Truly creepy Blacklisters that will no doubt be remembered. Deeper character moments for Red, Ressler, Dembe and Liz. And Liz opens the door! Finally!
Not many with this episode. A few nits and an annoyance that it took three weeks to peek behind the door.
After a dip, The Blacklist is back with a vengeance! The hunters become the hunted as the seedy, vindictive and creepy underworld of illegal poaching rears its ugly stuffed head.
The Blacklist — It’s official. Just when we thought The Blacklist was taking a step back, they shock the hell out of us with what will undoubtedly be one of the more memorable episodes just from creep and ick factors alone. Red (James Spader) points Agent Liz Keen (Megan Boone) and the Task Force in the direction of The Mombasa Cartel (Blacklister No. 114) who have built a reputation as the worst of the worst in the deadly underworld of wildlife poaching. When the grisly, mutilated corpse of a rival Cartel member washes ashore in Russia, it would seem that The Mombasa Cartel is eliminating the competition in an effort to take control of the billions in blood money traded every year in illegal poaching.
With a potential lead in Alaska, Ressler (Diego Klattenhoff) leaves to investigate, but may instead come face to face with his own demons as his addiction to pain medication intensifies. When the lead turns into something much more sinister, Ressler finds himself in a deadly game of hunt or be hunted against one of the creepiest groups of Blacklisters yet. With time running out, it may very well be up to Liz to save him—that is if she can get a grip on her own problems at home hiding behind the metal door we’ve been teased with for weeks. There’s a ton of plot twists and surprises stuffed into this episode so hang on as we weave our way through the vile trappings ahead!
Secrets, secrets and more secrets. Nothing is what it seems.
The staggering human toll and billions in illegal trade put The Mombasa Cartel squarely in the sights of The Task Force at the behest of Red, who—for reasons unknown—seems to be keenly interested in stopping Mombasa. As the team presses the investigation, Red connects Liz to eccentric billionaire conservationist Geoff Pearl (Peter Fonda) who puts the team hot on the trail of Mombasa’s import ring. When a second mutilated victim washes ashore, the real picture starts to form. Both victims recently defected to work for Mombasa itself. Mombasa isn’t eliminating competition. They are the target.
As this episode plays out, nothing is what it first appears. Secrets drive almost every plot point for every character. None larger than Liz, who has—at least to us the audience—the biggest secret of all. When she’s notified there’s a problem at the secret door location, she steps out to investigate. We’ll be honest and say that we were hopeful we’d get to see what’s behind the door early in the episode, but the sarcastic “having watching a lot of television” part of us knew we wouldn’t. Sure enough, we don’t. Red’s Associate (Hal Ozsan) however gets a good look and simply asks if she wants to tell Red about it or should he. Lizzy buys a day to tell Red herself, but in a move that would have made Red proud were the roles reversed, she instead sends a SWAT team to pull The Associate out of the picture. With the roles as they are, Red isn’t pleased and suspects that Liz is up to something bigger.
“You know as well as I this has nothing to do with being followed. This is about being found out. You’re hiding something.” ~ Red
As little as we’d seen him lately, we were starting to think that it was another secret that Diego Klattenhoff starred on The Blacklist at all. He’s become such a background character in recent weeks we’d almost forgotten he was on the show. This week he bounced back from recurring purgatory in full force when his desperate attempts to get his hands on additional meds and his investigation of Mombasa took center stage. We wondered when Ressler’s addiction story might float to the top again. It certainly did, and in painful fashion. We imagine one has to be pretty desperate to gum the last bits of pill dust from your bottle, but to smash your own thumb in a car door to get to get more? That’s dedication to your meds.
We love Diego Klattenhoff and the hard-nosed edge he’s always brought to Ressler. He certainly took us through the emotional wringer last season with the loss of his fiancé and the betrayal of one of his oldest friends. Red warned him that some places are too dark to come back from and we can’t help but wonder if Ressler already knows that. We’ve missed Klattenhoff as a key piece of this cast and felt the show was weaker in recent weeks without him. It pained us to watch this tough agent struggle with his own demons, but it was certainly good to see Klattenhoff and his edge return. The show is stronger when he plays a more prominent role.
