One of the most complex, fast-paced plots in some time made for an incredibly entertaining episode. Sensational performances from Spader and Lennix. And did we mention that Reed Birney plays a hell of a Slimy Tommy Connolly? Because he does.
Liz and Ressler should be dust from that explosion, but hey, this is TV right?
The Blacklist — With a top Russian assassin Karakurt (Guest star Michael Massee, Blacklister No. 55) on U.S. soil to wreak havoc on behalf of the Cabal, it’s a race against time for Red (James Spader) and the Task Force to deduce his targets before U.S. and Russian relations backslide into a new Cold War. As Liz (Megan Boone) and Tom (Ryan Eggold) fall into old relationship habits and debate a possible future, things heat up for the Task Force when Karakurt kills an entire substation of the CIA. With help from Red, Karakurt’s location is discovered, but before the Task Force can act, Tom Connolly (Reed Birney) intervenes and threatens Harold’s (Harry J. Lennix) wife unless he diverts the team to protect Karakurt.
With the stakes escalating and a highly specialized virus set to take out a single unknown target, the Cabal looks as if it’s poised to start a war to further their agenda. But when Red meets with Anton Velov (Madison Arnold), whom Liz had been tracking to learn about her mother, it turns out that Liz may be the target of everything that’s been put into motion. She’s made a powerful enemy of the Cabal and her efforts to stop their agenda may now ruin her life and grind to a halt the entire Task Force as well. After a shocker of an episode that left us breathless at the end, let’s sift through all the juicy details that made this penultimate episode of the season one to remember!
WID? That’s a twist. A sick, disgusting one, but a definite twist.
The Blacklist has proven time and again to be a sick, twisted show and we love it. Let’s be honest. We all thought a global pandemic was in play when the first victim went down spewing blood and—well, we’re not sure what that other stuff was and probably don’t want to know. We knew Karakurt was in town for more than just a social call and as the team tried to figure out his next move after the CIA bombing, we were just sure that we were in for another biological scare of epic proportions.
We were distracted quite well by everything going on, despite the horrific effects of a virus that looked to have the potential to wipe out the planet in the works. But who can focus on that after seeing Reddy Bear’s consultation with the stunning Dr. Kimberly (Noelle Beck)? And does Red just make up names for Liz on the fly? Inquiring minds would like to know and Writer Daniel Knauf would be the man to ask in this case.
“A WID–a weapon of individual destruction. This is a customized virus, synthesized with the sole intent of killing one specific individual.” ~ Dr. Kimberly
“How is that possible?” ~ Red
“He’s created a supercharged rotavirus. These are very common. By the age of 5, most of us have been infected multiple times. And with each infection, we build up an immunity.” ~ Dr. Kimberly
“So it’s harmless to most people.” ~ Liz
“All people. Precisely. But this rotavirus has been customized, keyed to infect one individual with a unique genetic sequence, and to devastating effect. According to the animal trials logged in these notes, it attacks the central nervous system within minutes of exposure.” ~ Dr. Kimberly
We do love a good science show and tell. As Liz put together the pieces of the puzzle and deduced that the memorial from the CIA bombing would be the location of the attack, Red certainly looked like a proud papa. He may or may not be her father, but he was certainly impressed with her work as she connected the dots.
Throughout the team’s efforts to find Karakurt and his preparations to arrive at the memorial the story had us so focused on his actions and his role that we never saw the deception coming. An individualized virus capable of killing only one person could be carried by anyone and as Liz seemingly saved Senator Hawkins (John Bolger) from a horrific handshake with Karakurt, it was her in fact that did the deed. Connolly’s distraction sending her to Union Station finally made complete sense. It was a brilliant setup from the start and Liz had been the target all along. That’s exceptional writing and even better execution.
You’re in deep Harold and that quicksand is sucking you in more and more each second.
We never thought we’d see Harold Cooper trusting Red over everyone else. But hey, this show shocks us on a regular basis so we really should be used to the “didn’t see that coming” effect by now. Cooper shouldn’t be so shocked either to be honest. Connolly has been slowly building up to bigger and bigger favors and we all knew that would lead to threats if Cooper didn’t comply. Sure enough, the threats came and Harold should have known they wouldn’t be aimed at him. That’s not how evil motivates you. They come at those you love.
“I’ve known Tom Connolly for two decades. He’s had dinners at my house. And when he offered to help me get into that drug trial, it was my only hope.” ~ Cooper
“It wasn’t just your hope, Harold. It was your wife’s hope, you children’s. You were given a terminal diagnosis, and Connolly ends up offering you a choice– your life or your ethics, and you picked your life. What good are ethics if you aren’t alive to live by them?” ~ Red
Directly deceiving his team was a hard pill to swallow for a man that’s tried to be upstanding and do the right thing in most situations. We know he’s like everyone else, he’s got some skeletons in his closet, but unlike some on this show, Harold genuinely seems intent to make up for any wrongs he may have ever created. Unfortunately all that good intent seems close to being flushed down the toilet. Smiling Tommy Connolly has weaseled his way into the Task Force’s every move, but leave it to Red to see that as an opportunity instead of a dilemma.
