January 21, 2013
Running time
Production code
Written by
Directed by

"Pilot" is the first episode of Season 1, and overall the first produced hour of The Following. It first aired on January 21, 2013.


Former FBI agent, Ryan Hardy, is called out of retirement to track down Joe Carroll after he escapes from prison. Hardy works closely with an FBI team, which includes young, razor-sharp Mike Weston. The investigation also leads Hardy back to Claire Matthews, Carroll’s ex-wife and the mother of the criminal’s young son, Joey. Hardy soon discovers that Carroll has an ever-growing cult of followers.



Carroll, disguised as a prison guard by the name of Pete at the Virginia Central Penitentiary, uses a key card to access the locker room. He picks up a bag, wishes a group of fellow co-workers the best, and makes his way to the parking garage. The attendants at the gate bid "Pete" farewell, and Carroll drives off.

Two prison guards working the night shift then perform a sweep of the area, but none of the other guards are at their posts. They check behind door after door, but they are nowhere to be found. Eventually they open the door to the surveillance room, finding five dead prison guards. They panic and call for help.

In Brooklyn, Ryan Hardy awakes to his phone ringing, but he ignores it at first. He drinks a bottle of vodka (in a water bottle), then turns on the TV, only to learn about Carroll's escape from prison via the news. His phone then rings again and he answers it. On the phone is the FBI, asking Ryan to rejoin the bureau temporarily and work the case with them because he was the one who caught Carroll the first time. The FBI says that they want him to consult and educate the other officers on the case. Ryan accepts the offer, then fills up another water bottle with vodka.

In Norfolk, Virginia, federal agents approach Sarah Fuller's house as a safety precaution due to Carroll's escape. They inform her of the serial killer's escape and she is shocked and scared.


Sarah is testifying against Joe Carroll in federal court, claiming that Carroll had stabbed her repeatedly, and that because she was too weak to pull the knife out, she tried to push it in to bleed out faster and thus die quicker and less painfully.


Sarah walks the police into her home and they inform her of all of the safety precautions that they took. Then, Sarah's neighbor, Will Wilson, comes in to the house. They hug and Will informs Sarah that his partner, Billy is on his way home. 

Ryan Hardy flies down to the penitentiary where Carroll was being held and is greeted by Agent Troy Reilly and Agent Jennifer Mason. They inform Hardy that they have a command center set up in town and tell him that if people begin to ask questions about him to say that he is merely acting as a consultant on the Carroll case. Hardy asks them how Sarah Fuller, Carroll's last victim, is doing and he says that he wants to talk to her. They tell him that maybe he can do so later when they're not trying to catch a serial killer.

Some FBI agents are talking about Carroll's escape, in which he killed five guards in under two minutes when Hardy enters with Mason and Reilly. The FBI agents say that if Ryan is there merely as a consultant that he's their problem now. 

Hardy goes over to Carroll's cell with Mason and looks around. She informs him that Carroll was scheduled to be executed in a month. Ryan looks over at a stack of Carroll's books and finds several from the romantic period, including Faulkner and Poe. Ryan looks over at his wall and finds a poster of a lighthouse, then ponders something. He later finds the book that he had written about Carroll, "Poetry of a Killer". He asks who let Carroll have the book; Mason tells him that it could have been anyone and that Carroll had left a note inside it telling Hardy that he enjoyed the book and asking if he ever planned to write a sequel. She deduces that the note was his way of letting the FBI know that he was planning to kill again, but Hardy seems to dismiss the idea. She tells him that she has read his file and knows that he "doesn't play well with others" but Hardy tells her that just because she read his file doesn't mean that she knows him. Hardy then asks if anyone's been in touch with Carroll's ex-wife, Claire Matthews and Mason tells him that she is being questioned and under police protection. 

In Richmond, Virginia lives Claire Matthews, who peers out a window at the press and cops is informed that the police want her to answer a few questions. She tells the police that she is going to wait for the FBI to arrive and that she needs to speak to Ryan Hardy


Joe sneaks up behind Claire, and she tells him that she's pregnant.


