Post Mortems

The Following Series Finale: EP Talks Rogue Ryan, No-Show Joe and 'Forever Together' Mike and Max

The Following Series Finale

Warning: The following contains spoilers from The Following‘s series finale.

It’s a good thing Ryan Hardy has a pacemaker, because after the devastating events of The Following‘s series finale, his heart is going to need a lot of help to keep beating.

“Did you expect anything less?” executive producer and co-showrunner Alexi Hawley asks, laughing.

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For those who didn’t watch, a quick rundown: Kevin Bacon’s perpetually beleaguered FBI agent wound up in a standoff with Theo, who was holding Gwen captive. A shot to the head took Theo out, and it looked like Gwen, Ryan and Baby Hardy were about to have a happy ending… until Theo rose up (!) and tussled with Ryan until they both went over the side of a bridge.

At the end of the episode, Ryan was missing, but the audience learned that he’d decided to play dead in order to keep his loved ones safe/get revenge on the larger organization of elite serial killers that was controlling Theo.

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“What we took into the finale was this question, which he’s been struggling with [from] the beginning,” Hawley says. “‘Can I be happy? Can I have a life outside of this obsession?’ At the end of the day, given everything he’s been through, he realizes he can’t — which is a tragedy.”

TVLine asked Hawley a bunch of questions about the cancelled Fox thriller’s final outing, including our biggest beef: Where did Ryan’s vision of Joe go? Read on for his answers.

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TVLINE | Annet Mahendru’s Eliza was going to be the first face of next season’s big bad. Would the person Eliza was on the phone with have been someone we would have recognized?
No. The level over Eliza is not anybody we’d seen before. Honestly, she wasn’t necessarily even talking to the big bad. The same way that Lisa Campbell was co-opted by Eliza, there is somebody bigger than Eliza who is middle-management, that kind of thing.

TVLINE | You shot multiple endings last season. Did you do it this year?
No, we didn’t do it this year. We felt very strongly that this was the ending we were driving towards. Whether he let go on that bridge on purpose or whether he slips is meant to be a little bit up in the air, but ultimately, when he comes out of that water, he knows what he has to do… It’s the ultimate sacrifice that Ryan is making. He’s sacrificing his own happiness, his own chance at a fulfilling life, for the people he loves — which is a very selfless act.

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TVLINE | Mike nearly dies in these episodes. Did you ever think of killing him — or any other character — in the last few hours of the series?
Well, we killed a lot of people. We did. Our body count is pretty high. And it was because the storylines were coming to an end. Obviously Mark/Luke were two of the most compelling characters The Following has ever had. [Mark and Luke] — and Daisy felt the same way — they only know themselves as part of a pair. For Mark, what is life without Luke? …At the end, what is there after revenge? There is nothing after revenge. I don’t know if you noticed, but there is a little bit of a smile on Mark’s face when he dies because he feels like he killed Mike, and that’s what he really wanted.

With Mike, I keep saying it’s the meanest thing we’ve ever done on the show, to have that moment between Mike and Max and then stab the s—t out of him. But I feel like that’s the show, right? You’re never gonna see it coming… You do go out of the finale knowing that Mike and Max are now forever together. They weathered the storm and now true love has come through.

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TVLINE | There’s no Joe Carroll in these last few episodes. Why?
Originally, when we were planning out the end of the season, we had this idea which I think was pretty compelling that after Joe dies, he becomes Ryan’s manifestation of the devil on his shoulder. Joe encourages him to do things which are self-destructive… But we wanted him to go down the dark path and then come out of it. We didn’t want to take that through all the way to the end. I’ll be honest: After we shot Episode 10, where Joe died and it was so compelling, I was a little unsure whether we should abandon ship on the he-sees-Joe-afterwards. It was such a powerful ending. But I feel like, especially in Episode 12 where Ryan was really going off the deep end with the waterboarding of Penny, and Joe was there, I felt like it was really powerful in and of itself. And you know, endings are tough. How do you have Joe leave without it seeming goofy? I felt like Ryan needed to make a choice to be the better man, to fight to be a better man, as Gwen said.

The Following Series FinaleTVLINE | At the beginning of the season, you’d said that the show was going to take a step back from the overt violence and gore, but at times, it seemed like that decision had been reversed. I’m thinking specifically of when Theo kills his wife.
We definitely, going into the season, wanted to try and make the violence more impactful when we did it rather than just having a lot of it. I do think at the end of the day there were times, like the box [in Episode 2], where we didn’t actually show you anything. We made you do the work in your head, which I’m really proud of…

We definitely talked about Theo’s family. There was a version, early on, where Theo killed everybody. The kids did not survive… But at the end of the day, we needed Theo to be a character like Joe Carroll who you could root for even though you felt like you shouldn’t. Killing his kids is such a powerful thing that we felt like there was no coming back from that. We definitely are a violent show, and we try and use it effectively as possible.