Family ties, glassy eyes and shocking goodbyes.
As it turns out, the inner circle of The Mombasa Cartel is a family tree perhaps without enough branches to be entirely comfortable. This will likely turn out to be one of the oddest and most memorable ‘Listers for certain. After a couple of weeks where the ‘Listers themselves seem to take a back seat to larger things at play, this week we were jarred into the reality that the writing team for The Blacklist still has plenty of wicked up their sleeves. Skye Kincaid (Phyllis Somerville), Matthew Kincaid (Carel Struycken) and Peter Kincaid (David Aaron Baker) made for one seriously dysfunctional family of a mother and two brothers with one disturbing family hobby—human taxidermy.
The Cartel bodies that had been washing ashore were the skinned remains of the very real stuffed works of art by the mentally challenged Matthew in the Kincaid home. That alone was enough for us to get the heebee jeebees. Blackened glassy eyes inserted into the victims sockets gave them a truly soulless feel that was almost hard to watch. Brilliant casting made this entire sequence all the more real. Phyllis Somerville and Carel Struycken played their disturbed parts amazingly well. This was especially true during bath time, which despite the warm water, stopped us cold. We are fairly certain that there is an appropriate age where mother dearest should have let Matthew bathe himself. Not the case in the Kincaid household. It was an unsettling thought seeing the giant Struycken tower over Somerville in only a towel and bubbles of soap.
“Peter’s coming tomorrow. He’s bringing a new friend for you to play with. Isn’t that great?” ~ Skye
It’s not until Ressler stumbles upon the latest victim, Lee Chung (James Chen), at the Kincaid homestead that we see the true horrors of the family business. Deep in the woods of Alaska, this episode took a drastically twisted turn toward a mix of the X-Files meets Deliverance, with a touch of Friday the 13th sprinkled in just for good measure. Ressler and Chung wake, tagged by the ear and caged. When the cages are opened, the hunt is on and a howling Matthew gives chase. Chung doesn’t last a minute before Matthew puts an arrow through him. Ressler knows this is for real, but when his hands won’t stop shaking, so is his imminent withdrawal.
Knowing that things are unraveling, Skye places an angry call to Matthew’s father, none other than Geoff Pearl himself, who urges her to conceal all the evidence when Ressler is dead. I’m sure the last thing Geoff expected downstairs after this call was Red with a silenced pistol, but Red now knows Geoff’s connection to the family of freaks in the woods.
Every fan of The Blacklist will tell you later they remember the campfire from this episode. A weary and trembling Ressler thinks he’s found refuge in the black of night as he comes across a roaring campfire surrounded by several men enjoying the blazing heat. Did we say the writing team still had wicked? We weren’t kidding. To Ressler’s horror, and ours, all the men are the stuffed, soulless, black-eyed Cartel victims of Matthew and it would seem that Ressler is destined to be next.
We’ll hand it to him, Ressler bounced back from that shock faster than we did. As Matthew sits to enjoy a “chat” with his stuffed friends the shakes finally give Ressler away. He’s been hiding in plain sight in the clothes of one of the victims. In a scramble, he stabs Matthew, who wanders back home just in time for a final bloody bath and a FBI raid that leaves none of the family alive. Bath time was a fitting end to Matthew and mother Skye. As Liz enters the room, gun drawn, Skye drops the radio into the bath, electrocuting them both and ending the oddest mother-son pairing we’ve seen since Jason and mommy dearest terrorized counselors at Camp Crystal Lake.
Revenge, Recovery and Revelations.
Throughout most of this episode Red played very much a background role, but in the final moments as he confronted Geoff we were salivating at the thought of Spader and Fonda facing off in a duel of words and we weren’t let down. If the crew didn’t have a bit of chills filming, they must not have been paying attention. This was classic Red with an adversary that was just as stoic and entertaining.
