- " Don't blame yourself for my actions. Those victims were mine!"
- ―Joe to Claire[src]
Professor Joseph "Joe" Carroll was the Main Antagonist of The Following. Joe was a diabolical serial killer responsible for the Virginia Campus Murders which claimed the lives of 14 women and later created a cult of serial killers known as The Followers. He was an extremely intelligent and resourceful man, organizing his successful escape from the Virginia Central Penitentiary and manipulated the events (even failures in his plan) to insure his success (or at the very least, survival).
He was considered the Arch-Nemesis of former FBI Agent Ryan Hardy, who was the man that finally tracked him down and orchestrated his original capture. Since his imprisonment, he knew of Hardy's growing attachment to his ex-wife Claire Matthews and grew resentment over that fact. However, he used it as fuel to inact his "novel" with Ryan as the hero leading to a climax he planned out. Unfortunately, Ryan surprised him at several turns and his story did not turn out exactly as planned, thus leading to his defeat at the end of Season 1.
In Season 2, he sought refuge in a religious cult camp known as Korban, led by Micah and his wife Julia. While he gained many, if not all, of the followers at Korban, he still maintained one of his own, the ever loyal Emma Hill. After manipulating Micah into allowing him to send a message of his own existence to the world and being allowed to kill Julia, Micah himself fell to the same poison he used on his followers as Joe rose to the mantel of the cult, becoming "The Prophet" that would lead them to "salvation".
Joe was later captured by the FBI and put to death by lethal injection.
Born and raised in London, he moved to the United States where he studied and became a professor of literature.
While attending the Lightford Academy, a 17 year old Joe Carroll attended this school, was taught under Dr. Arthur Strauss. Carroll, like others before and after him, became a "student" of his...more so than just on an academic level. He tutored the youth on how to remove eyes with precision from his victims but also states that Joe wasn't even his "best student". This is lamented later with Joe's insistent need for attention from his murders, where Strauss believed it should be done quietly, unnoticed.
Strauss takes Joe to the surgical room in his house, where a young female had recently died in surgery. He allows Joe to touch her if he wishes, where he places his hand on her chest and Strauss mentions the powerful feeling of his own heart beating while hers does not. He asks Joe how it would feel to be the one to still that heart and Joe says that killing is wrong, even quoting the bible in his statement. His mentor informs him that's simply to control the masses but he and Joe are not common people...thus showing that Strauss was the one who told Joe "it was ok to kill".
2003EditHe taught literature at Winslow University, emphasizing the Romantic Period, with which he was obsessed. His lectures focused on writers such as Thoreau, Emerson, and his favorite and idol, Edgar Allan Poe. In 2003 he published his first and only novel, The Gothic Sea, which was inspired by Poe's last and unfinished work, The Light-House (according to Claire he fancied himself as Poe and that his novel was his way of finishing what Poe began in his unfinished work). However, it was a flop commercially and critically (though some of his followers loved it, including Emma) this angered him and caused him to begin murdering female students.
Like Poe, Joe believed in the "insanity of art" and that it needed to be physically and emotionally "felt". He began to create his own form of art - eviscerating college girls. He gouged out their eyes as a tribute to some of his favorite works of Poe: The Telltale Heart and The Black Cat--because Poe believed the eyes were one's identity, the windows into one's soul. He remarked during one of his lectures, in which Sarah Fuller was present, that Poe equates death with beauty, because, as Sarah responded, nothing was more beautiful than the death of a beautiful woman.
One night, Joe waited for Sarah and her roommate to return so that he could kill them. He only managed to kill Sarah's roommate, Annie because she screamed and Ryan Hardy, who had been following him, broke into the house and saved her. Carroll then stabbed Ryan in the chest (which would create the need to have a pacemaker in his chest for the rest of his life) but was shot from behind and later apprehended by the FBI. ("Pilot")
Because Joe was in prison, Claire demanded and received a divorce and full custody of Joey, which left Joe very angry. Over the years, Joe was visited by numerous followers, including Christopher Byrd, Rick, Maggie, Emma, Jacob, Roderick, Charlie, and Molly, all of whom showed their loyalties to Joe and willingness to be a part of his cult. Over the next nine years, Joe plotted his revenge against Ryan Hardy, having discovered of his romantic relationship with his ex-wife. Joe swore he'd make Ryan suffer. Jordy, a prison guard who was a part of Joe's cult, gave Joe unlimited internet access to make a website. This site was used to recruit a group of followers who would bend to his will. Charlie Mead, a former military cyber-spy, created the website and through the site, Joe instructed he and Emma to watch over Claire, and Jacob and Paul watch over Sarah so he could "finish what he started".
