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The Following Conversations: A Different Side of Ryan Hardy in “Freedom” 

While “Freedom” gave us a brutal coffee shop massacre, a bloody hospital escape and a gut-churning cult sacrifice, I saw it as the calm before the storm. Obviously, there’s always a storm on The Following but as far as Ryan’s personal life goes, for once, there was calm. He was happy. He was positive. And in what could be the biggest twist of the season, we saw that he could actually smile! It was like watching a whole new version of Ryan Hardy. He was still focused and dedicated to the job, but there was also a lightness to him. An optimism and openness we haven’t seen before. And we weren’t the only ones to recognize it.

Photo Credit: Sarah Shatz/FOX
Photo Credit: Sarah Shatz/FOX

Ryan: You’re going to get through this Mike, we both are.
Mike: How uncharacteristically optimistic of you, Ryan.
Ryan: Hey, I can be optimistic. Sometimes.
Mike: Uh huh. Is this Carrie Cooke’s doing? I know its not my business but I…
Ryan: Yea, I like her. She’s not what I thought.

I’ll be honest, when we first met Carrie Cooke, I did not see this coming. She seemed conniving and manipulative and truth be told, I’m still not 100% convinced we can trust her. But Ryan does. And being with her makes him happy…or as happy as a man hunting down two murderous cults can be.

While Ryan is no doubt good at his job, I can’t help but feel that this new attitude has made him even better. Sure, he just missed catching Luke, but he was the one to put the pieces together and come *this close* to bringing the hammer down on Lily Gray’s master-plan to rescue Luke. And when it comes to master-plans, Lily is no novice. She’s been one (or two or three) steps ahead of the FBI and Ryan from day 1.  She played the victim, she seduced Ryan, she lured Joe and she even managed to escape when her best-laid plans went to hell. That’s why I can hardly blame Mike for feeling frustrated and defeated, especially since his father was a casualty in the path of Lily’s destruction. But even the loss of their only lead and leverage couldn’t get this new Ryan down (unlike in the past when this would’ve easily sent him in to a place of dark despair).

Mike: Look at the resources this woman has, she busted in to a government secured hospital. How do you go up against somebody like that? She’s more calculated than Joe, so little regard for human life that she’d seek out a man’s father and kill him. I don’t understand it. I try, but I don’t.
Ryan: It can’t be understood. We’re gonna find ’em, Mike. We’re gonna find Lily Gray and Joe Carroll.
Mike: Yea? I don’t see it.
Ryan: Well I do, the optimism. Hope. And then after all this is over, you and me, we’re gonna have a life. You know why? The universe owes us. You understand that?

And again, there is that optimism. Not just for the current, but also for the future. Who ever thought Ryan Hardy with his constant speculation and self-proclaimed death curse would envision a bright future? Sure, he could have just been placating Mike, but that’s more than he’s ever been able to do before. He was able to stand up and be a friend and a mentor to Mike, something that has been brewing under the surface of his determination from the beginning.


Photo Credit: Sarah Shatz/FOX
Photo Credit: Sarah Shatz/FOX


That’s why the end of this episode made me all the more torn. Don’t get me wrong, I love Ryan and Claire together and cannot wait to see how she thinks she can help him take down Joe, but I’m also not quite ready for what this will do to Ryan personally. The man gets one episode of happiness and hope to have it all dashed away. He’ll inevitably be baffled and rattled by Claire’s survival, but I can also see him pulling away from Mike and Director Franklin for having kept him out of the loop. And when that happens, Ryan retreats back in to himself. Or at least that’s what the old Ryan would do.


Photo Credit: Sarah Shatz/FOX
Photo Credit: Sarah Shatz/FOX


I can only hope that this past year has given Ryan the strength to  take this blow in stride and continue to move forward. I know it won’t be easy after being lied to, but I’m not ready to give up on Ryan’s smile just yet. We’ve watched the corners of his mouth turn down so many times that to see them rise for once gave me the hope that when this is all over, the universe will indeed settle up on its debt and Ryan can have a real life.

Be sure to watch The Following Mondays at 9/8c on FOX.

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