“Thanks to your desire to protect Charlene, we’re presented with a unique opportunity to find out what the Cabal is up to.” ~ Red
“How?” ~ Cooper
“By continuing to follow Connolly’s orders without question. The last thing you should do is confront him. Gather evidence. Build a case. Tom Connolly’s been leaking information to the Cabal about everything that goes on in this place ever since he walked through that door and offered to save your life. You want to wipe that debt clean? Keep your eyes open and your mouth shut.” ~ Red
But Liz was right. The Cabal has been ahead of nearly every move and that includes the behind the scenes cooperation of Cooper and Red. As things played out and Senator Hawkins became ill regardless of Liz’s prevention of Karakurt from shaking the Senator’s hand, things became disturbingly clear. Cooper and Red played right into Connolly’s hands by redirecting the team and in the process Liz became the carrier.
All this begs questions we hope the writing team addresses in the season finale. At what point will Harold not be able to stomach the coercion any longer and risk both himself and his family to stop things around him? Is it in him to make such a choice? Harry J. Lennix has been splendid down the stretch this season as he’s sunk lower and lower into the pit of corruption that comes with knowing Red Reddington. It will be interesting to see just how far Cooper is willing to go and what consequences may come if he finally resists.
You stepped in it now Liz. How’s that naked boat trip with Tom—err—Jacob looking now?
Boy, we were sucked in to this plot so quickly that we never saw the end game coming. Between the distraction of Tom’s naked cruise proposal and Liz’s fixation on uncovering details about her mother, the plot by Karakurt to silence a Senator seemed completely on the up and up, if there is such a thing in an assassination attempt. A disease that is tailored to kill just one person feels like a ton of effort to go to, especially when bombing a CIA group is the first step in bringing the target into the open.
But the reveal by Anton Velov that others had also been looking into Liz’s past split the plot wide open. Collateral damage is irrelevant to the Cabal. Red was right. Liz made herself a powerful enemy and she is now a target. Anyone around her, the Task Force, Harold Cooper and perhaps even Tom are potential weapons to use against Liz at this point. But by discrediting her name and actively putting her on the hook for the Senator’s assassination attempt only confirms what Tom has been preaching for weeks now. Everyone that gets pulled into Red’s world is in danger just because they know him and have had dealings with him. Red surrendered to be close to her and protect her, but it would seem that his presence is simply too radioactive and everyone around him suffers.
“You’ve been set up. You were there when the OREA building was bombed. They wanted you to save Clifford Hawkins. They sent Karakurt to the memorial to make you think he was the threat so you would secure the Senator and infect him in the process.” ~ Red
“I don’t have the virus.” ~ Liz
“You do, Lizzy. I don’t need a test to know that you do. Your mother was a Russian spy, and now they’ve made it look like you are, too. You have the virus. You infected the Senator, and now they will come for you. You need to get out of there. Now.” ~ Red
As all this played out, we couldn’t help but think Tom (we’re sorry Jacob, but you’re Tom) has been right ever since he came clean. Red is toxic and Lizzy is now infected with the same tainted feel and that’s exactly what the Cabal wanted Karakurt to do. Everything in this episode, the bombing, the virus, the assassination and even the threats against Cooper, have all been to ensnare Liz and the noose is tightening fast.
James Spader and Megan Boone were at their best in this episode. As the real endgame played out, the intensity was palpable. These two have had their spats, their caring moments and even put their lives at stake countless times for the other since the beginning and Spader and Boone made us feel the weight of all that in the last few moments of this episode. Whatever differences they had at that point didn’t matter and whatever chance Liz had to sail away with Tom may be gone forever too.
Liz was about to fall and only a swift move could help her slip through the fingers grasping for her. Did Red find himself in a similar situation years ago? What turned him against his own government? What set him on the run? Are we slowly seeing Liz become the very thing Red is trying desperately to prevent—a next generation of version of himself? The questions are compelling. We have no doubt that we’ll have a few more before the finale is done, but what a setup this episode proved to be. Bravo to the entire team at The Blacklist.
FINAL VERDICT: What? Lizzy is KGB? Oh hell no. Say it ain’t so Slimy Tommy Connolly! Well, we know it isn’t, but we just got set up for one hell of a finale for The Blacklist!
The penultimate episode of a season is often the most intense and even sometimes the best of the bunch despite the season finale being planned as such. Well, the finale will have some work to do in order to top this one. That’s not to say that the finale can’t be better, it can, but this was simply a fantastic effort from start to finish. In fact, it was so tight in its execution and filled with so many good moments that half way through it felt like we’d almost watched a full episode already. That’s when you know you might be in for an exceptional hour and Karakurt fit the bill.
