Post Mortems

Following's James Purefoy Debunks 'Joe's Alive' Theories: 'No, He Died'

The Following James Purefoy Joe Carroll Death

Live by the shocking death, die by the… well, you get the point.

Even though Fox’s The Following had — for the better part of a season — told us that convicted serial murderer Joe Carroll would meet his end via lethal injection, the character’s exit in Monday’s episode still came as a jolt to the Following faithful.

After all, he’d cheated a near-certain ending at least once before, right?

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“For the first time, The Following actually did what they said,” James Purefoy tells TVLine, chuckling. He’s calling from Baton Rouge, La., where he’s just begun shooting Sundance’s upcoming Hap and Leonard. “They didn’t pull the rug out from underneath you and do something unexpected. They said, “He’s dying — and he really is gonna die.’ I think a lot of people thought they were lying. No, no; he died.”

For those who missed the episode, on the morning of Joe’s scheduled execution, he combined a convenient shiv with a momentary distraction to create a situation where three people’s lives were at stake — unless Ryan Hardy acquiesced and went to the prison to witness Joe’s last moments.

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Of course Ryan did, and of course Joe made him submit to some deep psychological digging. (Hardy even admitted to being satisfied by the act of killing his father’s murderer and the man who ended former FBI boss Debra Parker’s life.)

Finally, Joe released the hostages and surrendered to authorities, who went through with plans to put him out of cunning commission for good. His final words were a quote from his beloved Edgar Allan Poe: “Quoth the raven, ‘Nevermore.'” (And if you want a more detailed rundown of events, check out our episode recap.)

Purefoy says he knew about his character’s imminent end “all the way through” this season, which meant he often had to lie when asked about what was coming up.

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“I’m not a politician,” he says, laughing. “Nothing really matters that comes out of my mouth. I can do that.”

The actor cites last week’s episode as one of his favorites from the series’ run, particularly for the way it allowed the longstanding Joe-Ryan dynamic to play out.

“It becomes a very textualized and multileveled relationship, which is such a lovely thing as actors and particularly with the legend that is Kevin Bacon who never once blocked or pushed away anything that was uncomfortable or weird or strange,” Purefoy says. “He accepted and embraced everything with an open heart and an open mind.”

Those who have seen the thriller’s alternate Season 2 ending, which never aired, know that Joe also died in that version of events — though being cut down by a bullet from Mark’s gun left little time for the prolific serial killer to utter any last words.

Or did it?

The Following James Purefoy Joe Caroll Death“Actually, there were final words” in that scene, Purefoy says. “They just chose not to include my improvisation.”

Naturally, we demanded to know what Alternate Ending Joe had said to Ryan, whose hand he clutched as he shuffled off this mortal coil.

“I think it was something with Ryan looking into my eyes, because Joe has an obsession with what’s going on in people’s eyes as they’re dying, because he believe that to be a great thing of beauty,” Purefoy recalls. “I think my final words were” — and here he lapses into a dramatic whisper, “‘Ryan! Can you see it? Can you see it?'” that ends in a laugh. “I think he would have been curious to see whether Ryan could’ve seen what he could see when he saw people die.”

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This time around, Carroll went on to meet his maker with no improv on Purefoy’s part. “That was all scripted, and it was very fitting,” he says. “I’m not sure it could’ve been much better than that.”

And Joe’s appearance in Ryan’s vision at the end of last week’s hour might be a harbinger for the season’s final two episodes, Purefoy teases: “I think [Joe] might be making a little appearance, once or twice.”

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68 Comments
  1. wrstlgirl says:

    It was time. If the show is renewed for another season they already have a great villain in Theo. Love Michael Ealy.

  2. GuessWhat says:

    yeah, just like he came back from “the dead” after season 1’s finale
    it’s like soap opera deaths — never a sure thing
    boring!

  3. alexjones says:

    This show isn’t going to be the same without joe, Theo just dosen’t live up to him i’m afraid.

