‘The Following’ EP Teases Season 2, Defends Axing Major Characters: ‘That’s the Fun of Storytelling’

The new season of the literal cult thriller has a pretty sweet premiere spot — immediately after the NFC Championship game this Sunday

Fox’s “The Following” returns for Season 2 on Sunday, though the shape it took last year is not the one that fans should expect this time around.

For one, the antagonist of the entire first run, escaped serial killer Joe Carroll (James Purefoy), is presumed dead as a result of the finale’s lighthouse explosion. Don’t believe us? “It’s pretty clear that Joe dies,” executive producer Marcos Siega told TheWrap.

But that doesn’t mean he’s off the show: “Joe is going to be in the second season — part of the fun for us is how we reveal him,” Siega added. And you won’t have to wait long to spot the deceased mass-murderer — or at least his face. A group of killers in Carroll masks bloody up a subway car in the premiere. And being that the episode is titled “Resurrection,” perhaps Carroll will not stay dead for long.

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One main character that fans do not yet know the fate of his Claire Matthews (Natalie Zea) — Carroll’s ex-wife, who had an affair with Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon). Following Season 1’s cliffhanger, which involved an attack on Ryan and Claire, the Fox thriller elects to take a left turn this run. Siega said that story wise it is “completely different” this time around. He also added the phrase “totally different,” in case fans need more convincing to stay with the show.

Season 1 of “The Following” surrounded — and was obsessed with — the hunt for Carroll and the recurring “We have to save Joey!” (his son) plotline — something that will not be repeated this time around, Siega assures.

Episode 1 of Season 2 catches viewers up on the happenings of Hardy — who is now sober, healthy and seemingly a regular everyday civilian — but adds far more questions than it answers. Siega says some questions, including those about cult members from last year, will be revealed as early as the second episode — which airs the night after the debut.

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The show is a bloody mess by network TV standards — with several murders in both last year’s finale and this one’s opener. As a result, Siega and his fellow exec producers have gotten some flack from both the media and viewers — but he told TheWrap Fox is not concerned. “I don’t ever remember getting a note on the violence or gore,” Siega said. “We live well within the standard and practices of network TV. “

Though he admitted: “It’s hard for me to swallow the criticism sometimes.”

At Monday’s Television Critics Association winter press tour panel, show creator Kevin Williamson told journalists that the intention was never to be gratuitous, simply to set tonality and move the story forward.

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So why does “The Following” seem to push the envelope more than its contemporary procedurals? Siega believes that he can pinpoint the reason for the fan feedback: “The Following” kills off characters that viewers care about. “That’s the fun of storytelling — you get someone invested, someone involved [and then kill them off],” he said.

Sounds like a foreshadowing formula for Season 2, though Williamson swears that this year is less violent than the past one — after the opening episode at least.

“The Following” Season 2 will premiere after Fox’s broadcast of Sunday’s NFC Championship Game.