Claire's son, Joey comes running up the stairs and asks why he isn't allowed to watch TV. His babysitter, Denise, tells Claire that she didn't know what to say. Joey then deduces that it has something to do with his father and Claire nods her head.

At the FBI's mobile command center, Hardy, Mason, and Reilly arrive. An unnamed woman asks who she should talk to regarding Joe Carroll and she is told to wait in line. Weston, another FBI agent, is briefing the team on the Carroll case, explaining that Carroll was a professor at Winslow University and a budding novelist. Weston explains that although the book sold well after his conviction, it was a commercial and critical flop and that was what began Carroll's desire to kill. He explains that Carroll was stabbing people and slicing flesh for arousal, but Hardy interrupts, telling him that his description is not accurate. Hardy then continues, "Joe Carroll was obsessed with the romantic period. His lectures consisted of Thoreau, Emerson, and in particular, his hero, Edgar Allan Poe. And like Poe, he believed the insanity of art--- that it had to be felt... He didn't just eviscerate fourteen female students; he was making art. He cut out his victims' eyes as a nod to his favorite works of Poe, "The Telltale Heart" and "The Black Cat." See, Poe believed that the eyes are our identity, windows to the soul. To classify him as a piquerist would be too simplistic." 

Mike Weston thanks Hardy for his help and praises his book, calling it "a real thrill". Hardy is not impressed, and walks away.  Reilly then enters and tells Weston that his attempt at making friends with Hardy was pathetic. Weston then explains that Hardy took down Carroll single-handed, but Reilly rebutts that the bureau still let him go, even after that. Weston suggests that Hardy is on leave, but Reilly holds firm in that the bureau let Hardy go. Weston retorts that Hardy is retired on disability, that Carroll stabbed him in the heart and he only survived with surgery and a pace maker, and thus is incapable of field work.

Hardy looks over at a group of women and inquires about them. Mason tells him that they are Carroll's groupies and that the FBI is interviewing everybody who visited Carroll is prison. Weston then explains that Carroll had almost 50 visitors in the last six months. Hardy inquires about Carroll's privileges and the team tells him that since he was representing himself, he had access to a digital law library. The team then realizes that they should tear apart the ethernet records and find out what he was doing with his time.

One of the women in line gets a text message on her phone, then stands up and walks to the middle of the room. She grabs a knife from her bag and de-robes herself. There is writing all over her, and this causes mass panic. Several agents, along with Hardy, see this and try to get her to drop the weapon, but unaffected, she repeats "Lord help my poor soul" and stabs herself in the eye, dying in a matter of seconds.

In the aftermath, Weston identifies that some of the writing on the woman's skin had to have been done by someone else. Weston identifies passages from "The Raven" and other works of Poe and he and Hardy know "Lord help my poor soul" were the last words of Edgar Allan Poe


  • Most of the scenes from the pilot were filmed in or around Atlanta, Georgia. After the pilot, production moved to the New York area.
  • The music featured in this episode is Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) by Marilyn Manson, though the song was originally performed by the Eurythmics.

Bloopers and Continuity ErrorsEdit

  • The first time when the flashback sequence shows Sarah and Annie entering their house where Carroll was waiting for them, it takes over a minute for Carroll to make his move and approach Sarah. The second time that same flashback is shown (from Ryan Hardy's perspective), the events which took over a minute the first time occur in a matter of about ten seconds.
The Following -- Season 1
#01 "Pilot"#09 "Love Hurts"
#02 "Chapter Two"#10 "Guilt"
#03 "The Poet's Fire"#11 "Whips & Regret"
#04 "Mad Love"#12 "The Curse"
#05 "The Siege"#13 "Havenport"
#06 "The Fall"#14 "The End is Near"
#07 "Let Me Go"#15 "The Final Chapter"
#08 "Welcome Home"