    • Ali says:

      Agreed! That’s what happens when you create the perfect combination from the start….James Purefoy’s chemistry with Kevin Bacon will never be matched. And frankly, I don’t think anyone else will capture my interest as much as James Purefoy.

      • Pamela Z. Crutcher says:

        Ditto here! Joe and Ryan’s chemistry will never be matched. I have SO enjoyed watching the two of them. James Purefoy, I sure will MISS YOU!!

  4. justsc11 says:

    I watch the show for Ryan & Joe. Not for Theo. I’m furious. They had the perfect ensemble & villian. They just ruined the best show on TV.

    • Teresa says:

      Yes they did. Goodbye Following.

    • Blue_Sky_519 says:

      Listen, I enjoy the Following and all, but if you really think this is the BEST show on TV, you don’t watch nearly enough TV

      • wrstlgirl says:

        LMFAO, no doubt. This show has been struggling since season two. I’ll be shocked if it gets renewed and it won’t be because of them killing off Joe Carroll. Last season was heavy Joe and it sucked, but I still watched because I love Kevin Bacon and Shawn Ashmore :-)

    • Will says:

      I couldn’t agree more with you if Joe did indeed die. However, the article did say that James Purefoy had to lie when asked questions about this season regarding his “death”. Who says he’s not still lying to us? There’s always hope for a Joe comeback next season. At least they better bring him back, or they can kiss their ratings goodbye!

  5. Karen Christopherson says:

    Thanks for the wonderful job you did playing Joe. You were marvelous!

  6. justsc11 says:

    Purefoy was born for this role. Killing him off was an epic disaster.

  7. JJ says:

    No Joe No Show.

  8. luz fans from the first chapter says:

    No Joe Carroll No Show No Followers

  9. Jenifer Wilson says:

    Best villain of all time! Show won’t be the same. No renewals please! Just a dramatic ending! Makes me sad…

  10. it wont b thr says:

    It wont b the same i dont even want to watch it anymore. What were the writers thinking no joe no show.

  11. tona Braddock says:

    I am done with the show.

  12. Grace Forcier says:

    Joe was an important part of The Following, I only wanted to see him. You can bring him back it is not difficult, at least for 2 or more seasons!!!!!

    • wrstlgirl says:

      I think we’ll be lucky (?) to get one more season let alone two.

      • Will says:

        We aren’t the ones who will be lucky. THEY will be lucky if the show survives without Joe for one more season. I do think he will be back though. I mentioned in a previous post, James Purefoy could still be lying to fans so he doesn’t let a spoiler slip. I’ll hang in to see if he comes back.

        • wrstlgirl says:

          LOL, note the (?) there please. But that aside I’m sure THEY will be just fine. It’s not like they don’t have other options career wise.

  13. Kristine says:

    I think the show is done. Without Joe it’s just not the show it was meant to be. Theo is good but boring and I’m already bored with him. He has no charisma like Joe did. I think I’m done with the show now. I watched for James Purefoy. Sad to see him go.

  14. Cheryl Clark says:

    Gonna miss Joe. Really loved his character. Guess it was a love/hate relationship.

  15. Diane tanner says:

    James Purefoy brought such depth and emotion to the character of Joe Carroll. Every time Joe spoke – whether casually, in anger, or even amusing us with a witty one-liner – he drew you in with his charm and his charisma. Unpredictable and sometimes surprising us with a ‘didn’t see that one coming’ moment, his character could never be accused of being dull or boring. Week after week we would wait with anticipation to see what Joe was going to do next.

    Joe’s execution was heart-wrenching. With Ryan Hardy watching from the viewing room, the chemistry between those two characters was never more intense than it was in those final moments. Ryan always said that Joe’s death would bring him closure, but did it really? Somehow I doubt that it did. I found the death scene extremely hard to watch and I don’t think I’ll ever get over it.

    James Purefoy and Kevin Bacon had amazing on-screen chemistry, and they gave the viewers some of the more entertaining moments from the last three seasons. It would be great to see them work together again in the future.

