Professor Claire Matthews (also known as Claire Carroll) is a Supporting Protagonist on The Following. She was a College Professor at the Winslow University, where her ex-husband Joe Carroll taught as a literary professor and later became pregnant with their son Joey Matthews. She, like so many others, was unaware of the type of monster Joe was and was hit the hardest when she found out he was a Serial Killer responsible for the Virginia Campus Murders that claimed 14 lives.
During the investigation into the killings, she met with FBI Agent Ryan Hardy and the two immediately had a connection, though neither would pursue it as she was still deeply devoted to her husband. After Joe's arrest, she and Ryan began a brief relationship that bore promise for the two damaged souls...with Ryan even introducing her to his sister Jenny Hardy. But unfortunately, Ryan felt he needed to distance himself from her and live in her "past"...feeling that he wasn't good for her. Ultimately, the two remained in love with one another and could not help their developing emotions after 8 years of no contact.
When Joe escaped, she was placed into immediate protection along with her son. Her hired nanny for several years Denise Harris was actually a Follower of Joe's and kidnapped him despite their protection. She became subject to antagonism by Joe at first but he too desired her captured and brought to him with his ultimate goal being in reuniting his family and living as such. Claire however, would not agree to this and gravely wounded Joe prompting him to desire her death...which after failing to carry this out on his own, had acolyte Molly do it for him.
However, this ultimately failed, as Claire survived and was put into witness protection. However, she reunited with Ryan in order to help him find Joe. At the end of Season 2, once Joe was imprisoned again, Claire went her separate ways with Ryan, realizing she is the one who drags him down due to her past and that she's not good for him.
We have yet to find out anything about Claire's past. Claire is a professor at the university where Joe once worked before he went to prison. In 2002, Claire told Joe that she was pregnant with their son Joey. Claire is the one who told Ryan to go to Joe when Ryan had a question on the murder case not knowing Joe was the one he was looking for. Once Claire found out the truth that Joe was the killer, she divorced him and got custody of Joey. Claire made the first move when it came to her and Ryan. Claire meets Ryan's sister Jenny who tells him that she likes her. It is sometime after that Ryan ends their relationship because he wants more for her and Joey, however, Ryan later admitted to his sister that he does love her and is the only woman he was ever serious about.
After her ex-husband, whom she calls a madman, kidnaps their son, he sends men to kidnap her too. Claire tells Ryan that Joe wrote her a letter. When the FBI told Claire about Joe's escape, the only one she wanted to talk to was Ryan. Since then, Claire has been in protection by Ryan and the FBI, to which she was almost killed by Jordan had it not been for Ryan. Since then, Ryan began to open up to her again, to which Claire admitted he's the only one she can trust. Though she attempts to open up to him again, Ryan continues to shut her out due to the fear of her getting hurt.
Following Joe's second escape and that her son Joey is now with Joe, She is then put under witness protection, to which Ryan takes her into hiding.
After the capture of Amanda Porter, who has been killing woman named Claire Matthews, Ryan decides to move her after realizing Joe found her location. Ryan and Claire successfully escape and head to the home of Ryan's old FBI partner, Tyson. Unfortunately, Claire was tagged by Joe's men and are likely to find them soon. Before they are breached by Joe's men, Ryan and Claire have a private talk about Ryan leaving her years ago. Ryan states is cause he's her past and is no good for her, but she retorts that he could be his future and how messed up the two of them are. As she mentions she loves him, he too says he loves her too, and they reaffirm their love for each other through a kiss and hug warmly. They are then found by Joe's men, as Ryan and Tyson take down Brock, but Tyson is left fatally injured by them. Realizing Joe won't stop to get her, Claire willingly gives herself up to her ex-husband's men in order to see her son, to which she mouths to Ryan "I love you" as she's taken away.
At Joe's new mansion, Claire meets Jacob, to which she demands to see her son, but Jacob refuses and mentions that Joe expects to see her dressed nice for dinner, to which Claire immediately refuses. Jacob threatens her, mentioning he's been given permission to "rough" her should she refuse and if she wants to see her son she needs to "make and effort". She puts the dress on and has dinner with her ex. Though she begs Joe to let her see her son, Joe refuses and decides to hold onto his "trump card" a little longer. Hearing this, Claire snaps at Joe over everything she's been through and if he wants to have any chance of her falling for him again she needs to see the man she fell for and demands to see her son and storms off. Joe later lets her see her son, resulting in mother and son having a tearful reunion.
In the morning, Claire attempts to escape with Joey, but is caught by Roderick and put with an ankle monitor as a result. Since then, Claire continues to try to find a way to contact Ryan. After reuniting with Emma since her abducting her son, Claire tells Emma to stay away from her son, but Emma says that's not for her to decide. Enraged, Claire punches Emma in the face to which Emma goes to attack her back which results in Claire strangling her as Roderick breaks them up.
After Roderick's identity is busted by Mike Weston, he kidnaps Joey from Claire while they were on a walk. Since then, Claire can only worry over her son's safety and blaming Joe over the whole ordeal. She later watches the news, expressing her gratitude over Ryan having saved her son. Joe mocks her over her tears, to which she rebuffs that she does that their son is safe. After seeing Joe show a lack of gratitude towards Ryan, Claire is left disgusted. In an effort to keep Joe from going after Joey again, Claire seduces Carroll that she'll stay with him, but then stabs him, causing him serious injuries. Overcome with pain and frustration, Carroll calls Hardy and informs him that he plans to kill Claire.