In 2010, after he was denied further legal services from his lawyer, Olivia Warren, Joe sent Henry Flynn to cut off the ring finger and little finger of her left hand as a threat and to force her to do his bidding as the need arose.
Before Joe planned his escape, he sent a letter to Claire with questions only she and Ryan would be able to answer. Claire then knew that he was aware of her relationship with Ryan.
2013EditJust a few months before he was set to be executed, Joe escaped from the prison in Richmond, Virginia, killing five guards in the process. He set out to take care of unfinished business, finding and killing the one who got away, Sarah Fuller and Krista Byrd. With the help of two of his Followers, Jacob and Paul, who had been posing as a gay couple living next door to her for several years, she was shortly captured and killed. He was later found by Ryan Hardy and arrested again. ("Pilot").
From prison, Joe continued to play games with Ryan. His followers, Emma, Paul, and Jacob kidnapped his own son, Joey, telling Ryan that his "sequel" has just begun. Knowing he won't talk to Ryan about Joey's location, Claire is allowed in the interrogation room and asks Joe where Joey is. Joe ignores her questions and instead asks about his letter he sent, demanding that she tell him if she slept with Ryan. An angered Claire confirms that she willingly slept with Ryan, but advising him that it was after the divorce. She then angrily told Joe that she would never love someone as cruel and slaps him in the face demanding Joey's location. Joe begins to choke her until Ryan and the guards intervene. After the prison guard, Jordy, attempted to kill Claire, Joe admits his satisfaction Ryan in stopped him, but shows disappointment that Jordy is still alive although he knows that Jordy has nothing to offer and will not say anything.
After Joey is located, Joe calls his lawyer, Olivia, and tells her she must do certain things, one of which was giving a televised statement on his behalf; a coded message to Hank Flynn and Charlie Mead with instructions to act. Olivia realizes what she has done and is being asked to do. She tearfully begs Joe to not bring her in this, but he says she can't stop since he recruited her for her intellegence and optimism, saying "we're just getting started".
Once Joe discovers Emma moved Joey away from the farmhouse, he then had Olivia file a motion in 4th Circuit Court regarding his 8th Amendment rights and the necessity of being moved to another institution. Because the pleading had merit as Ryan broke his fingers during interrogation, Joe had a case and was allowed to be transferred to a Federal Prison in Georgia. Joe's escape plan was now in motion; Olivia regrettably plotting with the warden and unnamed Followers. The warden's daughter was kidnapped, so he falsified video of the transit from the prison while Joe his in the trunk of Olivia's car. Hardy discovered the plot by comparing different sally-port exit videos and had the tranport stopped. It was discovered that Joe was not in the vehicle, and the warden, knowing that the plot was discovered, advised Hardy that Carroll's people had his daughter.
Olivia stopped behind a warehouse on East Cary Street in Richmond, Virginia, and let Joe out of the trunk. She gave him a suit to wear instead of his prison jumpsuit. Olivia then drove him to his desired location at which she was forced to call Ryan and tell him that "Joe Carroll is killing me and it's your fault!" She tried to refuse but ultimately, Joe strangled her to death in her own car as Ryan Hardy and Mike Weston listened.
After arriving at an unnamed hotel, Joe's followers meet him to further his escape. Ryan shows up, and Joe, holding him at gunpoint, reveals his growing hatred of Ryan during the nine years he spent in prison. He states his belief that Claire left him because of Ryan. Ryan's offers his life in exchange for Joey's location, but Joe refuses, stating he wants Ryan to suffer until he's satisfied that he has suffered enough. A helicoptor is waiting on the roof to take Joe to his safe house.