Grade The Following series finale via the poll below, then hit the comments to elaborate on your pick!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. steve nash says:

    completely disappointed with the final episode, where was Joe????? even a cameo would have been awesome, who are the people that want Ryan so badly, another fail for fox, much like never ending the X-Files correctly

  2. Jesse Farley says:

    That would of been a great season finally not a series maybe a movie of Ryan going crazy on these other people as joe helps him get through it all amd after he is done taking them all out he goes back to his family with his kid a born maybe a new show where the only people is ryan and Eliza from the following or a movie

  3. retired secretary says:

    I liked the finale. I knew it was coming so I was prepared but I was surprised by Eliza and the red headed FBI lady (who to me is always the Coastguard lady on NCIS :-)) Thank goodness they saved Mike! so Max got to tell him he was the love of her life ouff! close call on that one ha ha. Not too happy with Ryan having to enjoy the baby from afar, he is going to have to see Gwen date hmmm but what the heck. I really had a good time watching it, and I’m glad it’s over it was an awesome show. Good job!!!

  4. Clay T. Tarlton-Hensley says:

    I sincerely hope that The Following will return on another station or perhaps on Netflix because it’s in my opinion one of the best crime/drama shows on TV. It has emotion it’s smart, it has beautifully created characters, it’s enthralling, and dark, and filled with so much beauty. I was devastated to hear it was cancelled, i’m a writer and if it doesn’t come back i’ll being writing fanfction and perhaps fight for a novel to be published as a sequel. This show is too amazing to let it die especially now with such an even bigger threat on the horizon for Ryan. But I am satisfied with the ending to the series, the last episodes were just as enthralling and brilliant as the first episode of the series. And in the spirit of the show i’ll end this comment with my favorite line from the entire series ”praise Joe”.

    • dman6015 says:

      “It’s dead, Jim”

    • Marcella Respini says:

      I agree and so disappointed to hear that their not continuing the series

    • D Marie says:

      I couldn’t disagree more. This show got dumber by the episode. What started as something very clever and different – – even beautiful as you say – – devolved into a show that got lamer and lamer by the foot chase.

      Good riddance.

  5. Carm says:

    Since Theo tried to kill the kids. It was the same as though he had. You could only root for him if he intentionally left the children alive. He didn’t and I have wanted him dead since then. Going to miss the show.

    • Steven says:

      Anyone actively rooting for Theo has to also be a psychopath. Ridiculous that the producer’s thought fans could root for him. Also, he was shot in the head and managed to get up and tackle Ryan off the bridge. And Ryan survived that fall. So much implausibility that the show deserved to be cancelled for that scene alone.

  6. Mr. Tran K says:

    Fox made the right choice to cancel The Following. Season One was great but Seasons 2 & 3 were terrible in my opinion and overall the series really “jump the shark”.

  7. Justin says:

    BRING IT BACK, BRING IT BACK, BRING IT BACK!!. Com on now, this is a great show with a lot of well defined characters. At work we were just talking about how astonished we are that fox is canceling it. I read that dvr was up high but actual live watching dipped. This is because they put it on the same time as “the voice” and cwd big hit the originals. But to be honest every favorite show i watch i record it first and then watch it so i dont have to wait through the commercials. The ones i watch live are the ones i somewhat like just to waste enough time to get “the following” recorded”. Awsome show and i hope another network picks it up. They ended it perfectly for another channel to pick up. Com on people get loud about bringing this refreshing modern thriller back.

  8. Rachel says:

    I like Ryan on the run. Would’ve made for an interesting season 4. Oh well :/

  9. Spence says:

    This episodes lost all chance of being good when Theo got up after being shot in the head!!!?? Wha the actual uck?? Weakest, dumbest thing I’ve seen in a while.

  10. Vicki Beale says:

    Why, the following was Kevin Bacon best, please bring it back. The show was a hit, why, Fox is cancelling all great shiws, this sucks..

  11. Jac says:

    Fox is making an epic fail by canceling not this show. Only series that made people watch fox.

  12. Warren says:

    What is fox thinking. How could they cancel one of the best series out there. What a shame. Hopefully someone else picks it up and fox will feel like idiots with there lame shows like may wood or may field pines. What the heck is that crap.

  13. jack says:

    Disappointed. I wanted Ryan so badly to die. And I was rooting for Theo. I guess if I look at it in the end, Theo did kill Ryan. Not in the retro way I guess.

  14. Vanessa says:

    what a mistake to cancel such a great show. So many shows are on TV that are dumb. The following made you think, use your imagination and sometimes question even the good characters. What a shame to have it end.

  15. Joey Padron says:

    good finale but not a good ending for the show. Fox should have give the show one more final season to finish the show right.

  16. What kind of twisted idiot would root for Theo? To even suggest that it was a possibility is further evidence why this show and the ratings fell into the crapper. Theo was a psychopath without a single redeeming quality. What a moronic thing to suggest.

    • jerome pearson says:

      Shut up. Anybody kill your sibling you would revenge too. Theo was trying to get away with his sister but had prices to pay in order to get that. Guess your the type of person that is content with watching your sister die in front of you… idiot

      • jimbo1525 says:

        He killed his wife and tried to kill his kids. Plus his sister was evil and a killer too. You root for killers??!