As the two bantered back and forth with rhetoric that defined each of their positions, Red exposed Geoff as the real driving force behind the Mombasa Cartel. Mombasa had established a controlled monopoly to stem the tide of other “out of control” Cartels and took the opportunity to weed out a few of its own in the ranks. It seemed odd for Red to be condemning someone else for atrocities surely no worse than many he’d commissioned himself through the years, but as we suspected from the beginning, this was personal for Red. Dembe’s (Hisham Tawfiq) family had been murdered by Mombasa when he was a child and that tragedy had put him through horrors until Red finally rescued him and took Dembe in as his own. As Dembe realizes that Red seeks revenge, he speaks up.
“Raymond, don’t. That was then. It serves no purpose to kill him now.” ~ Dembe
“You see that Geoff? That is what a good man does. That is what separates men like him, from men like you. And me.” ~ Red
After hearing Dembe’s emotional story of grief and triumph from a trembling Red, it became clear that this entire episode was about this moment. Red had been seeking out the Mombasa leadership for years to exact revenge for the horrors visited upon Dembe. Having been given all the information on the rest of the Cartel by Geoff—Red promptly put a bullet in Geoff’s heart. The remaining information on all the rest of the Cartel operatives was given to the FBI Task Force and we can only surmise that Mombasa’s days are numbered.
As the episode wraps, we have a much better understanding of the bond between Red and Dembe Zuma. Atoning for the past, even in his own brutal way, seems to be at the heart of Red’s motives. We wonder what that will mean as he sits in the park talking to Zoe D’Antonio (Scottie Thompson) whom Red has already introduced himself to as someone else. What crucial role does Zoe play in the grand scheme against Berlin? How will her life be sent into a vicious tumble once Red’s world catches up with her? We can only guess, but we have no doubt it’s coming.
Ressler, rescued by Liz, is presented his bottle of pills by her as he recovers from his ordeal. She now knows why he’s seemed on edge. How will this revelation affect their working relationship? Will she keep his secret? We suspect she might. She has plenty of her own and keeping one of his could come in handy. The question would be does she keep it because she cares about Ressler or simply as a bargaining chip later? We think the answer may be “yes” but we’ll all have to wait to find out.
In the final reveal, we do finally get to see what’s behind the door. After three episodes, Liz stands inside. There sits Tom (Ryan Eggold), chained and restrained. Healed from his wounds, he’s been held captive, presumably all this time. We can’t say we’re surprised. What else could have been behind that door but Tom? He tells her she can’t hide him forever and he’s answered all her questions. But she’s done a good job of hiding him so far. We were left wondering how she orchestrated this entire affair. Where did her stacks of cash come from that she used to pay the double? Who is the bodyguard that stands outside Tom’s door? How is Liz financing and coordinating all this? Only time, and additional episodes of The Blacklist, will tell.
FINAL VERDICT: This is very much The Blacklist we’ve come to know and love with solid side-stories, twisted and unique Blacklisters plus Red showing us why Red is so compelling to watch.
After a couple of lackluster episodes The Blacklist finally felt like The Blacklist again. This episode was a powerful departure from the last two that had their moments, but felt like a different show. Liz still has her own secrets, but Red returned to very much the role we’ve become accustomed to by orchestrating things in the background until the end when he confronted Geoff Pearl and Mombasa with a personal vendetta.
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It occurred to us that seeing a bit less of Red until he delivered something very powerful, as he did recounting Dembe’s past and their relationship, made his words carry a weight they might not if we had too much of him in the episode. Perhaps there’s a fine line between not enough Red and too much, but writer Daniel Knauf and Director David Platt both deserve praise for finding it here.
