The Following Postmortem: The Case Takes a Devastating Turn for Mike
[Warning: This article contains major spoilers about Monday's episode of The Following. Read at your own risk!]
The investigation into Joe Carroll’s cult turned gruesomely personal for Mike Weston (Shawn Ashmore) on Monday’s episode of The Following. In the final moments, Mike witnesses his father being brutally murdered in his home by rogue follower Lily Gray (Connie Nielsen) and her minions, before he or any of the other FBI agents watching can do anything about it.
“This is sort of the final straw. … There’s a new sort of ferocity that builds up in Mike,” Ashmore tells TVGuide.com. “He’s got to finish this out one way or another.”
Elsewhere in the episode, one of Lily’s other cohorts kidnaps Ryan’s niece Max (Jessica Stroup), who escapes with the help of Mike. And Joe (James Purefoy), Emma (Valorie Curry) and Mandy (Tiffany Boone) link up with a creepy group of followers who elect to “sacrifice” Emma, which entails tying her to a gurney and slitting her wrists so that the blood drips down into a chalice, which the cult leader later drinks from. Between Lily’s craziness and this horrifying campfire game, it seems as though Joe might want to do a better job of vetting his partners in crime!
But back to Mike, who we last seen being cradled like a baby in the arms of Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon), who certainly knows a thing or two himself about losing people to Joe Carroll and his demented devotees. TVGuide.com spoke with Ashmore to find out what this devastating turn means for his character going forward, and how the episode’s final moments came together behind the scenes.
TVGuide.com: Mike’s journey so far this season has been kind of an evolution where he’s become more like Ryan in Season 1. Does witnessing his father’s murder complete that?
Shawn Ashmore: Absolutely. Mike, even from the very first episode, has sort of been in transition. It’s one big arc. … When Weston’s dad is killed in front of him is very similar to Ryan losing Claire [at the end of Season 1]. It’s certainly on that scale. I think it’s sort of the final straw that makes these guys even, emotionally, if we were keeping tallies of what’s happened to these guys, how much they’ve lost and how much pain they’ve gone through. Ryan watched Claire being killed right in front of him, and now Weston sees his dad killed right in front of his eyes.
Does it give them a better understanding of each other?
Ashmore: In a strange way, it brings these guys closer together as it pushes them apart. I think Weston knows at this point that maybe he shouldn’t be on this case. He knows that emotionally, psychologically, he’s not in the best position. But when something like this happens, the drive for revenge is beyond control. And I think Ryan not stepping in his way just shows how much he understands what Mike’s going through. So yeah, I think these guys are on the same path, and they’re basically the same person emotionally in a lot of ways at this point. How the rest of the season progresses is, we sort of see how these guys differ, if they differ, in the way that they handle this pain.
How difficult was it to film that scene in the FBI?
Ashmore: It was a really interesting scene to film. When we’re shooting in that FBI headquarters room, we never have the footage of what’s happening. I never see that footage until I watch the episode, so I was staring at sort of four big green screens and the director was talking to me about what happened. So, I never met the actor that played my father. I didn’t know how they were going to kill him. … So, you have the director off to the side sort of explaining to you what happens. “OK, now Lily’s going behind your dad. He’s grabbing him by the hair, yanking his head back. He decapitates him.” These sort of visuals. So, it was a very emotional scene to try to film. But I think in a weird way, not having the actual image to see sort of lets your imagination run even wilder, and you can create the darkest, most sinister scenarios you could ever imagine, and then sort of try to channel that. It was really difficult.
And then after that scene, you have to basically have an emotional breakdown.
Ashmore: Mike goes from completely fine to completely broken down. … That was the hardest part of the scene for me, was going from completely fine to basically crying in 45 seconds, if that. It was interesting and difficult.
Talk about the final moments of the episode, where we see Mike literally lying in Ryan’s lap.
Ashmore: We weren’t sure how we were going to play that moment. Was it the arm around the shoulder? Was it the head on the shoulder? Was it completely crumbling? [Creator] Kevin Williamson and our director thought that that was the most childlike Weston could ever get, and it was a nice reflection of father and son now that Weston’s dad is gone. We toyed around with what that last moment was going to be, and I think that was a good way to end.
Does Mike have any time to grieve for his father, or is he just focused on revenge at this point?
Ashmore: Revenge kicks in very quickly. In the next episode, we see Mike mourning. We get to get a glimpse into his family life and where he comes from and how they’re dealing with it. Ultimately, I think Mike feels very guilty and responsible for this. I’ve had people ask me if Mike’s mad at Ryan, or if he’s got anger towards Ryan because of this, and the answer’s absolutely not. I think Mike puts the blame squarely on himself. And not only does he have the loss of his dad, but he’s got the weight of his family — not fully blaming him, but in the back of their heads knowing that if Mike wasn’t on this case that their dad wouldn’t be dead. So, that’s pretty heavy. But he parlays this sense of pain into revenge pretty quickly. That was already built in him, to go after Joe and everybody. So, this is just the next step, and there’s a new sort of ferocity that builds up in Mike. But I don’t think it’s straight anger. I think there’s a lot of just pain in there too.
You say there’s a new sense of ferocity in him, but we already saw Mike lose it with Luke in last week’s episode.
Ashmore: From Day 1 of this season … there’s something going on with Mike. There’s something under the surface that’s happening. He’s angry immediately with Ryan. He’s pissed off that Debra’s dead and Ryan doesn’t care. So there’s a simmering underneath Mike. … I think there’s an aspect of PTSD that Mike is going through. And getting in that close proximity to somebody like Luke is the straw that breaks the camel’s back for Mike. He realizes that, though. He’s not blind to that.
Right. After the incident with Luke, Mike tells Ryan at the beginning of Monday’s episode that he wants to walk away from the case.
Ashmore: He tries to pull himself away, and obviously because of the kidnapping of Max he steps back in. I think he has some self-awareness, but at the end of the day, the pain and all that he’s gone through takes over.
We’re guessing that dropping the case is not an option for him at this point?
Ashmore: No, definitely not. He’s got to finish this out one way or another. And now I think he’s more reckless than ever. He’s willing to do what it takes to get these guys. … That was the difference between Ryan and Mike in the first season. Ryan was willing to break the rules, and Mike sort of felt like he had to stay within protocol of the FBI. Now that’s basically out the window.
What did you think about Mike’s ordeal? Will he become like Ryan or will he go his own way?
The Following airs Mondays at 9/8c on Fox.