Kevin Williamsons’ dramatic serial killer drama The Following returns Sunday night with a special preview of Season 2’s “Resurrection” following the NFC Championship Game, after which it’ll resume January 27, taking up residence in its regular timeslot on Monday nights. We took a peek at the season premiere episode and came up with five reasons why fans won't want to miss the first episode of Season 2!

Before we get to that, just a little catch-up on where things left off when Season 1 wrapped up. The first season brought Kevin Bacon’s Ryan Hardy out of retirement to track serial killer and cult leader Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) after he escaped from police custody. Joe’s influence proves to be particularly useful in rallying a devoted following of emotionally vulnerable (and occasionally melodramatic) young and pretty followers who are willing to do anything for their leader including kill or die. As you may recall, the first season ended with Joe Carroll presumably dead, having gotten blowed up or burned to death in a fire. Meanwhile — cliffhanger — Ryan’s neighbor Molly surprised Ryan and Claire during the final moments of the episode and went on a stabbing spree, attacking both Ryan and Claire. Where does Season 2 pick up? Read on and rest assured, there are no major spoilers ahead.

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Ryan Hardy is a man on a mission.
Season 2 begins by immediately addressing what happened to Ryan and Claire, after which we jump a year into the future to find Ryan Hardy doing his own thing. He’s teaching a college class and he seems to have distanced himself from the FBI or anything related to Joe Carroll. Between a flashback and some of the events in the episode, “Resurrection” fills us in a bit on what’s going in with Ryan now. But has he really moved on from Joe Carroll? Given how connected Carroll was, it seems only fair to entertain the thought that maybe — just maybe — he’s not as dead as he wants people to believe. Ryan is presenting himself as a man who’s moved on from the whole ordeal, but he hasn’t entirely given up his suspicions that his nemesis may still be out there and that his followers may still be active. Running a bit solo, and not necessarily within the bounds of the law brings a new layer of unpredictability to Hardy, which I think could be a great thing.
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The Carrollers are a’Carrolling.
The question of whether or not Joe is actually dead is addressed pretty openly in the first episode. What’s more, it becomes apparent early on that there are definitely Carroll followers out there, once again, up to no good. The Edgar Allan Poe masks have been exchanged for creepy Joe Carroll masks, which these followers wear when carrying out a pretty horrific attack on a bunch of subway passengers. Yeah, remember how sometimes this show gets crazy violent? There’s a little bit of that in the season premiere. All things considered, it’s not the most out-there-violent thing the series has featured -- I'm not sure much will top the chills-inducing sight of that girl killing herself in the series premiere -- but it’s pretty disturbing and it serves as a nice reminder that Joe Carroll’s followers are terrible, violent and frighteningly motivated.
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Sam Underwood is deliciously creepy.
We learned last summer that Dexter creeper Sam Underwood would be creeping it up in the second season of The Following, and wow, does he ever. It’s evident from the first episode of Season 2 that Underwood's role is layered, in a vulnerable, dark, lethally dangerous and darkly charismatic kind of way, which is certainly fitting for someone involved with Joe Carroll's following. As you’ll see in “Resurrection,” there’s more to Underwood’s role than initially meets the eye. And remember how Jacob was all uncertain and conflicted? Yeah, not this guy.

Underwood isn’t the only newcomer to the series. Also joining the cast are Tiffany Boone, who plays Mandy, a character with associations with one of the returning characters. Jessica Stroup, meanwhile, plays Max Hardy, Ryan’s niece, who also happens to have some law enforcement connections, which prove particularly useful. And then there’s Connie Nielsen, who plays Lily, a woman unfortunate enough to be on the subway when the Carrollers come a’Carrolling. So expect some new faces in Season 2.
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Familiar characters are back in action…
Among the supporting cast, returners Shawn Ashmore and Valorie Curry are both back in the second season premiere. Ashmore’s Mike Weston is convinced that Joe’s followers are planning something big for the one-year anniversary of his death. I’ve said it numerous times before and I’ll say it again, I don’t trust Mike Weston. I think he’s a prime candidate to be a super-secret follower of Joe Carroll, planted at the FBI, possibly for the specific purpose of spying on or manipulating Ryan Hardy on behalf of Joe. That’s just a theory, and there’s nothing in the Season 2 premiere that hints that I'm on the right track, but I still find myself watching him with that suspicion in mind.

Meanwhile, Valorie Curry returns to her role as Emma, one of Joe’s most devoted followers. What’s she up to in Season 2? Honestly, not a whole lot, at least not by comparison to the activity we see among some of Joe’s other followers, but it’s evident she hasn’t abandoned her devotion to Joe, so it’ll be interesting to see what kind of trouble she gets up to this season.
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The Following is back. But is Joe Carroll?
The question of whether or not Joe really is dead is answered during the first episode. So one way or another, you’ll know. While Joe is at the center of everything, the draw of the series comes from what surrounds him, which is mainly the investigation and the FBI’s efforts to get a grip on the ever-expanding situation, and Joe’s followers, who obviously aren’t the most balanced and mentally healthy people. The fact that they’re willing to do some of the things they do for Joe is evidence enough of that. Their emotional vulnerability and instability breeds violence and melodrama, which — let’s face it — is where The Following lives. But that’s part of the package, as is the psychological thriller element, especially when we consider that Ryan Hardy has his own emotional issues to deal with. In his own way, Ryan’s also a Joe Carroll follower with an interest that borders on obsession and motives that are probably more personal than they are professional, understandably so.

The Following rarely aims for subtlety, but it does aspire to draw viewers into all of the mystery, violence and drama surrounding a serial killer, his followers and the law enforcers pursuing them, and in that respect, it succeeded in its first season. The second season is shaping up to do the same, bringing us a bit further into the story while also freshening up the cast a bit and putting Bacon’s Ryan Hardy in a slightly different position this time around, which actually makes him more of an interesting character.

The start of Season 2 doesn't quite measure up to the jaw-dropping start of the series last year, but there's definite potential for an entertaining season if things head in the right direction. While I’ve only seen one episode, the second season of The Following seems poised to deliver some of the thrilling, suspenseful drama viewers came to know and love in Season 1, throwing some great little twists into its first episode and teasing more to come in the season ahead.



The Following returns with a special preview this Sunday night (January 19) at around 10:30 p.m. ET after the NFC Championship Game on Fox, after which the series will resume airing in its usual timeslot starting Monday, January 27 at 9:00 p.m. ET.

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