Joe arrives at the Bunker for the Followers and has an emotional moment meeting his son during which he begins to cry. Joey acknowledges that he is afraid of his father and does not want to see or speak with him because he is a "bad man". Joe watched him as he slept and tried to prove he was not as bad as people claim. Over time, Joe seems to bond with his son over S'mores and a promise that Joey will see his mother soon. tim promises Joe he will get his wife back. Charlie and several others are dispatched to find her. After the first failed attempt, Charlie says he wants to die as an apology--so his life will mean something. An emotional Joe agrees, stating that he's honored that Charlie would go this far for him. He then kills Charlie with a knife to the gut with the others looking on, crying with him. In a later attempt to get Claire to come out of hiding, he kills two women in the Richmond area with the name "Claire Matthews" because, as he tells Ryan, "love hurts".
Joe, upset over events, allows Emma to seduce him. Emma continues to try to have a relationship with Joe, her feelings clearly showing. Joe finally tells Emma that he loves his wife and refuses to have intercourse with her again.
After several murders and failed attempts, Joe's followers succeed in getting Claire. Joe continued to mock Hardy, who continues to offer his life in exchange for Claire and Joey. Ryan, who insists he wants to quit, is refused the chance because Carroll says that "this is his (Hardy) story", and he wants to see Hardy grow into the man he will become.
Joe is later is greeted by Molly, Ryan's neighbor. She later gives him data on Ryan over the years and film over the times they had sex (when Ryan was drunk and unable to focus), but pushed her away due to his feelings for Claire. In the morning, he is visited by tim and asks to start the next phase, to which Joe says not yet, prompting tim to remind him about what everyone has done for him, causing Joe to snap and tell him to leave.
Once Claire is brought to his home, he has her join dinner with him in a nice dress, marveling over her beauty. As she tries not to be so fearful, he offers her a drink, to which she agrees. During the dinner, Claire questions Joe about everything he's doing and the people he has, to which Joe says they're his friends and gave them a home, prompting Claire to question why he encourages them to murder. Joe states he has a monomaniacal need to kill and chooses to embrace it which causes Claire to question why he brought her and Joey in this, which Joe says it is cause he loves them and tells Claire she will love him again. Claire, holding his hand begs him to let her see Joey, but Joe refuses, stating Joey is his "trump card" and chooses to hold onto it for a little bit longer. At this point, Claire finally snaps and gives Joe a very loud yelling stating if he wants her to love him he has to show her a shred of the man she once loved to bring her her son and just as she storms off, Joe stops her and attempts to kiss her, causing her to push him away and storm to her room. Later, he talks with Roderick about how Vincent led the FBI to the bunker, causing him to angrily punch tim about his decision to let him go. He warns him not to ruin this for him, causing tim to say it's for them.
Once in her room, Joe meets Claire again and says he does believe in his heart she will love him again and presents Joey, causing mother and son to have a tearful reunion. He then watches Molly's video's on her and Ryan sleeping together at one point.
After Claire attempts to leave, tim forces an ankle monitor on her as Joe enters saying trust is needed. While working on his new book, he continues to struggle on what motivated Ryan, so he calls him questioning what motivates him. Ryan doesn't answer causing Joe to ask if it was his fathers death, which has Ryan noting Joe's tone of voice is different and stating he's getting closer knowing the loss of the bunker is a huge blow, causing Joe to angrily hang up. After discovering all the major items in the bunker are gone now, Joe learns of Daniel Monroe, the man who gave Joe the house and bunker could be tracked to them. he ignores tim statements about him being trusted and has him and Jacob go to kill him. Once he kills Daniel, he holds Mike Weston hostage to force Ryan down and question what motivates him. After Ryan mentions how his father died, Joe notes how similar they are and are motivated by death, but Ryan disagrees. After Jacob brings down Debra as insurance, Joe, satisfied with the information he gained from Ryan, leaves with Jacob.
He returns home with, wine in hand, greeting Claire intent on telling his day to her, to which she tells him not tonight having done enough pretending today. She says his efforts aren't gonna work, causing him to scoff at her statements which only become anger after discovering Claire read his book, where she stated it was awful and criticizes him believing he'll get away with all this and how he didn't learn his lesson from his last book. Joe almost goes to strike her, but leaves frustrated and angered. He then goes to Emma and willingly has sex with her again.
