Intense, emotional and gripping performances by Spader, Stormare, Alda and Boone highlight an unbelievably well-written and shocking episode that might be the best to date.
Very few. We'd say the fact that it was only one hour was a negative, but we're not sure if we could handle two hours of this intensity.
The Blacklist — In the Fall Finale of The Blacklist, for Red (James Spader) and Berlin (Peter Stormare) it all comes down to retribution—just not against who we thought. When Zoe (Scottie Thompson) comes clean that she is Berlin’s daughter, Red and Berlin finally compare notes and learn why their lives have been on a collision course for over 20 years. Zoe’s death was faked and the trail of blame led directly to Red. The man responsible, The Decemberist (Blacklister No. 12), helped her escape her father to start a new life. Berlin and Red set themselves on a new mission to find the name of The Decemberist. Red gives Liz (Megan Boone) all the information he has and despite her protest of Red working with Berlin, she is assured that if they can find The Decemberist, Berlin will get his due.
As the Task Force investigates a 1991 bombing attributed to The Decemberist, DNA evidence not previously usable leads them to Moscow and one of the most powerful men in Russia. When Berlin and Red learn that even this man is a pawn in a much larger game, the real Decemberist is named—Alan Fitch (Alan Alda). Realizing that the deal with Fitch’s group will end with his death and put in motion a bloodbath should Berlin exact revenge, Red does everything in his power to stop it. Meanwhile, Liz’s plan of secretly holding Tom (Ryan Eggold) is beginning to unravel and when Fitch is captured by Berlin, Tom may be the only one with the means to find Berlin. The series of events that follow are some of the most emotional and jaw-dropping moments delivered by The Blacklist yet and no matter how long this series runs, the deadly final few minutes will never be forgotten. There’s so much to discuss and time is running out!
Fitch, for all your efforts to throw off your scent, the junkyard dog is now after you.
When Red confronts Fitch to warn him Berlin is coming, the conversation between the two captivated us. James Spader and Alan Alda are two of the most natural and gifted actors we know and watching them spar has made for powerful moments each time it happens. This was no different. Red’s indignant and forthright accusal of Fitch is warranted. With a deal in place to not attack each other, Red has found this entire affair smells of betrayal. Fitch’s cavalier response doesn’t help matters. Berlin predated the deal he explains. And Fitch warns Red he has no allies within Fitch’s group.
“Without me to protect you, they’ll take you down. and they’ll let the chips fall where they may. So this is as much your problem as it is mine.” ~ Fitch
No words are minced. No posturing is made. All the information is in the open. This is two men that have no reason to withhold. Calculated dialogue pulls us into the moment. The tension builds with each close up and every line from one to the other. The warm, inviting light was almost an affront to the tension. As each verbal spar draws us in and the camera gets closer, the quietly ominous music makes this feel almost uncomfortably personal. Director of Photography Eric Moynier has helped capture some absolutely amazing shots this season and drawing us in to the warmth surrounding these two performers was one of his finest.
In the end, everyone has a weakness, even Berlin.
When Fitch is captured by Berlin, Tom is the only one that may have information to find him. We don’t know if Red actually knew Liz was holding Tom or his accusation was a brilliant bait to get her to admit it, but the fact we don’t know is a microcosm on how well this episode was written and performed. Either way, when Tom is let loose to lead them to Berlin we get our first little taste of Ressler (Diego Klattenhoff) and Tom face to face. We’ve been itching for that moment ever since evil Tom first reared his head. We certainly hope there are more ahead because there’s no way that little shoving match was the end of what these two have to say to one another. We’ll hand it to Liz. Pulling a gun stops most arguments and it certainly worked here. If we didn’t know better, we’d say both men were a little jealous.
Tom’s lead sends them straight to Fitch, but with a catch. Fitch has a bomb collar strapped around his neck. In a play of irony, the bomb squad places Fitch in Red’s vault in the Post Office until they can disarm the device. Red takes matters into his own hands and uses Zoe for one last play to find Berlin. As she sits uncomfortably with Berlin over a meal, we couldn’t help but feel just a bit sad for Berlin. As tough and horrid a character as he’s been, Peter Stormare humanized him in this moment. Not realizing the trap is set, he simply wants a last meal with his daughter before exiting her life. As she stands to go, he stops her.