With Joe's desire to kill Claire, Claire is taken with Joe, along with Emma and Jacob, to the docks to escape the police. She later awakens to a lighthouse with Joe, with a gun on her, waiting for Ryan to show up so he can kill Claire in front of him. Once Emma brings Ryan to him, Joe attempts to kill Claire by gauging her eyes out first, like he does to all his female victims. Luckily, Ryan goads Joe's anger to him and manages to free himself and Claire, to which Claire helps Ryan go after Joe. Their fight takes them to a boathouse where a rogue gunshot ignites tanks of gasoline; Hardy manages to escape as the building explodes with Carroll trapped inside. The FBI believes Carroll is dead, and Claire talks to her son on the phone, pleased that its over now.
She later goes with Ryan to his home and they prepare to celebrate their new relationship together. Just as she uses the bathroom, she's horrified to see Ryan on the ground injured and she was gravely wounded by Molly, leading to her apparent "death" that was reported to Ryan by Mike Weston.
In Unmasked, it's revealed that she survived her wounds and was placed in witness protection, along with her mother and son, still overseen by Deputy Marshall Scott Turner. This is likely to hide her existence from Joe and his followers, aware that they would stop at nothing to kill her. She was visited by Mike, who came to inform her of her ex-husbands survival from the lighthouse.
She reveals she saw the news of Joe's broadcast of his return and Weston fills Claire in on everything that has gone on in the past year. Claire expresses her desire to kill Joe and insists on joining Weston in helping find Joe, but he advises her to stay in protection. Later, after watching the news of Joe's followers killing more people, Claire tells Scott Turner that she's not going to Arizona, where witness protection wants to move her, because she wants to see Ryan. With Deputy Daniels along side Scott, they try to help Claire reconsider, but Claire refuses, stating she knows of a way she can help Ryan. At the end of Freedom, Ryan finally sees Claire again in his home, along side Turner and Weston, leaving Ryan speechless.
Ryan and Claire embrace each other, discuss what happened on the day Ryan was told Claire died. Ryan expresses his disbelief that Claire is actually there and Claire expresses her desire to have Joe dead by having herself on TV and let Joe know she's alive to draw him out, but Ryan is against it. After Carrie is attacked by Joe's followers again, Carrie received a clip from Joe and Ryan asks Carrie to not broadcast the clip until he watches it, incase it's a message for Joe's followers. Claire and Ryan watch Joe's video, which turns out to be a threat to Kingston through bible quotes. They conclude that Joe is going to go after Kingston's son, Preston, who goes to college in Connecticut. Claire insists she go with Ryan and Ryan hesitantly agrees, but once at his car, sends Claire a text message saying "Sorry" and leaves with Mike, asking Max to introduce herself to Claire and keep her safe.
She then sees a lipstick in Ryan's bathroom, and realizes he's moved on, leaving her saddened. She then goes into Max's work room and sees the work Ryan's been working on the last year, to which she discovers he's moved on, though Max says he's been trying. It is clear in Max's body language and word choice that she doesn't particularly care for Claire and her decisions regarding her staged death and her eventual return, as it toyed with her uncle's emotions. broadcasts Joe's message, then goes to Ryan's apartment and meets Claire, who says she can help Ryan by helping her.
Claire desperately wants to be interviewed live on the air for Joe to see, but Carrie, Max and Mike decide against it. Instead, Claire has a message delivered from Carrie Cooke to Joe that only he will understand. Claire then talks to Ryan over the message, which has the two reaffirm their love for each other. She then manages to escape her detail with some of Ryan's weapons she found. She goes to the hotel Joe proposed to her to and finds Emma and Robert instead. She fires a warning shot to Emma, which shows Claire now able to use a gun properly unlike in Season 1. Robert tackles Claire and Emma takes her gun. While Emma intends on killing Claire to have Joe to herself, she betrays Robert and kills him to go after Claire.
She kills Emma during a vicious showdown, which entices Mark and Luke (who were likely intending on making an attempt on Emma's life themselves). She is then taken hostage by the twins as a leverage for luring Joe and Ryan and avenging their mothers execution. After Ryan and Joe arrive, the twins interrogate the two men while playing "Russian Roulette" on Claire's life. Just as the twins prepare to finish Claire off, Mike and Max shoot Luke through his shoulder, giving Claire the opportunity to escape and kick Luke down the stairs. However, she is then reunited with her ex-husband in private, who expresses his happiness that she's alive. He believes this is proof that they are destined to be together and begs for forgiveness, but Claire violently refuses before Ryan saves her and, though tempted, lets Joe live and has him arrested.
Claire talks with Ryan in private and admits he did the right thing. Ryan suggests to Claire that he pack a bag and move to Claire's home with her and Joey but Claire tells him that they need to move on separately so she can give her son a normal life. When Ryan asks why, she admits that she's his past (a reference to Ryan's speech to her in season 1) and that she's the one who'll drag him down. She is then taken by the police back home.
- Joe Carroll (stabbed in the abdomen; survived; later assaulted with a wine bottle and non-fatally stabbed with a fork)
- Emma Hill (stabbed three times; twice with a knife and then with a wooden post)