In the morning, Joe orders Emma to keep a close eye on Claire and Joey, to which Emma notes is near impossible due to having stolen her son and sleeping with her husband, to which Joe tells her not to tell Claire that. Just then, a very frantic tim comes in and informs Joe about Mike recognizing him and his position of Sheriff being done. Joe criticizes him for not killing Mike and over tim statements over leaving Daniel Monroe alone. Joe tells him to calm down, but tim says they're in trouble and Joe is to blame and begins to question what is Joe really trying to do. He points out Joe's faults over doing nothing but righting his book and trying to win over a wife that will never want him back. This sends Joe over the edge and begins to strangle tim and throws him down. tim then realizes he was just being used and Jacob interrupts them with Ryan on the news about one of Joe's followers turning themselves in to make a deal. Joe shuts it off telling them all they should not worry.
After Joey is kidnapped, he tells a very worried Claire to be calm and warns her that he's having a really bad day. He sends Jacob and two others to find tim and kill him. At night, he receives a call from Ryan on tim phone, realizing tim was captured and warns tim he will personally peel the skin off his body should anything happen to Joey. After hanging up, he is visited by Emma who tries to console him over losing Joey, and as she makes a move, he tells her to stop her advances knowing she's been sending "signals" in their relationship, to which Emma says it's called sex as Joe says that is all it is. He then tells her to worry about Joey since it is her fault for not watching over him like she was supposed to. Shocked by Joe blaming her, she tries to explain how Claire wouldn't let her near her causes Joe to slap her, resulting in her running off crying.
After watching the news over Ryan having saved his son, he scoffs telling his men to turn it off and is annoyed seeing Claire crying, to which she angrily retorts it is cause their son is safe, causing Joe to just scoff that it's thanks to Ryan "bloody" Hardy. Afterward he works on his book till he's interrupted by Claire who wants to make a deal. She promises him she'll stay on the condition he let Joey go. Joe refuses, but Claire can see it's not the life she wants nor does he and she won't struggle anymore and will stay with him. Joe is surprised Claire would do that and she says she fell in love with him once and could do it again. Joe comes closer to her and notices she's scared of him, which she says it will take time. They lean in and kiss, to which Joe then places his hands on her. However, Claire took advantage of his affection to her and pulls out a knife and stabs him in his stomach. She attempts to dig the knife deeper till Joe manages to push her away and pull the knife out. She tries to run away till Joe catches her and tells his men to take her away. He's later tended to his wound and calls Ryan about how his day has "not been well" and his book has taken a "turn" and must now do a re-wright. When Ryan asks where Claire is, Joe says how Claire will no longer be the leading lady nor ride off with him in the sunset and says now it is time for Claire to die. He hangs up, takes a drink from his glass and angrily throws it into the fireplace.
The next morning, he finishes the re-wright and still plans to kill Clair. However, his erratic behavior, due to his wound and drugged up on meds and alcohol, has caused friction for Jacob, who sees his plan as insane. After having his remaining followers perform a diversion for him at the town's gym, Joe takes Clair by boat to a lighthouse, like in his novel, so that he may kill her there once Ryan shows up.
Presumed Death Edit
After Ryan is drugged and taken to the lighthouse, Joe engages in conversation with him about how his story will end. Before he attempts to gouge out one of Claire's eyes, Joe is tackled by Ryan and the two engage in a struggle before the former runs away. Outside, Joe hides in a shed while Ryan pursues him. Taking him by surprise, Joe makes Ryan shoot a barrel of flammable liquid which combusts. Ryan manages to overpower Joe and throws him into a corner in the shed just before a rafter falls, trapping him. Leaving Joe behind, Ryan watches as the shed explodes. Later that morning, authorities recover what remained of Joe's body and confirmed that he is finally dead through DNA and dental records. However, in Season 2 it would be revealed that his death was faked. His followers snatched his half-brother, Michael Halston, from England, took him to the U.S., broke into the facility where Joe's DNA records were kept and replaced them with samples of Halston's DNA. After he was presumed dead, the FBI made a comparison of the body's DNA's Y-chromosome with Joey's for confirmation. Since they were biologically related, it was enough of a match to convince the FBI.
