Plot: Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) is within the Korban compound. Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) learns about Ryan’s arrival and is torn between his master plan and his old nemesis. Mike Weston (Shawn Ashmore) and Max Hardy (Jessica Stroup) are doing everything they can to find Ryan while also hunting both Joe and Lily Gray (Connie Nielsen).
For those who read my review of last week’s “Betrayal,” you may have noticed that I delivered a prediction for the events of “The Reaping.” I openly mentioned how Korban was going to fall, Joe would get away, and how Claire and the FBI would only exist to excite but nothing more. While this prediction was incredibly broad, you can’t deny that it was 100% accurate. All of this happened in “The Reaping” to a tee. Yet even though this episode was as predictable as they come plot wise, it was better than normal with some excellent moments of self-awareness and the removal of Lily Gray.
One of the issues many people have with this show is the fact that the big villains are very rarely stopped. How many times now has Joe, Lily, or anyone close to them escaped the clutches of the law? It’s beyond weird that professional crime fighters are so terrible at actually stopping the crimes. In an absolutely brilliant move, the show puts this in the spotlight in two different occasions. The first time came when Claire’s (Natalie Zea) plan to send Joe a message is completely shot down by Max, Mike, and Carrie Cooke (Sprague Grayden). In an act of complete frustration, Claire openly yells, “Why don’t you want to stop murderers?!” or something along those lines. This naturally offends everyone else but it’s a question fans have been asking for a long time. It’s clearer now than ever that Claire and her aggravation with law enforcement are accurate representations of how viewers actually feel. While Claire stayed in the background again for most of the episode, this was enough to make me happy.
The second moment happened between Joe and Ryan. You see, The Following has been a long song and dance between these two men. Ryan has pledged to kill Joe an unbelievable amount of times and yet has never succeeded. Ryan’s obsession with finding Joe even after his apparent death is proof that he can’t live without him. Instead of the show letting this blatant truth go unsaid, Joe himself details it all to Ryan. Ryan naturally denies any of this but his past actions give these claims credence. I myself have begun to feel this way too. Despite his best efforts, Ryan will never kill Joe because he needs him for purpose. Joe meanwhile will never kill Ryan because they’re “friends.” Who would have ever thought that Joe himself would become a means for the show to openly question its own formula?
Of course there really is no better example of Ryan’s apparent willingness to keep Joe alive than his march through Korban. This was easily the most frustrating moment of the episode because you just know from the start that it will fail. Ryan was in a good position to deliver some real hurt on Joe and yet he openly passed up golden opportunities. Instead of shooting Joe on a wide open stage and escaping during chaos, he waits until Joe is behind a balcony and several trees. Ryan obviously misses the shot. Later on, Ryan intentionally surrenders instead of continuing his stealth assault. While this all just adds fuel to the “Ryan can’t kill Joe” theory, it’s frustrating because the viewer actually wants Joe dead. Joe is a blight on society who needs to be taken out before more people die. It’s tough to get fully invested in any Ryan vs. Joe plot because you just know the two will make it out alive.
I’m sure you can guess how I felt about the ending then right? Sprinkled in between the Korban material is Lily amassing a small mercenary group to attack Joe’s base. Lily leads the charge and several Korban followers meet their end. Surprisingly though, so does Lily at the hands of Mike. Mike is able to figure out that Lily is by another exit and chooses to execute her right on the spot. I didn’t expect Lily to die but I’m honestly glad she’s gone. Mike taking her out in a fit of rage easily made him the most believable character. How much shit do our heroes have to endure before they snap? When will enough actually be enough? Mike has now passed that point and he likely saved a ton of lives by doing so. While Ryan has proven he’s all “bark” when it comes to ending it all, Mike is willing to have some “bite.” I’m sure he’ll be reprimanded next week but we all know that if Ryan just did this to Joe last season a lot of innocent people wouldn’t have died. Hopefully someone in the show will mention that.
I also feel the need to discuss Joe forcing Preston Tanner (Carter Jenkins) to kill a completely innocent Korban member. It was disturbingly refreshing to actually have someone not like murder for a change. Preston is probably the only person on this show who was negatively affected by the act of killing. Other people who were forced to kill in the name of Joe hated it at first but then had a big smile afterwards. Preston instead was sobbing his brains out exclaiming his hatred for the man. The entire scene was incredibly grotesque and it made me squirm, which is how someone should feel with a show like this.
“The Reaping” saw Joe set into motion his master plan for a holy war. He is now out of Korban and on his way to New York. Claire also found a way to send a private message to him which will hopefully shake things up a bit too. I’m glad that Joe is out in the wild because this show really does better when he’s openly causing chaos. I don’t want to say that I’m excited for next week based on the tease, because that almost always bites me in the ass, but I guess you can say I’m mildly intrigued. At the very least, this episode wasn’t terrible. It got the story moving and it allowed certain characters to just call bullshit. If only the latter could happen more often.