      • Hey moron…his sister died AFTER he killed the wife and attempted to kill the kids. And even though you can’t wrap your feeble brain around simple chronology, you clearly have much bigger issues and are likely a psychopath yourself. I’d, in turn, tell you to “shut up” as well but I’d hate to think I caused you to rage on and kill a bunch of people in some mall.

  17. Terry Thompson says:

    Final episode was good story ended well and I think new storyline of Ryan going after this new group was going to be whole new fresh story and am disappointed that it will end here and not finish up new story to possibly end it on a closed note not hanging in mid air feeling unfinished , the last scene in the hospital didn’t finish the series it left us wanting more if ending they shouldn’t have put the last scene in with him wanting to know more about this other organization they could just let u know Ryan didn’t die and that he wasn’t letting them know more fitting end I hate when they start to build a new story then hang it .

  18. I’m just happy Mike lives and is with Max.

  19. Ellinas78 says:

    So 24 comes back after the pathetic last season they had and the Following gets cancelled. Oooook…

    • John says:

      24 had nearly 200 episodes and was an established hit. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the following but it didn’t even have 40 episodes and wasn’t a hit.

      Not to mention, LAD averaged around 1.8 rating share during the summer last year. Following would probably pull in .7 in the summer

    • John says:

      I apologize.. Following did get to 45. I thought it was 13/season

  20. Nick says:

    I read on EW that Sony is shopping it to other outlets. I don’t think it’s extremely likely to get picked up, but I’m a little worked up over the ending. It was a great ending…for a show that’s returning. But since it isn’t, I’m a little disappointed.

  21. Maxsmom says:

    I was hooked on the Following and Joe and Ryan at first but the fact that the FBI always comes across as one step behind criminals that don’t seem that bright bothers me. Also, how little do Agents make that each season there seemed to a traitor. At this point, I was watching because it was a show I could watch with hubby.
    This show could have been so much better in Ryan Murphy’s AHS format. And by the bye, if the 10 years older Alcoholic Ryan survived could Theo have been far behind?

  22. kirads09 says:

    Thank you for reminding us of Ryan Hardy’s heart issue. Barely addressed in the show the past two seasons.
    I gave this an above average grade. Felt it was a good finale for the show overall.
    Biggest disappointments:
    No Joe – not a flashback, hallucination – at all. What???
    Ealy is good as Theo, but couldn’t help being heartbroken all over again about Almost Human.
    Never revealed who Eliza was reporting to. Felt since it was a SERIES finale, they could’ve shown us that. I’m thinking perhaps some high ranking political official or something after what the other FBI lady told Ryan sometimes the killers are rich and powerful. What if it were the head of the FBI? Imagine that Obviously Eliza was well heeled & connected just at her level.
    I was satisfied with the decision Ryan made to fake his death – or simply to let it be assumed he died after his fall. While so very sad for him, it did seem the ONLY option to truly keep everyone else out of harms way. He seemed to almost hesitate and go into Mike’s hospital room but then…The End.

    • LK says:

      Glad there was no Joe… the hallucination thing was annoying. They did not know it was a series finale when they were shooting the episode so they left open some threads for the expected next season.

  23. Mike says:

    I gave it a “B”. It would have been an “A” as a season finale, but as a series finale, it left too much open (I know they couldn’t have foreseen the big decline in ratings from season two, so I don’t blame them for leaving it open – they expected it to return).

  24. Wendell says:

    Really disappointed in Fox. The Following was one of the better shows on TV and I know the ratings weren’t there to keep it going but they could have given a real SERIES ending instead of leaving it wide open. Things like this make it hard to get invested in a new show because the networks will cancel it at anytime and never create a decent ending.

  25. kerra says:

    xfiles is coming back this year

  26. Marcella Respini says:

    Compelling viewing and im curious where it goes next if Ryan has to stay alone work under ground

  27. Dan says:

    Sorry guys but this was one of the worst episodes of any tv series ever, let alone a finale show! We were sat there open mouthed at the ridiculousness of it all.
    Where do I start? Theo getting shot right through the head and still gets up and throws Ryan over the bridge!?
    Theo the ‘super hacker’ best in the world hacking a mobile somehow and it’ll upload whatever onto the internet if he’s hurt? Magical
    Max and here super skills finding a car driving down the road that the entire FBI missed whilst she’s at her other halfs bedside, oh and lets not forget its only a day after her last squeeze got killed!
    So disappointed in the whole series but hoped it might pull it back a little for the final

  28. Cheryl says:

    PLEASE make another series it has been a great series and to leave it like that is such a shame

  29. Donna says:

    I agree with others / FOX you Suck

  30. Maria says:

    I’m still confused about Theo, dude got shot in the head but somehow managed to get up and tackle Ryan ? Where they do that at? Lol

  31. Blake Smashington says:

    Are we just going to overlook the fact Theo was shot in the temple, and gets up full of life???

  32. Disappointed in the finale. Knew the end was coming, but there were so many directions they could’ve taken this.

  33. Blah says:

    The finale was just OK. Was disappointed that Mike didn’t die. I think that having either Max, Ryan, or Mike die would have given a better ending. I also agree that Joe not being around was a bummer but I guess that they signaled Joe’s end at the AA meeting.