One year after his presumed death, Joe, with a beard now, has been living in hiding with a woman named Judy, a woman who's had an obsession with Joe and her daughter, Mandy. Despite Judy's best efforts to "cure" Joe, Joe realizes he can't change and embraces himself by killing a priest and later Judy with Mandy's help. After watching the news of the twins, Mark and Luke, who are apparently new members of his cult, Joe sets out to meet them. On the way, he meets a woman named Jana, one of his followers and a former FBI agent. He reveals his intentions of going after Joey again, but for now focuses on the others. He reunites with Emma Hill as she cries seeing him again. They all then go to a mansion with the twins and their mother Lily Gray.
Lily introduces Joe to everyone in the house. Emma expresses her bitter feelings towards Joe abandoning her; he apologizes repeatedly and asks for another chance. Later, Lily presents Joe to a locked young school girl in a cage and drugged her, presenting her to Joe as a gift for him to kill. Joe angrily refuses at first, thinking Lily is attempting to control him, but later goes through with the murder and ends up having sex with Lily later as well.
After spending the night together, Joe and Lily discuss Lily's idea of moving everyone to Lily's house in Venezuela. Joe hesitantly agrees. After discovering of Luke's capture, Lily drugs Joe to keep him asleep while Mark, Lily, and a hostage of hers meet up with Max and Luke for the exchange. Later, Emma and Mandy discover an unconscious Joe and manage to wake him up. They escape the house after killing Lily's daughter who attempts to stop them. Before driving away, Joe stares down Ryan, who has made it into the house and sees the trio leaving from a window. Just before he escapes the country via airplane, Jana calls him about the FBI right behind him and the trio escape. While driving away, Emma gets a call from Lily, which Joe answers and expresses his contempt with Lily's news of Luke's supposed death and says he's done with her, causing Lily to have an emotional breakdown.
Joe, Emma, and Mandy arrive at a cult compound. Two authority figures, Robert and Julia, have them blindfolded and handcuffed before entering the trucks. Joe meets with Micah, the cult's leader, and offers his help with the cult in exchange for a place to stay. Later, Julia gives Joe a lie detector test to ensure his intentions are genuine. He, Emma, and Mandy are taken to a ceremony, which Micah reveals is to take the blood from a cult member to wash away all of their sins and bring them a step closer to "going home." Emma is selected and strapped to a post where Micah slits her wrists and eventually drinks her blood. She faints, but survives, leaving Joe furious at Julia's actions.
The next day, Emma insists to Joe that they leave, though Micah soon-after officially initiates them and Mandy into the group. In private, Micah tells Joe of his interest in killing people and having Joe write a book about him. Joe and Micah discuss taking the cult to the next level, despite Julia being against the idea. Micah suggests throwing Joe a celebration, but Julia expresses her concern about having Joe around causing too much attention to their cult. At a party, Micah passes out tablets to some of the cult members, including a new friend of Mandy's, Erik. The tablets eventually cause them to foam at the mouth and kill them as Micah leads the group to chant "send them home with shouts and praise," suggesting those killed are moving on to the coveted after-life. While having them buried, Micah has Julia taken away after she begins acting out in frustration. Emma and Joe reconnect back in their room where Joe says their next move is to tell the world that he's alive.
Micah tells Joe of his desire to "make a splash", like Lily did. Micah sends Robert and Emma on a mission as his "messengers" along with an ex-killer cult member, Lance. Micah asks Joe for advice about how to handle Julia and the tension between the two. Joe and Micah later kill her after she attempts to shoot him but fails due to the gun not being loaded. Once the message has been delivered, Carrie Cooke plays the clip on her news report, which Joe watches along with Micah, Emma, and Robert. While watching, Joe hands out drinks to the group. Micah realizes the video they're watching is not his. It's instead a video of Joe announcing to the world that he's still alive and nobody is to feel safe. Micah proceeds to fall to the floor and foam at the mouth, having been drugged and killed by the drink. Robert later gathers the cult and proclaims Joe as their new leader.