    Joe’s character is going to be greatly missed. He may live on in Ryan’s dreams and hallucinations, but it won’t be the same as having him ‘really’ there. James Purefoy is an amazingly talented actor, and what he brought to the character of Joe Carroll will never be forgotten. Thank you, James, for giving us one of the most memorable TV characters we have ever had the pleasure to enjoy.

  16. Kelly says:

    I loved James Purefoy’s character as Joe Carroll. This show is not going to be the same without him in it. Theo is getting on my nerves and I do not like his character. I really hope they bring Joe Carroll back otherwise there is no show.

    • Di says:

      I’ve never liked Theo either. I find his character boring and I’m just not interested in his storyline.

  17. EJ says:

    The frigging daytime soaps have caused many viewers to be skeptical of practically any death of anybody. In the British soaps very few characters have been “brought back from the dead.”

  18. Teresa says:

    I am an ex viewer. James was the only reason I tuned in. I stopped this season when they made it clear his role was minimized. Stupid, stupid decision. Show’s ratings have tanked this season as a result. Great way to ruin a good show!!

  19. Audrey says:

    Now that Joe has died so will the following. I will not watch it again. Praise Joe.

    • wrstlgirl says:

      This show has been dying long before the killing of Joe Carroll. Even if they kept him alive for the entire season renewal is iffy.

  20. cabchgirl says:

    SO bummed Joe is gone …. it will certainly NOT be the same … I hope I’m able to stay a devoted without him. I agree that Theo is NOT a replacement … never can anyone compare to Joe’s character … it was a very sad ending and not happy there isn’t a way to bring him back again. :(

  21. Donna Ruth says:

    Well done, sir. Thanks for awesome performances. Will miss you!

  22. Carlos says:

    i an so done with the show after they killed this new guy sucks😁

  23. Pat Fleming says:

    Love the show and loved Joe, but I knew he had to die, although so sad…quote the raven “Never More” !

  24. Tammy Murphy says:

    Never watching again, should have killed them both off and ended the show.

  25. As bad as Joe Carol was I have to admit I was very sad & even cried when he died!

  26. Christina says:

    I loved the show, I was hoping that the doctors were followers and just giving him something until the curtain closed.I will miss him .I think joe has unfinished business with Ryan.

  27. EJ says:

    I hope both Joe and Victoria from Revenge stay dead and are in “another place” wreaking havoc and doing the afterlife version of humping like bunnies.

  28. trishious says:

    I’m a fan of original plots. Hate when things start going all different places and relationships start getting weird or even forming for that matter. Actually kinda happy Joe finally got what was coming. Now finish Theo and end this show. Series finale this time guys, series finale!! Thank you!!

  29. Scamper says:

    Too bad! James Purefoy was the best part of that ludicrous show!

  30. Brannon says:

    Kevin Bacon Is Awesome An The Show Is Great……. I Love the Show……… Joe was Awesome Also……… I hated that They Put Him To Death By injection But Hopefully Something Happened Durin That Little Mount of Time An They Changed Their Mind Cause even Though Kevins Awesome The Shows Not Going to be the same without him……… Rip Joe……. Hopefully Not though….

  31. Next season on the Following: Ryan goes crazy, while Joe lives on in Ryan’s mind, pushing him into being a serial killer!
    They continue on their creepy bromance and James Purefoy stays on the show :)

  32. Karen Whalen says:

    Oh please!!! Say it isn’t so! :( I surely hope he’s in Ryan’s head for a long time and that we actually get to see him! He’s quite easy on the eyes and so entertaining and charming. As evil as his character was, I couldn’t help becoming a “follower”!

