These are what we call the 'YMMV items.' Things that some people find in this work. We call them 'your mileage might vary' because not everyone sees these things in the same way. This starts discussions in the trope lists, a thing we don't want. Please use the discussion page if you'd like to discuss any of these items.
Many fans were disappointed when Joe and Ryan's climactic fight in Season 1 abruptly ended with Joe becoming trapped in a ring of fire and presumably dying in an explosion. However, this was subverted when Joe turned up alive in Season 2, leaving open the possibility for a more epic showdown.
Lily Gray in Season 2. For all her power and resources, she dies rather easily, and her big confrontation with Joe never even happens.
Joe Carroll in Season 2. Again. After a brief fight with Hardy, Hardy knocks him to the floor and points a gun at him. Carroll has a Villainous Breakdown and begs Hardy to kill him. He doesn't, and Joe is arrested shortly afterwards.
Awesome Music: Many episodes end with dark metal/electronic/ambient background songs. These have included:
"Bad Moon Rising" by Mourning Ritual (Resurrection).
"Stand by Me" by Ki:Theory (Trust Me).
Complete Monster: Joe Carroll likes to envision himself as a Wicked Culturedchessmaster and architect of darkness and evil. In truth, he is a megalomaniac Serial Killer who killed 14 girls before agent Ryan caught him ten years ago, setting off their mutual obsession with one another. After escaping from jail by killing five guards, Carroll hunts down the only victim to escape him and brutally tortures her to death- first removing her eyes. It is revealed that Carroll has his own cult of serial killers he rules over, encouraging them to "write their own chapters" by committing murder and personally teaches them how to effectively kill a human being. Carroll casually discards his followers when he determines it's necessary, having no remorse leaving them to their fates or forcing them to give their lives for him. A consummate actor, Carroll manipulates his son Joey, with intention of raising him as a killer and refers to Joey as "his best trump card." For his ex-wife, once she rejects Carroll's designs on her by stabbing him, Carroll decides to kill her as well in front of Ryan. When he hears Carol blame herself for not seeing what Joe was sooner, saying she feels like she killed all the girls herself, Carroll seems to comfort her before killing a man in front of her to show her what killing someone is really like, telling her not to take credit for his deeds. Joe Carroll believes people are just pawns or characters in the book he writes and that he can do with them whatever he wants for a good story.
Crosses the Line Twice: When Micah is on the floor gurgling as he dies from poison, Carroll nonchalantly shushes him.
Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy: The villains are Ax-Crazy homicidal maniacs who gleefully commit very brutal on-screen murders and we see a lot of the story from their point of view; by and large they are selfish, unrepentant and prone to Moral Myopia, and their competence ranges from Villain Sues to BigBadWannabes (Joe himself starts as the former and devolves into the latter). The heroes, though, are not the most comfortable people to follow either: Hardy is a vengeful Knight Templar prone to Protagonist Centred Morality who allows the villain to dictate his moves; the FBI have many fair What the Hell, Hero? critiques to make of him, but they tend to be incompetent and stupid in their own right as both they and Hardy get many minor characters killed; Agent Weston and others become steadily more brutal due to Hardy's influence; and civilian characters (whether major like Claire or one-shoters) are out of their league and make dumb decisions to varying degrees. It becomes difficult to root for anyone the longer the story goes on, particularly since the series so often relies on Fridge Logic, Idiot Plotting and Diabolus ex Machina to move things forward. As a result, the ratings took a big knife to the gut in season two, albeit no more so than anything else that aired on Fox in calendar year 2014.
The murder twins have been nothing but brutal, twisted, sadistic psychopaths since their first appearance on the show, but that doesn't stop some of the fanbase from squealing over them, even as they torture Mandy, and some of them were actually horrified when Weston beat one of them to a pulp.
Some of the minor cult members count to the point where the fanbase will become delighted as they murder innocent people.
Foe Yay: Carroll and Ryan. It's heavily implied in the flashbacks that the two recognized one another as kindred spirits and developed an unusually strong bond before Ryan figured out that Joe was the killer he was looking for. Ryan states about Joe: 'Charm and Seduce. I know what his followers feel. I fell for it. And five more girls were murdered.' Wordof God states that Ryan developed a strong attraction towards Joe bordering on being romantic and Joe likewise became infatuated with Ryan. Joe himself has stated that everything he's doing is for and about Ryan.
Also, the whole "love at first sight" exchange in the season finale pretty much elevates the subtext to main text.
Not to mention Carroll watches home porn videos of Hardy and Molly - videos it appears he instructed Molly to record!
Even more so in late Season 2, when Joe refuses to kill Ryan who he considers his best friend and even saves his life in the Season 2 finale. Ryan decides not to kill Joe either.
According to Charlie, the mercenary Bo is not part of the cult. He has "useful skills," but he's too unstable to be an actual member. Think about that. There are people out there that the Carrollists consider too crazy to join them.