He then begins to preach and warp the cult into his own beliefs in order to turn them into murderers. At Korban, Robert introduces Joe to a group (Mallory, Lucas, Patrick, and Tilda) who have volunteered to be the next messengers. Later, he reacts shocked watching the news that his professor, Arthur Strauss is arrested, so much that he even says out loud his disbelief that they found out about him. He then calls Jana and is even more shocked to find out Ryan found out about her and hears him instead. The two briefly talk as Joe explains he has a "Holy Army" willing to do anything for him and will unleash terror on the city and hangs up. And Joe, having lost both Jana and his professor is utterly furious to the point he almost destroys his phone. Later, Joe anoints Tilda and Lucas once they return from their mission.
Joe gathers a group of Korban followers and has a volunteer stab another Korban member, Carla, to kill her, thus "sending her home." Robert confronts Joe about his reason for choosing Carla, as she was close to Robert. Joe calms him down and asks Emma to follow him and ensure she's able to keep him close enough to stop worrying. Joe and Emma also discuss Mandy's lack of progress at Korban, with Emma feeling like she's a lost cause. After discovering Lily saving her son and using Joe's image to save him, Joe and Emma angrily watch the news, promising they'll show her.
Carrie interviews tele-evangalist preacher Kingston Tanner who has recently criticized Joe. Joe watches, telling Emma how he wishes to give Kingston a "Holy War" and how he hates religion. He sends Lucas, Angela, Tilda and Robert to find Carrie; they assault her guards as Joe calls her forcing her to broadcast another message, less she and her love ones pay. Joe and Emma discover that Mandy left Korban to find Lily, leading Joe to call Lily wanting Mandy. Lily says she'll let Mandy go if Joe gives himself up, but he denies the offer by telling Mandy he loves her and then hanging up the phone. Lily and the twins kill Mandy while Joe blames Emma over her death. He then welcomes Preston to Korban after Robert brings him to him.
Later, Joe gives a speech to everyone, and intends to have Preston kill a follower named Courtney, who was unfaithful to Joe to prove that "everyone is a savage". However, Ryan is in the croud and Ryan takes a shot, but misses and narrowly escapes. Joe then discovers from Robert that Ryan is at Korban and shocks everyone when they should not leave, but wants Ryan brought to him. When Ryan is brought to Joe, the latter eagerly greets his arch nemesis, noting he's missed his talks with Ryan face to face. He refers to Ryan as his best friend due to their need for each other, but Ryan says he is not his friend. He then forces Ryan to watch as he forces Preston to kill Courtney or he'll kill him. Preston reluctantly goes through with it, to which Joe gleefully says that it proof that Religion is a farce and that everyone is a savage in some way. Preston tells him to go to hell but Joe scoffs at him. When everyone leaves Ryan promises Joe he will kill him, but Joe says that's not possible, as if either die, both of them die. He then asks if he ever thinks about Claire, referring her as his "one great mistake", implying he does miss her. As Lily's group arrive, Joe leaves with a handful of others and ignores Emma and Roberts orders to kill Ryan. After arriving at a remote location, Joe watches the news with Carrie Cooke and is shocked as she gives a message out to Joe and now believes that Claire may be alive.
Joe sends his followers out to capture Kingston while having Robert and Emma to track Claire, admitting the message was a poem they made together when he proposed to her. Joe later arrives at a church holding everyone hostage and video taping his plan. At the church, Joe has everything video taped and forces Kingston to admit there is no God on his knees. Even after that, Joe forces son and father to kill one another, to which Kingston takes his own life rather than kill his son. Ryan and Mike enter the church, but Mike is caught by Joe. Joe tells Ryan to come out or he'll kill Mike. The scene blacks out as a gunshot is heard.
