Depending on your point of view, The Following can be two things. It can be a nihilistic blood bath whose point is to make you paranoid of just about everyone around you, or it can be a social commentary on our violent-obsessed culture. Honestly, it's probably somewhere in between — and I'm not afraid to admit that I'm totally onboard for Kevin Williamson's craziest show to date.
For those who haven't watched The Following, the show is about an FBI agent named Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon, woot!) who must track down Poe-obsessed lit-professor-turned-serial-killer Joe Carroll (James Purefoy). Unfortunately for Ryan, Joe's special brand of British charm has allowed him to recruit other serial killers and create a massive killer cult that hangs on his every word.
Joe Carroll and his cult is a gigantic metaphor for the way our society glorifies violence and the show typically focuses on the cult making a spectacle out of their murders. It's not surprising then that The Following itself acts as a similar metaphor by giving us an inside look at not only Ryan Hardy's quest for justice but at the warped minds of the charming, attractive, and seriously deluded killers within Joe Caroll's cult. Yeah, these killers are basically just a bunch of Ted Bundy's running around and terrorizing everybody, and somehow that allows us to become even more interested in their stories.
Though the show kills characters off almost as frequently and arbitrarily as The Vampire Diaries — another Williamson show — it still manages to pack in some creepily hot serial killers. Is the point to illustrate the glory of violence, or just for audiences to ogle these sexy serial killers? And does that make us believe that the violence is sexy?
Whatever your take on the issue, here are 8 evil characters on the show who somehow manage to charm us every episode.
Joe Carroll (James Purefoy)
Let’s start at the top of the chain, shall we? Back when Joe was just a professor and NOT a crazed serial killer maniac, his students hung on every English-accented word of his lectures, even though his analysis of Edgar Allan Poe was about as advanced as your 9th grade English class. Even though Joe killed several of the female students that had crushes on him, Joe still received lots and lots of fan mail from single women looking to “reform” him — which he took one of them up on this season. But reform him his new lady friend did not, and he had her killed as well. Because no matter how hot the accent, a serial killer can never completely clean the blood off his hands.
Paul Torres (Adan Canto)
That face is definitely swoon-worthy, which is unfortunate. Paul and his stubble worked closely with Jacob and Emma in order to plan the kidnap of Joe Carroll’s son, and ended up getting involved in a steamy love triangle between Jacob and Emma. (For the record, it went: Paul-Jacob-Emma. Paul did not really like Emma.) But though his feelings for Jacob were true, he was just as blood thirsty as the rest of the gang and killed several innocent people in order to honor Joe. When he told Jacob to kill him as he lay dying in order for Jacob to get in his first real kill, well, we almost forgot that he was such a bad guy. Except then we remembered, yeah… he’s a bad guy.
Emma Hill (Valerie Curry)
Just because you can rock a pixie cut and bold eyeliner does not mean that you aren’t a verified psychopath. Emma is probably the most hardcore Joe-worshipper and his right hand lady, making her easy to hate. Of course Emma is seriously messed up, but that doesn’t stop us from half-rooting that she’ll find love with her new serial killer friend Mark. (But seriously, should we be rooting for serial killer love?!)
Jacob Wells (Nico Tortorella)
Another serial killer with a secret heart, Jacob joined Joe’s cult because he didn’t want to be a doctor. (Umm, okay. Clearly this kid wanted to be an English major in college and was rebelling against his family for encouraging him on a more practical path.) Jacob was very much in love with fellow cult member Emma, but couldn’t do the whole cult thing anymore. When he told Emma he was out, she was like, “Okay, bye!” and then stabbed him to death. Jacob probably deserves the most sympathy (obviously a very loose term) because he spent years in a serial killer cult without ever having murdered anybody at all. While I don’t know too many people who would want to fake their way into a group of murderers, Jacob’s was still super complacent in the cult’s activities and is definitely a bad dude. (RIP, we guess.)
Roderick (Warren Kole)
Is it just me, or does Roderick totally look like Aaron Tveit? Either way, this guy was a jerk who murdered teenage girls in the same manner as Joe in order for him to remain blameless. Joe took him on as second-in-command of the cult, but things went sour (because things will ALWAYS go sour in a cult situation) and Joe’s other followers killed him. Good looks can only get you so far, Roderick.
Mark (Sam Underwood)
The “nicer” half of the serial killer twins. You can tell that he’s the nice one because his hair is flipped down rather than slicked back like his brother. He murdered his neighbor and spent the rest of the day hanging out in her apartment, talking to her like he didn’t just strangle her to death. There is definitely some romantic feelings happening between Mark and Emma, even though Mark made it pretty clear that he is a sociopath due to his lack of comprehension of fear.
Luke (Sam Underwood)
Luke, the “alpha” of the twins, looks like someone who watched American Psycho one too many times and decided to base his entire future off of Patrick Bateman. I’m half talking about him being a serial killer and half talking about his slicked back hair.
Lily Gray (Connie Nielsen)
The introduction of Lily Gray was basically just one more way to kick Ryan Hardy when he was down. Lily flirted with the still-grieving Ryan Hardy (his ex-girlfriend, a follower of Joe Carroll’s, killed the love of his life, Claire) and pretended to be the lone surviving victim of a horrible subway car attack. Though this angelic face may seem sweet, we learned this week that she’s actually the cold-blooded killer momma of Luke and Mark.