Friday's Comic-Con press room for Fox's The Following was equal parts frustrating and intriguing—kind of like some Season 1 episodes of the show itself. As is the case with many of the TV shows that come to Comic-Con, production hasn't really started on The Following's upcoming season, so there wasn't much the cast and producers could tell us beyond the vague "It's gonna be awesome! Just wait and see!" tease. But there were a few morsels to be had with regard to the show's plans for Season 2, and it sounds like the show might be headed in a very different direction. 

The biggest "news" to come out of the official panel—which I wasn't able to attend—is that James Purefoy, who plays the allegedly late Joe Carroll, is definitely returning to the show in Season 2. Purefoy was in the press room sporting a beard that would look right at home on Duck Dynasty, and he said that series creator Kevin Williamson asked him to grow it. "I've giving him the biggest blank canvas and all the possibilities he could want," Purefoy said. "Grow the hair, grow the beard, everything, and then he'll choose. We'll decide when we're about to start shooting what we're going to make of it."

I don't know about you, but to me that means Carroll survived the fire—did you ever really believe he didn't?—and has been hiding out in the woods ever since. He really did look kind of like a mountain man. A refined British mountain man, but a mountain man nonetheless. I suggested as much to Purefoy, and here's what he said:

"If there's one word you can put on Carroll, it's 'prepared.' He is prepared. He is prepared for, as we've seen, any eventuality. How do you escape from that? I dunno. Well actually I do know, but obviously I can't possibly tell you otherwise I'll spoil it."

Yep, sounds like Carroll is alive and well, if a little hairier, to me! I mean, it's the perfect theory, right? Unfortunately things aren't that simple, because Season 2 will kick off with a year-long time jump, after which the show will use probably-Purefoy-inclusive flashbacks.

"We're gonna start the season where we left off, and the idea is we're going to answer a lot of questions right off the bat," said Following executive producer and director Marcos Siega. "Then flash forward a year, and then we'll use flashbacks to fill in the blanks and tell the audience what happened in that year, from where we left off last year to where we are now. ... All of that will pretty much be in the premiere episode, and then that will launch what our big season arc is. Answer some questions, set everything up, and then launch into that story."

The Following will also be moving away from some of the, uh, "less-solid" elements that kind of plagued the show its debut. "We learned a lot of things about our show that we wanna change by watching Season 1," Siega said. "We don't want the FBI to be dumb, so they're not going to be a big part of the show in Season 2, the show's evolving from that. I think Season 2 is going to be better than Season 1."

Series creator Kevin Williamson echoed that sentiment, and specifically addressed the "bumbling FBI" issue: "Oh my God, we can not win with the FBI," he said. "It was always meant for our heroes to be underdogs, and they just got a little too— the problem with a show like this, where the premise is flawed, is exactly that. It's a serialized show, not a procedural, you don't catch the bad guy at the end of every episode. You can always catch a bad guy, or a follower, or you can save the damsel in distress, but you can't find Joe Carroll, and you can't catch Joe Carroll, so therein lies sort of the rub, and the difficulty. ... It just all went to hell." Here's Williamson himself on the subject—not only does he promise that "the FBI won't be so stupid," but he sets up Ryan Hardy's new character arc:

So: Hardy won't be working with the FBI, though he'll still be the focus of the show. 

So how will characters like Mike Weston stay in play?

"When we come across Weston, it's been a year," Williamson said. "He's been damaged by the events of last year, and [the death of] Debra Parker is weighing heavily on him. He's sort of taken a year off. And so it'll be interesting to see how in a lot of ways, he's become a little bit like Ryan Hardy was. And so we get to sort of parallel the two of them, and that relationship between Ryan and Weston is going to be a core relationship throughout the whole season, who they are to each other a year later." 

Unfortunately we only got to spend about a minute and a half with Ryan Hardy himself, Mr. Kevin Bacon, but that was just enough time for Bacon to discuss where Hardy is headed in Season 2, and whether he believes Joe Carroll really died in that fire:

Here's what he says, in case you can't make it out with all the background noise: 

"He's in a different place. He's not working for the FBI; in fact, coincidentally, he's teaching, which is something that Joe used to do. Again, there's that connection between those two guys, for better or for worse. He is healthier, his heart is in better shape, he's sober—he has not been drinking. And he's leaving himself open to the possibility of relationships in his life, both romantic and with family members he's been detached from for a long time. Now, all that being said, he's still Ryan Hardy. There's still a lot of darkness in his soul. and I think that where that darkness lives and how it manifests itself will be part of the surprise and part of the kind of unveiling of the character. You have to keep in mind that when we last saw him, one of things was he shot a guy in cold blood while he was handcuffed. And there's gonna be some either external or internal price to pay for that. [Journalist: So will that darkness going to be the motivating factor for the character going into this season?] I don't know if it's a motivating factor, it's always going to be there, but Joe is still the motivating factor because I don't think I really believe he's dead. I have my doubts."

In sum: Joe Carroll probably ain't dead. The FBI will largely be setting the bench. Ryan Hardy has some serious issues to work through. Does this make you more or less excited for Season 2?