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The Following Season 3: How Joe Carroll (Finally) Died

The Following season 3 finally brought Joe Carroll's reign of terror to an end. Horror went through something of a dry spell in the early 1990s until Scream helped revive the genre with its meta-humor and suspenseful setpieces. Director Wes Craven had utilized a meta tone for his 1994 movie New Nightmare, but it was screenwriter Kevin Williamson who crafted most of Scream's iconic moments, including the shocking opening scene. Scream's success inspired many imitators, including I Know What You Did Last Summer, Urban Legend and many others.

Williamson would have a run of successes in the late 1990s, including Scream 2, The Faculty and TV series Dawson's Creek, which was partly based on his own life. He also had a hand in Halloween: H20 in 1998. His career hit something of a rocky patch following the messy production of Cursed, which reunited him with Wes Craven but proved to be a box-office dud. He bounced back with CW's The Vampire Diaries, which ran for eight seasons. He also returned to pen Scream 4 in 2011, which has spawned a cult following of its own in recent years.

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Kevin Williamson was too busy to write Scream 3 when the sequel went into production, but one of his earliest concepts involved a cult of killers, which is an idea he recycled for his TV series The Following. The basic setup of The Following involves FBI agent Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon, Tremors) trying to capture escaped serial killer Joe Carroll (James Purefoy), who has amassed a cult of vicious killers around him.

the following joe carroll james purefoy

The Following soon became infamous for its bloodthirsty approach to storytelling, with key supporting characters being bumped off with alarming regularity. While Carroll was an undeniable monster, Purefoy's charismatic turn still made him a fan favorite, and he formed something of a Hannibal/Will Graham style relationship with Bacon's Ryan Hardy. The Following showed Carroll's death in season 2 - only to reveal it was an elaborate fakeout.

Joe wasn't so lucky in The Following season 3, where he starts the series on death row. Episode 10 "Evermore" features Joe's day of execution, but he manages to take hostages with a custom skank. He gets Hardy to confess that he likes killing and feels power from the act, and Joe then surrenders to his fate. Nothing is ever that easy on The Following, with serial killer Theo (Michael Eary, Jacob's Ladder) later unlocking death row inmates, starting a bloody riot. Ryan still manages to save the day, with Joe's eventual execution by lethal injection being somewhat understated, as Ryan tearfully looks on while he passes.

Ryan still dreams about Joe in later episodes of The Following and while its possible Joe somehow faked it - which wouldn't even be the most ludicrous twist the show has pulled - he seemed pretty dead by the end of the episode. If the series had survived beyond season 3 Joe almost certainly would have returned in some form, but "Evermore" proved a fitting farewell to the diabolical killer.

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