  33. jake says:

    the head vision was awesome and i hope they continue it. Reminds me of crichton seeing harvey/scorpius in his head on farscape

  34. Dkh says:

    I have so enjoyed your contribution to this show; you were amazing to watch, and I fell in love with a killer just like so many others did. Thank you!
    To all the “fans” who “will never watch the show again” and who keep saying “no Joe, no show”…….. Really?! How can you discount the amazing Kevin Bacon so quickly? I agree, Ryan and Joe had a rare chemistry, but it was a two-man chemistry, based on some pretty darned good storytelling. Let’s give the writers a chance to tell us another story, and let Kevin Bacon shine on and dazzle us some more. And give Theo and Mark a chance to kill us as well.
    ( but for the record, if they bring Joe back, I won’t complain.)

  35. deathslover says:

    I will miss joe but the fact is that if the following will get another season (which im like alot of ppl and my gutt says it aint going to happen) but we will still see joe in hardys dreams/nightmares. And i think hardy will follow down the road of killing for fun cause i dont think the booze will give him the high he needs

  36. linda says:

    Sorry I liked joe and thought he made the show. Without him not sure I want to watch

  37. Joefan says:

    I still have hopes for Joe to make a comeback…i mean, that death felt staged. He died so quickly, I felt like the camera almost gave you the feeling that he popped the needle out of his arm… Plus they were so quick to pronounce him dead and shut the screen. Wishful thinking I know, but he’s gotten out of these situations so many times… It’s just hard to imagine a plot beyond Joe. Theo is boring to me now. No offense to the actor, I just don’t care for his character.
    No Joe No Show so I’ll just expect them to wrap this up next two episodes and call it a day…

  38. irene says:

    I hope he comes back a lot since his presence on the show was the show. If you write him out totally what will become of the Following. If theo takes over he is just too creepy for me. Joe had a comical, calm way about him that attracted us to him!!

  39. Linda says:

    Theres NO Following without Joe. And i mean that literally. . I was devastated to joe die. Ryan should have manned up and helped joe escape.. i cant see myself following the Following without its Star..

  40. Linda says:

    There’s no Following without Joe Carroll. Ryan should have manned up and help him escape. .I know one thing for sure I will not be following the Following without its Star. And whole reason for the show.

  41. angry says:

    I’m so upset joe has gone, him and Ryan are the only thing worth watching for. I cried when he died. Such a funny actor love James purefoy. Theo sucks!!!!! Without joe the following is dead.

  42. Lesley says:

    I wished and I hoped that Joe Carroll was not dead. But if he must be I hope he lives on in Ryan’s mind. I’m such a fan of both the character and the actor. I can’t imagine not seeing either one on my TV.

  43. What if Joe Carroll is not dead! Has everyone forgotten how resourceful Joe Carroll was/is? Let’s remember that Joe has followers ever where and who is to say one of them was not in the prison and injected him with drug emulating death! Just a thought . . .

  44. Joe and Emmas lovechild says:

    A sad and touching farewell moment. I doubt anyone of the loyal will be able to say the same for the demise of Theo.

    Joe engaged us all, wheather he shocked us or made us smile. lets face the cold hard truth Joe Carrol was not the only one that died on that table. we witnessed the death of the show..

  45. Lisa says:

    This season has not been the same with less joe! The show will lose my viewing and I was a following fanatic! How can they kill off the most loved psychopath ever! He makes the show, how can they reproduce such a great dynamic relationship! Joes character of unphased attitude and smart wit, makes him an irreplaceable character! Boo you writers!

  46. Carol says:

    This show is about following Joe. Without him the show has no meaning.

  47. JC Young says:

    They should never have killed off Joe. James Purefoy was the reason people tuned into the show, not ugly Kevin Bacon who looks like he’s the poster boy for the walking dead! The show is toast now.

  48. Nadia says:

    Honestly, I thought they were going in a different direction. I thought they were going to cancel his execution as part of a deal where he helps Ryan catch Strauss’ serial killers.

  49. Andreia says:

    I regret watching this show now… It was like watching a great movie, you are expecting a great ending, and it failed you. Without Joe, there is no following!!!!! I’m very disappointed!

  50. Johana says:

    I cant believe i cried. How did a serial killers death touch me so much. It was heartbreaking. Tf.