“I know you have your life. I have no place there. I know. But I just want you to stay a little longer.” ~ Berlin
For all his sins and all the lives he’s no doubt corrupted or devastated, this incredibly powerful man sat across from his little girl and pleaded for just another moment. So much of who he is and what has fueled his rage for so long was her torturous death. To have her again, only to realize there is no place for a monster like himself in her life was humbling to watch. In an episode of emotional moments, this one, in all it’s strangeness was the most heart-wrenching. Stormare deserves amazing praise for stealing the show with this surprisingly emotional scene. Had anyone told us ahead of time that we’d feel empathy for Berlin, we’d have said it was impossible, but Stormare made it work. And when Red sits down and the trap is sprung, whatever small pieces are left of Berlin’s heart breaks in Stormare’s eyes. Berlin’s daughter, his only light in his life, betrays him and walks away. In her place is Red. The bomb must be disarmed.
We are never in complete control of our lives. There is always something that controls us instead.
As the bomb squad works feverishly to disarm the device around his neck, Fitch seems to come to terms with the impending end of his life and laments the 763 men and women lost under his charge. When it’s evident this impossibly clever device can’t be disarmed, Fitch instructs the young man trying desperately to solve the bomb’s riddle to go. Fitch doesn’t want the number to rise to 764. He asks to speak to Red. As all the lights dim but the ones inside the vault, Red approaches outside. Not knowing how long he has, Fitch tells Red he must listen.
“Do you have it Ray? Do you have the Fulcrum?” ~ Fitch
It’s unclear if Red does or does not, but Fitch continues by imploring, that hey are going to demand proof. The moderates in Fitch’s group are already outnumbered. There are a few people Red can try to convince, but as it gets nearer to 2017, the group will become more radicalized. As he tearfully tells Red he has a safe with a combination of 8-30-44, his wife’s birthday, these two men share the pain of a life that perhaps should have never have contained all the horrible things they have done. Both are emotional from either side of the glass. Somehow, some way, whatever the bond these two men shared had been irrevocably broken and lives were shattered in the process. When the bomb explodes and Red is left in silence there is little left to say. Alan Alda will be missed on this show. His final moment was one of his finest in this series and Spader’s emotional helplessness was his equal.
When Red returns to the captive Berlin inside the high-domed openness of a cathedral setting, the two share a bottle of Vodka and memories in the middle of the wide open space. As the bottle empties, we realize this is a last moment of respect between two powerful men. Berlin recounts the pride of his childhood and his country in a time when he was far more innocent than now. With the light tune of traditional Russian guitar in the background, both men share a solemn moment between them before Red calmly fires four shots to exact the justice he promised Liz.
Confronting Liz aboard the ship where Tom had been held captive, Red and Liz share one final emotional moment. Red, in a fatherly tone reminds her that whatever she gained from Tom wasn’t worth her being in this filth. We can’t help but wonder if he truly means the dingy hold of the ship or the dark and seedy places of his world. She breaks down and admits she couldn’t kill him. She didn’t have it in her. She realizes she never had the control over Tom she hoped.
“When you love someone, you have no control. That’s what love is. Being powerless.” ~ Red.
As Red holds her and assures her there’s nothing wrong with her in a tender moment we wonder who it is in his life that he’s loved so much that he lost control. For as careful and calculating as Berlin was, his daughter was his loss of control. Even Fitch’s last thoughts of the safe were about his wife’s birthday. Tom is Liz’s weakness. As powerful as she lied to herself about being, in the end she was powerless. As we left this scene emotionally spent from the tenderness and tears of both Spader and Boone we’re shifted to one last clandestine meeting between Red and Tom. As Tom gets up to leave, Red emphatically tells him he’s never to see Liz again. Tom leaves us with one last line and nothing but questions until February.
“You know, for what it’s worth, I spent four months on that ship chained up. And I never told her about us. Not one word.” ~ Tom
FINAL VERDICT: Unequivocally one of the best hours of television this year. An emotional roller coaster, The Blacklist Fall Finale left us spent and with as many questions as answers.
There are some hours of television for which no review can truly do justice. For all the flaws of previous weeks, this episode was perhaps the best yet of The Blacklist. Writers and Executive Producers John Eisendrath and Jon Bokenkamp outdid themselves with this emotional, gripping and transformative Fall Finale. When this show returns in February, it will become something new. We have no clue what that may be, but this writing team has earned our trust and we’ll not miss a minute of the post Super Bowl episode and it’s conclusion on this show’s new night of Thursday in the Spring.
