion it as a guilty pleasure like when you read a thriller, one of those page turners. I wanted the show to always be a page turner. That was the conceit in a modern day gothic, kind of macabre romance with a lot of undertones of tragedy.
Right now, last [week], we’re watching Joe Carroll’s descent into insanity, which is one of the frequent motif of a character in [Edgar Allen] Poe’s work and we’re also watching our tragic hero as he risks everything for the love of a beautiful woman, which very much in line with every single story Poe wrote.
TVF: Is Joe’s unraveling going to continue in these last two episodes or is he going to gain some footing?
KW: Oh, he has farther depths to sink to and [Purefoy is] just wonderful. Ryan Hardy gets unraveled, too, but he takes it to another place. Oddly enough, when he unravels in some weird way he’s intensely focused. They complement each other really well.
They’re total opposites but they really are the Yin and the Yang and I really like the way they are both different. They’re unique but they’re really fun to write for. In the next two episodes, we really do build to a conclusion. The book that Joe Carroll is writing, the book that the show is writing, the story reaches a conclusion.
TVF: Tell me about Claire in these last episodes. She’s been the middle point between Joe and Ryan but is there more of a connection between the guys or is mostly focused on Claire?
KW: Claire did a big thing last [week]. She was very instrumental in saving her son but she went for it, she really tried to take Joe out…we’re trying to build to a triangle in the finale so it really does comes down to ‘Can Ryan save her? Can Ryan defeat Joe? Can the hero win?’ Very much from the pilot, this bizarre flawed hero chasing a bad guy. That’s what we’re building to. It’s all going to come to an end.
TVF: We lost Roderick last week and it made me wonder if everyone is expendable on the show. How do you see that along with the killing off of characters?
KW: You know what? It has to fit the story and it has to have some sort of emotional impact. I love Roderick and I love Warren Kole. I thought he was really a fun character. The saddest part of this is we have so much story to tell and I feel like in a lot of ways there’s the question ‘what if we slowed the story down?’ but then it’s not the show. We try to do character work, we try to do drama, we try to do action but at its core its sort of this hybrid of a page turner show that if we slowed it down…I’m not sure it would work.
The answer to your question is yes, I think everyone is expendable but at the same time…I don’t like to kill people before I’m done with them. I feel like we really want to explore them fully before they do. With Roderick, I felt like I could have explored him more but I had to get on with it.
TVF: Talk to me about Jacob and Emma. Were they always planned to be this involved or was it what the actors brought to the show?
KW: The triangle of the three of them was always worked out. I knew that Jacob’s first kill would be Paul and the idea that that would be his transition into being a killer. When we did the pilot, I think Valorie had two lines and the guys had maybe three or five each. We wrote all these dummy scenes when they auditioned where they were really evil and crazy and maybe on the DVD we’ll put all these dummy scenes on. Valorie just nailed it! We wrote these dummy scenes just to see if they could play the flip side of who they were and they could and that’s why they got cast. We knew that they would go there.
Now, whether or not they live or die into next season, that remains to be seen. That’s the fun of the show. Are they expandable or not but they were always meant to always carry forward. It was always meant to be a triangle and I think Jacob and Emma have a good relationship. I love Valorie, I love Nico. They’ve done such a great job.
TVF: In the next episode, someone says to Ryan that he needs to be reborn and it made me wonder if Joe really wants Ryan on his side as opposed to just out of the picture?
KW: If you go back, the whole story is about second chances. It’s been about Ryan’s second chance, his chapter two. Even Joe Carroll, his first book flopped, he’s a serial killer who got caught in the middle of his killing spree. Joe Carroll wants a second chance, too. He’s trying to write a second book. Ryan Hardy is getting another chance as an FBI agent. There’s a whole theme of rebirth that’s going on for both characters and I think that’s what the show’s been about. In a weird way, Joe Carroll is giving Ryan Hardy his life back…he wants an adversary worthy of him…I think they both need to be reborn.
TVF: How much of season two is in your head as you wrap up season one? What can we expect? Is there a cliffhanger?
KW: We very much have an end of the story and it does lead up to the next season. I love finales so much. They’re my favorite thing to do. I fell in love with them…I don’t know how other TV writers feel but I think they’re very exciting. I get very charged with a finale. I love doing The Vampire Diaries finales, like season one when Katherine shows up…we were just in heaven with that and loved creating all that. I love finales.
I really hope people enjoy this as well. We all worked really hard on it. It’s really cool and fun and exciting and I think the team in New York…it really goes a mile a minute and I’m thrilled with the way Marcos [Siega, Exec Producer] pulled it off. The performances are great, there are a lot of twists and turns, very emotional. I think it’s fun. I hope everyone likes it.
Jim Halterman is the West Coast Editor of TV Fanatic and the owner of JimHalterman.com. Follow him on Twitter.