So many good plot threads are all coming down to the wire at once. Honestly that’s not surprising since that’s usually the plan, but The Blacklist has done an excellent job of it this season. Once the culmination of Berlin’s (Peter Stormare) story was complete and Fitch (Alan Alda) was out of the picture, we wondered if this show could ramp up the tension with an even more worthy adversary. The Cabal has proven to be not only worthy, but downright worrisome. Whatever this group’s larger agenda may be, they clearly have no regard for collateral damage and destroying anyone in their way. And as Liz pointed out, there seems to be little anyone can do to stop them.
Bringing together all the tidy little pieces of this episode was Writer Daniel Knauf who proved once again that he’s got a bit of diabolical in him. After all, he did pen the Mombasa Cartel and probably one of our favorite scenes of the year with the park bench sit down between Berlin and Red. Yes, most of the large plays of this episode were likely mapped out in the writer’s room at the beginning of the season, but Knauf’s devious sense of humor and appropriate pushing of our buttons came through nicely in the details of the finished script. The moments between Red and Liz were especially powerful with his insistence she stay the course in pursuit of Karakurt and her persistent counter of finding out about her mother. And we’d really like to know what the dry ice and five feet of vinyl garden hose were for, but are somewhat afraid to ask.
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All in all, it was a well written and well executed episode. Kudos to Director Steven A. Adelson who’s numerous credits behind the camera no doubt help him with a vision for how an episode needs to look and feel. His extensive background in numerous SciFi series always mean he’s going to bring a flair unique to his eye, but he’s proven time and again with episodes of The Blacklist that he’s got a feel for capturing the drama of the moment and constructing an episode to deliver a punch. Milton Bobbit and T. Earl King IV were certainly memorable episodes, but this may have been his best in the director’s chair of The Blacklist. With such complexity and so many moving parts, it would have been easy for this episode to become muddied or difficult to follow, but Knauf handed him a good script and the end result was a fantastic and intense ramp up to the season finale.
The Blacklist has had its ups and downs in its sophomore season ranging from some of the best episodes of the series to some of the least favorite, but this one was certainly one of the best. Morality, emotions and an enemy bent on destroying those in their way to achieving their goals has made the back half of the season consistently good for the most part. The Cabal is as ruthless as they are mysterious. Red seems fixated on doing the right thing by stopping them, but to what end? What is Red’s endgame? Simply self-preservation? That’s certainly got to be part of his plan, but with Red there’s almost always another side we don’t see and that’s one reason he’s one of the most fascinating characters on television. His one weakness seems to be Liz and she’s in quite a predicament after putting her life on the line to save his. Where this goes, who knows. What we do know is that the season finale next week should be worth the wait and we’ll be right there to watch how it plays out and what Reddy Bear has in store for us!
Questions, Comments, Concerns and My Reaction on Twitter…
- Holy hades! That was creepy as hell. And this is why I don’t sign just any petition.
- Last night? Uh. Oh man Lizzy. You are in trouble.
- Well, he at least knows what you like to eat.
- Does anyone else wonder if during the naked boat scenario she stops and asks: Wait, what name and I supposed to scream? Just me? That’s awkward.
- Morning Red. A little late night torture?
- Five feet of vinyl garden hose? We’re with Dembe, whatever..
- Damn. Verbal smack down there Lizzy. Are ya hearing what she’s saying Red?
- Tight lipped? More like still waiting on the dry ice to do .. whatever it’s supposed to do.
- I don’t blame Lizzy one bit for digging. But will she like what she finds?
- I love it when Red and Dembe go all Miami Vice. lol
- Red is a smooth operator isn’t he?
- Wow. Wonder if the CIA thinks Karakut is in the country now? And for the record, that was a puny explosion based on what was in that truck. Liz and Ressler should be dust.
- Or, your wife will pay the price. Oh shit. It’s getting deep now Harold.
- Any guesses who Tom is working for now Harold?
- Okay, Liz and Ressler are redirected, but what about Red and Dembe?
- Wait .. what? He’s there? Huh? This just got weird.
- What good are ethics if you aren’t alive to live by them. Yep.
- You wanna wipe that debt clean? Keep your eyes open and your mouth shut. Whoever thought Red would be the one person you could trust more than anyone?
- Reddy Bear? Dr. Kimberly is a surprise. lol
- Lipstick color: Fire in the hole! What?? lol
- Wow. I think Jacob really does love Liz. I hope that restaurant isn’t Russian.
- Customized rotovirus. Did anyone else notice how Dr. Kimberly lingered on the words “who they’re doing it to”?
- One of THEM is the target. I think Red was impressed by that one. “That’s my Lizzy!”
- This is nuts. We’re now looking for a Senator in a needle stack.
- On the “Main Justice” list. Gee. I wonder who did that.
- Oooo. Play the player. I like this move Red and Harold.
- He didn’t touch Karakurt. But did he touch someone else that DID touch Karakurt?
- And that virus is icky. Geez.
- I considered you the KGB’s greatest enemy. Wow. How long was Red in Counter Intelligence?
- Holy frackin double crosses!! Run Elizabeth. Run!
- How is that boat with Tom looking now Liz?
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