Some episodes that hit or miss, but Director Michael Watkins should be proud to stamp his name on this effort. Yes, he was given an outstanding script, but he orchestrated more outstanding moments in this one finale than in the several weeks prior. That’s not a knock on previous episodes. Even though not perfect, there aren’t bad episodes of The Blacklist. This finale was simply that good. It’s texture and layered character moments blended seamlessly with picturesque settings and incredible execution by cast and crew alike. We’ll happily dare The Blacklist team to top this effort, because if they can, this show may find itself at the top of people’s favorite list of shows for years to come.
This episode was filled with outstanding writing and performances that will not soon be forgotten. Peter Stormare delivered a surprising and emotional evolution of Berlin in the end. No other Blacklister has had a more profound effect on this show and he deserves the utmost praise for making us believe in Berlin’s evil and then making us care in his final moments. That’s not an easy task, but one he accomplished with brilliance.
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We have no clue what some of the riddles laid out for us in the episode mean. Tom’s relationship with Red is now a huge question. We don’t think we’ve seen the last of Tom. The question will be where and when he’ll pop up next. Red’s deep caring for Liz was as prominent as ever. It may be a long time before we know exactly why, but the fatherly tenderness Red displayed was evident as she poured her heart out to him in the dank hold. The fact that he so poignantly understands what love can do to a person is just another affirmation that Red is one of the most complex and intriguing characters to ever grace the screens in our homes.
The year 2017 is now set on the calendar. We don’t know why and we don’t know what is coming but we have a feeling that Red does. And with that date approaching, now was the time to turn himself in and perhaps change the course of a larger history. Fitch’s group has a world controlling, Illuminati feel to it and we can only suspect that a very real threat looms just three years away as they become more radical. Fitch’s safe is vital as well. There are a lot of places with a second floor in St. Petersburg, but one of them holds secrets that will undoubtedly be one of Red’s next objectives. Whatever the direction, whatever is next, we’ll be tuning in after the Super Bowl on February 1st to find out what happens next and who our next objective will be from The Blacklist!
Questions, Comments, Concerns and My Reaction on Twitter…
- “I don’t know Tom. From where I’m sitting, you look like the bitch to me.” Wow Liz.
- Close one Liz. Throw Homeland under the bus. 😉
- Every time you can stop him you let him go. Hmm. Not sure Liz is down with the new Dynamic Duo of havoc and badass.
- Uh oh. Liz, you’re little experiment is about to go sideways.
- Harold. That’s an order. Hmm. I’m sure we’ll get that name somehow Agent Keen.
- “I think maybe you should call Mr. Kaplan.” ~ Tom. Whaa? Tom knows her? And he knows Liz can’t call her. Oh sh*t Liz.
- Who is the Decemberist? Um .. that’s not good at ALL Fitch.
- Berlin predates the agreement. Technicalities will be the downfall of more than one person here.
- I think more happened in the first 30 mins of this ep than in the last 5 eps combined! (Except the campfire boys ..)
- Scruffy cat on the ship is outta the bag. Uh oh.
- Ressler, she’s got dirt on you buddy. I’d keep your trap shut.
- “What are you, her boyfriend?” ~ Tom. Testosterone match between ur scruffy & junkie fellas Liz?
- Oh hell. The last thing a hostage victim wants to see is the bomb bot.
- Shoe is on the other foot Fitch. How does the box feel??
- “Your not hungry? Let’s get you something else.” ~ Berlin to Zoe. Family gatherings are so awkward when dad is an international mass murderer.
- Thanks dad. Gotta go. Don’t call. Don’t write. Don’t expect a Christmas card.
- We have 12 minutes left! I’ve left a pucker mark on my couch!!
- Well if this isn’t an iconic moment on the other side of the glass I don’t know what is!!!
- OMG!! Holy F**K!!!! They put that on TV???
- Uh oh. Bottle empty. Time’s up Berlin. I think I need some Vodka now too.
- “When you love someone you have no control.” Know that firsthand Red?
- I spent four months on that ship chained up and I never told her about us. Um .. buh, buh, buh .. WTF??
- Mind is officially blown! I’ve been Fitched all over the inside of this room!! Holy hell!
- Boom! Fall Finale Mic Drop! @JonBokenkamp @johneisendrath Kudos to all the cast & crew! #JamesSpader @MeganBoone @Ryan_Eggold
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