'The Following' Season 2 premiere: How did Joe Carroll survive?

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Executive producer Kevin Williamson warned us that "The Following" Season 2 would look different, and he wasn't lying. The special preview episode that aired on Sunday (Jan. 19) was unlike anything we've seen from the FOX serial killer thriller.

With a ton of new characters (hello, Sam Underwood pulling double duty as the world's creepiest set of twins ever), new situations (Ryan Hardy's a vigilante?) and new alliances (Ryan and his niece Max vs. the FBI), Season 2 was officially reset.

And we loved every dark, creepy, scary and shocking minute of it.

But the biggest question on our minds after watching "Resurrection" is what is Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) up to? In the last minute of the premiere, it was revealed that the serial killer and cult leader was alive and well one year after the Havenport tragedy, hiding out in some backwoods cabin with a prostitute (Carrie Preston) and a teen (Tiffany Boone), rocking some serious facial hair and going by the name Daryl. 

We finally found out that he survived the Season 1 finale fire by jumping into the water and swimming to the beach after the lighthouse exploded, where a follower named Carlos picked him up. While driving away, they came across a roadblock set up by the police, so Joe got out of the car and none of his followers have seen him since. What has he been up to in his backwoods hideout? Is he going to come out of hiding now that his followers have committed a gruesome mass murder in his name (and while wearing masks of his face)?

If Joe does come out of hiding, one follower who would have mixed emotions about him being alive would be Emma (Valorie Curry). She's clearly had a rough year hiding from the FBI, and she wasn't even in the know about the subway murder or that Joe is actually alive. While she'd gladly accept him back into her life, she'll be more than a little pissed about him abandoning her. And by the looks of her new style -- facial piercings, purple mohawk, dark makeup, and a preference for black clothing -- pissing her off is not something anyone would want to do.

On the other hand, Ryan (Kevin Bacon) hasn't accepted the fact that Joe "died" like the public does. On the surface, it looks like he's healed from the attack in his apartment a year ago and moved on from Claire's death. He's in a new apartment and teaching forensics and criminology college course. He knows little Joey is safe with his grandma in witness protection. But in reality, it's all a front. Sure, he's not drinking (after a short bout off the wagon a few months after Claire's death), he's attending his meetings, he's running without putting his heart at risk, and he's even keeping his distance from the FBI investigation into the subway murders. 

But that's all because he's obsessed with hunting down Joe and getting revenge on his own, without the red tape of the law getting in his way. He's teaming up with his niece Max Hardy (Jessica Stroup), using her NYC police connections to research Joe's remaining followers. He almost catches Carlos, too (and narrowly missed running into Emma), and he didn't hold back in beating the guy up. Season 2's Ryan is clearly going to be much darker than Season 1's, especially since he now knows for sure that Joe is still alive.

And that's a shame, since Mike Weston (Shawn Ashmore) is in need of his mentor in a big way. Over the past year he's been beating himself up over the death of Debra Parker and how Ryan shot that follower point blank after failing to save her, and when Ryan refuses to join the FBI task force and pushes Mike away, he clearly takes it personally. While Ryan has good intentions in distancing himself from Mike -- he doesn't want to drag the young agent down with him as he travels the dark path of revenge -- Williamson notes that Mike's only going to get worse as Season 2 moves forward. 

And we need to talk about Luke. He seemed harmless at first -- a cute guy trading flirting glances with a girl, until it became clear he was stalking her. Cut to: the two of them lying naked in her bed. He's whispering sweet nothings in her ear with a smile on his face. But she's dead. He keeps a conversation going with her all day, making a meal in her kitchen, showering in her apartment, singing to her and dancing with her corpse, dressing her up in a white dress and putting on her makeup. And then ...

His twin Mark hops out of the shower to help him with the corpse. What?! Twice the creepy, and twice the crazy. These homicidal, gleefully psychotic twins are a force to be reckoned with and are completely unpredictable. We have a feeling they're going to inject some much-needed fresh blood into Season 2, especially with the way they staged the girl's corpse in the park to be found all in the vein of Joe's old murders. What is their deal?

So what did you think of the new and improved "The Following?" After "Resurrection," the FOX series moves to its permanent timeslot with a two-hour episode at 9 p.m. ET Monday, Jan. 27.

Photo/Video credit: FOX