The Following season finale was thoroughly exciting and fresh, as every single thing that fans knew, loved and expected from the show, turned on its head. FOX serial killer thriller brought an unexpected twist, when Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) and Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) teamed up to save Claire Matthews (Natalie Zea). It was all about Hardy versus Carroll again.
Previous episode left fans wondering if Mike Weston (Shawn Ashmore) was Joe’s latest fatality, since the last thing they heard, was a gunshot echoing through the church. As the season finale began, it became clear that Mike is not the one who Carroll kills. Saying that he cannot hear his own thoughts because of Kingston Tanner’s son crying, Joe kills him. In the meantime, Claire is taken hostage by the twins, Mark and Luke (Sam Underwood), who call Ryan, demanding Joe in exchange for her. Weston pleas Hardy to kill Carroll once and for all and after he provides the FBI agents an access to the church, Ryan finally shows himself to Joe.
After instructing Max Hardy (Jessica Stroup) to wait outside, Ryan cuts the audio feeds at the church and shockingly offers Joe an escape route, but only if he helps saving Claire. And here comes the first twist in The Following season finale, as Ryan Hardy and Joe Carroll team up in order to save the woman that they both love. An odd bro-mantic scene happens, as Hardy slings Carroll’s arm over his shoulder to sneak him out of the church. While they are driving to Claire’s location, Joe tries to develop a conversation with Ryan, saying that he only wanted to live in infamous glory, which he has probably accomplished. Admitting that Ryan and Claire have a special connection, Joe says that when he dies, he wishes for the couple to live happily ever after. As Carroll is telling Hardy that he hopes his death brings him the salvation he seeks, the second twist comes, as one of the Joe’s followers crashes into Ryan’s car. An unexpected thing happens when Carroll kills his follower and goes on to save Hardy. Calling him an ‘old friend’, Joe pulls Ryan out of the crashed car.
Once they arrive at the twin’s hideout, Ryan and Joe find invitations to enter. They find themselves in a room, wallpapered with Joe Carroll’s pictures, newspaper articles and creepy masks. It is refreshing to see the two of them working together for a common cause and even helping each other at certain moments. When they hear Claire screaming, Ryan and Joe run in hurry to save her, but it turns out to be a trap. As soon as they untie her, the twins gas the room. Ryan, Joe and Claire end up tied to a chair and game time begins for the twins.
During a violent game of truth, Carroll finds out that his ex-wife killed his beloved Emma Hill (Valorie Curry). When the tables turn on to Joe, the twins tell him that everything he did, was an ‘epic fail’ and want him to apologize for betraying their mother, Lily Gray (Connie Nielsen). Mark and Luke are forcing Ryan and Joe to speak about their biggest demons and surprisingly, a lot of truth comes out. As the twins tell Hardy, that it is the height of the irony that he became the man he hates and is no better than the killers he hunts, Ryan admits that he is not a good person. The kicker comes, as Joe says that Ryan killed far more people than he did and then reveals Hardy’s deepest secret. All because of a tragic event in his childhood, Ryan has been on a life-long killing spree. When Hardy was 17 years old, his father was killed. Ryan then tracked down the killer and murdered him. Joe reveals that Ryan is probably so fixated on him, because he has been seeking redemption ever since he killed the man, who was responsible for the death of his father. Hardy wants to be forgiven, but he says that this is not possible and believes that he can never be truly good.
Game time is over when Mike and Max come to the rescue. During a series of gun fires, Luke grabs Claire, Mike runs after Mark and Joe runs away. When Luke tries to lock Claire into a closet, she fights back and escapes. Mike finds Mark and tells him that he is the one, who actually killed Lily, not Ryan. Luke comes into the room just in time to hear, who their mother’s real killer is. He just starts hitting Mike, when Max comes in and kills him. Mark drags his brother’s body out of the room and escapes. Joe finds his ex-wife, apologizes for everything he has done and begs for her forgiveness. Ryan comes in the nick of time, as Joe gets very mad because Claire refuses to forgive him. Mike, Max and Ryan surround Joe, who tells Hardy to kill him. After some intense moments of waiting for Ryan’s decision, he puts the gun down and decides not to kill Joe.
As Hardy turns Carroll over to the police, Weston asks him why he let Joe live. Ryan answers that this needs to end. The police walk Carroll out in chains and he tells Hardy to come and visit him in prison. Ryan replies that he will not, as Joe is now a part of the past and will rot in jail. Mark successfully escapes and the police fail to locate him, neither do they find Luke’s body. Ryan approaches Claire and tries to keep their romance going, but she ends it, saying that they both need to move on with their lives separately, as she is a part of his past and he has to build a future for himself. Despite the fact that one love story obviously ended, another one has finally began to develop. Mike makes a great romantic gesture and kisses Max.
As The Following main villain, Joe Carroll, is finally arrested, the case seems to be closed. Ryan gets himself some takeout and the viewers waited with tension to see what terrible side that food came with. Luckily for Hardy, nothing happens, so he finished his dinner and goes to bed. As he falls asleep, Ryan finds himself in a nightmare of Joe’s bloody body in his bed and Mark warning him with a creepy voice: “You are a dead man, Ryan Hardy.”
The Following ends with Mark putting his brother’s dead body into an awaiting car, driven by an unknown person. “Thank you for coming, I did not know who else to call,” Mark says as the car drives away. Who was driving that car? Is there someone who the views have yet to meet? Did Ryan dream about some parts of the episode in season 3? Is Joe’s story over for good? The season ended in the most unexpected way and the finale left a lot of questions.
During the season finale, The Following viewers felt right and comfortable while watching Ryan sling Joe’s arm over his shoulder to help him escape from the church, hearing Carroll call Hardy an ‘old friend’ while helping him after the car accident and seeing them teamed up in order to save Claire. Regardless of the fact that the new alliance was great to watch, the relationship between Ryan and Joe became so co-dependent, that the fans were not shocked at all to see them as allies or friends, even though they were an unconditional enemies throughout the two full seasons. At the top of all that, Hardy and Carroll were able to put aside all of their history, while working together like there was never any bad blood between the two of them. The fact that Mark is still alive out there, leaves a great loose end and an opportunity for the delightfully creepy twin to return in the season 3.
Recap by Janette Verdnik