We’re coming up to Halloween fast and we’ve made the decision that we’re not going to visit the homes of ANY of the visual effects crew from The Blacklist. That’s a huge compliment by the way to Production Designer Nicholas Lundy and his entire team. Everyone’s heard their fair share of fireside stories meant to scare the bejeezus out of us, but in a contest of creepiest takes the cake, The Mombasa Cartel’s “art” wins the goods, period. We like a good scare, but we don’t ever want to meet any of the campfire boys from this episode. Kudos to everyone involved for pulling off one of the most skin-crawling moments in a show that’s made a name for doing just that.
We still have a boatload of questions. Red has entered the world of Zoe, but under false pretenses. That can’t end well for either of them. We’d certainly like to know what her connection is to the larger story afoot. And speaking of, where is Berlin? We know he didn’t take is money and simply run. There’s a bigger play between he and Red and though he was temporarily bested, we can only imaging Berlin is somewhere biding his time—perhaps in an ice bath for kicks. Liz’s secret is also out—at least to us watching from this side of the television. How long that stays that way we don’t know. Tom is right, it can’t last forever, but we’d sure like to know what Liz has learned from him and where it all goes next. What will Red do when he finds out about Liz’s chained house pet? That’s one of the many reasons we’ll be watching The Blacklist again next week!
Questions, Comments, Concerns and My Reaction on Twitter…
- Filleted bodies. Well that was gruesome.
- “100’s of billions of dollars a year in blood money.” ~ Red. That’s dire story. What’s Red’s angle?
- Poachers of poachers? Do we care that the bad guys are getting nicked?
- Oh hell. That’s not good Lizzy. But they still didn’t open the damned door!!
- What was the look to Aram? lol RT @mozhanistan: “From blindness to….erectile dysfunction.” Teehee @AmirArison @NBCBlacklist
- Um .. did we miss something between Aram and Samar? @AmirArison @mozhanistan #ErectileDisfunction
- “We’re not buddies. I don’t have buddies.” ~ Red. Even Dembe? @HISHAMTAWFIQ
- I swear they are going to leave this door thing to the damned end of the episode.
- “You seem a little edgy.” ~ Liz. “I’m fine. Thanks mom.” ~ Ressler. Not taking your meds there Ressler? @MeganBoone @DKlattenhoff
- Hmm—Red is saving animals; Liz is having armed men break down doors to eliminate threats. Did they have a Freaky Friday switch?
- Don’t mess with mamma. (I’m a bit scared of her).
- “Hello Kenneth. Very snappy.” ~ Zoe. Zoe, your world is dangerously close to falling into the black hole that IS Red Reddington.
- “You’ve plugged the hole. But the dam will fail.” ~ Red to Liz
- .@MeganBoone @mozhanistan @NBCBlacklist You two ladies are cracking me up! This is serious #TheBlacklist business! And I’m laughing. lol
- And I thought baths on #Defiance were the most uncomfortable to watch. I was wrong!
- You’re not exactly looking yourself there Ressler. Wow. That’s commitment to your addiction! @DKlattenhoff
- I’m getting a very creepy X-Files meets Deliverance vibe from this episode.
- Corporate second uncle’s second cousin’s mother ..Looks like the same group as our captors.
- “He’s a child. He’s your child.” ~ Skye. Um. He’s a big one. With a bow and a howling need for killing tagged game.
- Okay. That was officially the creepiest campfire story anyone will EVER see. Holy S**T! @JonBokenkamp
- Geoff. That was breathtaking. .. We are what we do Ace.
- Well this is nerve-wracking as hell. It’s almost made me forget about the fact that the DOOR hasn’t been opened.
- Well that was more shocking than the uncomfortable bath time. I don’t want to hear mama scream again. Please.
- “That is what separates men like him. From men like you. And me.” ~ Red. Damn!! @HISHAMTAWFIQ
- That’s all that was behind the door? Man .. #ExpectingASurprise
- Loved getting some back story of Dembe tonight. Well played @HISHAMTAWFIQ @JonBokenkamp
The Blacklist Review: 2×06 “The Mombasa Cartel”