The shot fired was aimed at Preston, which kills him. Joe mocks Mike over his new personality, calling him a "little Ryan". Ryan eventually confronts Joe and destroys his video tape. Ryan informs Joe of Luke's threat and helps Joe escape the church. With Joe in the back seat and Mike and Max following behind, Ryan drives to the address given by Luke while the FBI shut the lights inside the church and proceed to shoot and kill all of Joe's followers inside. Along the way, one of Joe's followers, Tim, crashes into Ryan's car, flipping it with Ryan and Joe inside, injuring both men. Joe thanks and then shoots Tim and puts Ryan into Tim's car and continues the drive. Outside the house, Ryan and Joe find letters inviting them inside for dinner. Once inside, they find Claire right before one of the twins drops a smoke bomb, putting Ryan, Joe, and Claire to sleep. They wake up at a table where Mark and Luke interrogate Ryan and Joe, threatening to kill Claire if they don't cooperate. The force Joe to give a sincere apology to them for breaking their mother's heart. As they then interrogate Ryan, Joe reveals he knew Ryan killed the man that killed his father. This caused the twins guard to drop as Joe continues to goad them to grab a knife and escape. Just as they attempt to kill Claire, Mike and Max show up and Mike shoots at Luke through a window while Joe cuts himself free. After Luke is killed, Joe has a confrontation between him and Claire, to which Joe expresses how sorry he is over everything with her and Joey and believes they are destined to be together. He begs for forgiveness, but Claire vehemently refuses and this then leads to Ryan putting Joe at gunpoint as Joe begs Ryan to kill him. Ryan, however, chooses not to shoot Joe and has Mike call Agent Clarke to have Joe arrested.
As of season 3, Joe is incarcerated under heavy security and awaiting execution--Ryan has even vowed to never involve himself with Joe in any way again, opting instead to leave him in his past. Though absent, Joe is still indirectly involved to some degree in the events that have since transpired, particularly in regards to Mark Gray's murderous and vengeful assaults. Personal links between Mark's cult of followers and Joe's were even noted by Max Hardy, which prompted Agent Mendez to ask Ryan to visit Joe in the hopes that he can be of assistance in locating and capturing Mark; Ryan seemingly accepted but instead visited Joe's incarcerated academy teacher Arthur Strauss, who declined to officially validate the links between Mark's followers and Joe.
After altering Ryan in regards to accepting one's own dark side, Joe is executed through lethal injection as Ryan and numerous law enforcement officials watch his brief and painful demise.
As a serial killer, Carroll targeted female students that attended the university where he taught. He would gain control of them with his looks and charm or simply take them by suprise. He would then restrain them and torture them in a number of ways (the most common method was stabbing them in numerous non-fatal locations on the body), he then killed them by savagely eviscerating (mutilating) them. His signature for both the FBI and police was cutting out his victim's eyes, as a reference to his favorite Poe stories "The Black Cat" and "The Tell-Tale Heart", in which the eyes are a prominent part of the imagery within the stories.
Victims killed by him personally
- 2003, The Winslow University killings:
- The first prison escape:
- Five unnamed prison guards
- Sarah Fuller (Joe's would-be victim; stabbed and gouged her eyes out)
- The second prison escape:
- Olivia Warren (Joe's lawyer; manually strangled)
- Two unnamed police officers
- Charlie Mead (stabbed at his request for failure)
- Daniel Monroe (stabbed)
- Neil Meyer (a lighthouse owner; stabbed repeatedly)
- The first prison escape:
- Gary Benson (neck snapped)
- Cat (squeezed)
Victims killed by his followers on his orders or because of his orders
- Unspecified dates in 2003:
- Two unnamed girls attributed to him during his serial killer years (killed by Tim Nelson)
- Unspecified date in 2008:
- Robyn Stewart (stabbed repeatedly by Paul Torres in his car; body was presumably buried)
- "Icepick" woman (manipulated into committing suicide)
- Jess and two unnamed sorority girls (killed by Jordan Raines)
- Two unnamed police officers (killed by Paul Torres)
- Stan Fellows, a critic of Carroll's book (set ablaze by Rick Kester)
- Dean Phillip Barnes (stabbed by Rick Kester for denying Carroll tenure)
- Troy Riley (stabbed in the throat by Maggie Kester)
- Unnamed bystander (killed by Louise Sinclair slashed his abdomen with a straight razor)