Joe Carroll was always good at manipulating people, but he's taken a scary level in competence with the second season. It doesn't take him long to insinuate himself into the Korban and assume a position of power. And it coincides with his admission that he's a terrible writer. The thing that caused the rift between Joe and Roderick was the fact that Joe was more concerned with his new art project than tending to the daily workings of his cult. And now, Joe doesn't have that distraction any longer. He's not deluding himself anymore with the idea that he's any kind of artist. Now he's a full-time psycho.
Genius Bonus: Many of the main characters share the last names of classic authors (Hardy, Carroll, Parker, etc.). What significance this has, if any, has yet to be demonstrated.
Carroll gives his mission statement at the end of the pilot; his ode to Poe, ''The Gothic Sea", was "clearly too avant-garde. Lost in literati pretense. Now my new story... will play to a much wider audience." On April 4th, 2013, The Following's rival showCult was cancelled due to a perceived lack of viewership, while The Following was renewed for a second season, thus demonstrating the validity of Carroll's belief that a straightforward tale of sex and violence would appeal to a much wider audience than something requiring much more investment. Meta beyond imagination.
Not only that, but its other rival show, Hannibal, which is getting praise from critics for being more "avant-garde" than a lot of broadcast shows (including The Following), is doing rather poorly in the ratings itself, even for NBC.
Ho Yay: Ryan Hardy and his old friend Tyson; their episode is practically dripping with Ho Yay. Tyson even refers to them as "married"!
HSQ: Reaches epic proportions in the second half of "The Siege".
Idiot Plot: The success of Carroll's followers is largely reliant on both local and federal law enforcement being unbelievably incompetent.
Pfft! Yeah, like they're really gonna kill off Debra Parker after she was Buried Alive. ...Oh, wait.
A lot of fans were convinced that Claire really died in the Season 2 premiere, since the writers tend to kill off characters left and right. It turns out that Mike helped her fake her death before putting her under Witness Protection.
Paranoia Fuel: From what the show implies, anyone could be part of Carroll's cult. They are also terrifyingly good at getting into people's homes, even if police are stationed inside.
The Scrappy: Emma. She's a Manipulative Bitch who has no problem having sex with virtually every man she runs into, including Carroll. She leaves Paul and Jacob to die after the FBI storms their hideout, she doesn't give a damn about anyone except Carroll, and she's more than okay with doing anything he tells her to do, even if she knows it's not right. But what really turned her into The Scrappy was when she slashed Jacob's throat, even after he practically begged her to come run away with him.
Squick: When Joe kills the Reverend in Season 2 (his first kill in over a year), he basically has an orgasm. Yeek.
The show has a habit of killing off interesting Followers (Louise, Jacob, Roderick) and keeping idiotic or boring ones around (Emma and Joe himself).
Possibly Fridge Brilliance: the "interesting" ones are the ones whose unstable personalities are causing conflicts with Joe's Master Plan. Getting rid of them steers things relatively back on track, and leaves Joe with people he can more easily control.
Special mention to Jacob's death. He spends the entire first season trying to decide if he really wants to be in the cult, and then, when he finally leaves, Emma unceremoniously kills him for no reason other than pure shock value. Waste indeed.
Season 2 has Carlos, who gets stabbed in the neck for no reason at all, and Giselle, a fairly competent Dark Action Girl who easily could've replaced Emma's role in the show as The Heavy.
Lily Gray's death disappointed some fans who wanted her to confront Joe and maybe even become the main Big Bad for Season 3.
One of Carroll's cult members tries to get Hardy to stand down...by using Claire Matthews as a Human Shield. Hardy even points it out: everyone knows he's not going to hurt her.
Giselle gloats that she killed Max right to Ryan's face (even though she didn't). Guess who gets stabbed to death half a minute later?
Mandy's decision to join Lily's family after abandoning Joe. Even though she was there when Joe coldly broke it off with Lily, it apparently doesn't occur to Mandy that Lily's a vindictive psycho who might torture her for Joe's location and/or kill her to spite him. Oops.
If Emma had killed Claire before she shot Robert, she might still be alive, and her plan to convince Joe that Claire ambushed her and killed Robert would've worked out flawlessly.
Ryan himself definitely qualifies, with his dark and troubled past (even before he ever met Joe Carroll), his guilt at not catching Joe sooner, his inability to save Sara, his reputation as a loose cannon amongst law enforcement, his alcoholism, and his inability to let anyone near him demonstrate how utterly broken he is.
Little Joey becomes this throughout the first season.
Preston Tanner. His possible lover is murdered right in front of him, he's kidnapped by the Korban cult, he's forced to kill a woman so Joe won't kill him, and then he gets to watch as his father slits his throat right in front of him. And then Joe shoots him in the head because he couldn't stand him crying. And all because he was the son of a man who called out Joe on live TV.