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Ryan Advocates Justice Over Revenge, The Following “Exposed” 

After last week’s brutal death of Agent Clarke, it seemed appropriate that this week was almost entirely devoted to taking down his killer, Neil. And while I found the juxtaposition between his role as a cool, calm, collected murderer and that of a concerned, frazzled, error-prone son intriguing, it was what his death represented that really piqued my interest. After Max killed Neil, our characters were given the opportunity to grieve Agent Clarke with a small sense of closure. The man directly responsible for his death would never been able to “box” anyone again and as a result, the team has the opportunity to regroup and choose to pursue the rest of the followers with a healthy, professional and less revenge-driven approach. And much to my surprise, it was Ryan who advocated this change.

Photo Credit: CR: Giovanni Rufino/FOX
Photo Credit: Giovanni Rufino/FOX

After the nightmare that haunted Ryan at the beginning of this episode, it was nice to see that Neil’s death gave him a sense of relief. His eulogy for Clarke was not at all what I would’ve expected from Ryan. He’s normally driven to hunt, avenge and take down the bad guys without concerns about what it will do to him personally. And yet, this time, he advised that the FBI needs to turn to their loved ones and figure out how to rise above the chaos and darkness that surrounds them.

Ryan: Jeffrey Clarke was many things. An exemplary agent. A good friend. He believed in honor, justice and most of all, he believed in family. Because without each other, we are nothing. His death should be a reminder to us all that there is evil in this world and we cannot falter in the face of it. But we also can’t let it affect us. We have to rise above it. No matter how hard that may seem.

To be honest, I don’t know that Ryan will be able to follow his own advice, nor do I think it’s totally realistic. When your friend is bent, broken and shoved in to a box, that is going to affect you, no matter how tough or strong you are. That being said, it is nice to hear Ryan finally advocate for justice, rather than revenge for once. After all, as FBI agents, that is their job. It was also nice that Ryan was finally able to rally and bring his team together in solidarity, rather than spiral down a dark hole alone. It seems that Gwen has truly made a positive impact on his life (although I don’t entirely trust her, but we’ll save that discussion for another time).

However, the one person who truly needed to hear this more than anyone, wasn’t even there. As I’ve mentioned before, I see Mike turning into Ryan. He is taking on the burden of guilt and separating himself from the team to both wallow and attempt to exact revenge on his own. And rather than giving him a feeling of success, of ridding the world of one more evil, of protecting more people, Neil’s death just sparked him to work harder and feel more shame for what had happened to Clarke.

Max: What the hell are you doing? You missed Clarke’s ceremony for what? To hunt Mark?

Mike: That’s what you really think of me? Clarke died because of what I did. So how can I face him now? How can I look at Anna?

[Max hugs him]

Max: We’re all responsible.

Honestly, I can’t entirely blame Mike. It must be incredibly difficult to look in to the eyes of Clarke’s wife knowing that he was the catalyst for this murderous rampage. And yet, she blamed Ryan for her husband’s death and Ryan not only took it, but attempted to use it to inspire. How these two men have almost switched roles and the way these deaths have alternately affected them is so interesting to me. And to be honest, I don’t think either of them are entirely wrong.

Photo Credit: Giovanni Rufino/FOX
Photo Credit: Giovanni Rufino/FOX

Neil’s death can both represent a sense of accomplishment and ignite a fire to achieve more. However, it’s Mike’s attempt to isolate himself in this attempt and to allow his passion to solely drive him that concerns me. Like I said, he needed to hear Ryan’s speech more than anyone. There is evil in this world and it is their job to take it down. But once they allow that evil to affect them and consume them, that is actually when they falter. Drive and passion is important, but so is rationality and logic. This needs to be about justice, not revenge. After all, it was Mike’s passion and desperation to avenge his father’s death that got them in to this mess in the first place and if he doesn’t learn to step back and outside of himself, I can only see this going from bad to worse.

Next week’s episode of The Following is two hours long, so be sure to set your DVRs. It will start at 8/7c next Monday on FOX.

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