- Bo (shot in the temple by Charlie Mead)
- Claire Dobkins, née Matthews (shot by a harpoon gun by Amanda Porter)
- Claire Matthews (killed by Amanda Porter; pushed from her flat)
- Unnamed college student (stabbed and killed by Amanda Porter)
- Unnamed police officer (shot by Louise)
- Unnamed hotel guest (shot and killed by Tim Nelson)
- Unnamed U.S. Marshall (shot and killed by Tim Nelson)
- Unnamed U.S. Marshall (shot and killed by Brock Wickford)
- Marshall Ferguson (shot through a door and killed by Tim Nelson)
- Brian Fowler (throat slashed by Jacob Wells)
- Tim Nelson (shot and killed by Jacob Wells, Ethan, and Michael)
- Aaron (committed suicide on Joe's orders)
- Unnamed reporter (stabbed to death by Annabelle Lee)
- Five unnamed people (killed with knives, axes and other bladed weapons at the evacuation center by his Followers)
- Debra Parker (buried alive by Alex Lipton)
- Unnamed cop (shot with a sniper rifle by Alex Lipton)
- Two unnamed police officers (shot to death by Emma Hill)
- Claire Matthews (stabbed twice by Molly, survived)
- The Korban cult murders:
- The Korban party massacre (all poisoned with cyanide by Micah after being manipulated by Joe)
- Five Korban members
- The book signing massacre:
- Six unnamed victims (throats slashed and stabbed in the abdomen by Lance Tierney & Robert)
- Unnamed pedestrian (stabbed once in the chest by Lucas)
- The home invasion killings:
- John (stabbed multiple times by Lucas and Tilda)
- John's unnamed wife (stabbed multiple times by Lucas and Tilda)
- John's unnamed son (stabbed multiple times by Lucas and Tilda)
- Mallory Hodge (neck slashed by Patrick Trano)
- Carla (stabbed once in the chest by Angela)
- The fraternity massacre:
- Unnamed security guard (stabbed repeatedly by Lucas)
- Unnamed male student (stabbed repeatedly by Lucas)
- Two unnamed female students (one was stabbed, the other's throat was slashed by Tilda)
- Unnamed janitor (stabbed once in the chest by Tilda)
- Angela (performed suicide as part of Joe's plan)
- The Korban party massacre (all poisoned with cyanide by Micah after being manipulated by Joe)
- Courtney (stabbed once in the chest by Preston Tanner under Joe's coercion)
- Kingston Tanner (performed suicide as a sacrifice instead of his son)
- The Korban cult murders:
- Among Carroll's possessions in prison were books by Faulkner, Melville, Hawthorne, Percy Shelley and Lord Byron. From Ryan's remark, "Still the romantic" it is likely these authors were included in Carroll's lectures at Winslow.
- Joe Carroll was the first person in the series to murder someone.
- Joe is the first leader of a group to join another group from another leader.
- Joe's social security number is 498-00-3145
- Joe was the second person in the murder series who had murdered a married couple. The first person was his follower Paul Torres.
- The first animal Joe killed on-screen was a cat. (NOTE: This particular performance garnered the show much criticism from both viewers and animal rights organizations.)
- According to Marcos Siega, executive producer of The Following, Joe Carroll will not have that much of a pivotal role as he did in the first two seasons, nor will his former wife Claire Matthews. Siega went on to say that the first two seasons were the "Joe Carroll chapters"; implying that Joe's era of terror has ended, and that the series will take a new turn in season 3 with "new villains". Siega's comments could be an allusion to Joe's execution finally being carried out in season 3--whether this is true or not is unknown as Siega himself has said that the writers and producers are still unsure about how the upcoming season will unfold.
- In the Season 2 Alternate ending, Joe Carroll was originally going to be shot and killed by Mark Gray with a sniper rifle.
- Joe's execution in the tenth episode of season 3 has sparked debate as to whether or not the character has been really written off by the show runners. However, actor James Purefoy, who portrays Joe Carroll, has alluded (and possibly confirmed) that the character is, in fact, deceased. Many viewers took to the show's official Facebook profile to provide their interpretation, mainly stating that Joe's execution was merely seeming and that a plot, possibly devised by Mark (with whom Joe has unfinished business with), is going unfold in the coming five episodes. Given that Joe had legitimate and high-ranking associates as followers in many areas, it is possible that his execution was indeed seeming and that his life may have been spared in a deceitful manner by those who devoted themselves to him--though this conflicts directly with James' statement.