Dynamic performances by Amir Arison and Diego Klattenhoff, plus James Spader at his charming, witty and entertaining best. Tension, heart and suspense expertly executed from a sharp script and outstanding production.
Very, very few.
This gut-wrenching and intense chapter of The Blacklist left us choked up, fist pumping and emotionally spent before the credits rolled. What a ride!
CAUTION: SPOILERS AHEAD IN OUR DETAILED REVIEW
The Blacklist — Liz (Megan Boone) is in Ressler’s (Diego Klattenhoff) custody. Karakurt (Andrew Divoff) is under the protection of Tom (Ryan Eggold) and Harold (Harry J. Lennix). The Package is in the FBI’s possession. Things look bleak at every turn as the second half of the season begins, but Red (James Spader) is not easily deterred. He has a plan. Keeping Liz safe is priority one, but that won’t be easy with The Director (David Strathairn) and Laurel Hitchin (Christine Lahti) working feverishly to secure her before she is safely transferred to U.S. Marshals. Everyone knows if she walks out with The Director, Liz is as good as dead. To stop this from happening Red turns to the one person that can keep her out of The Director’s hands and safely locked in The Box—Aram (Amir Arison).
When the horrifying truth that he can’t protect Liz sinks in, Ressler has little choice. He must finally fight to keep everyone alive and clear her name. Leaving only Aram at the Post Office to protect Liz, Ressler must undo trusting Laurel Hitchin. Knowing Karakurt and Tom are about to get a deadly visit from Mr. Solomon (Edi Gathegi), Ressler arrives just in time. Tom and Ressler must find it in themselves to overcome differences and work together. If they can’t, a cabin in the woods will be the last thing they ever see. Meanwhile, Red and Samar (Mozhan Marnò) work to steal the package from the FBI in order to use it as they intended as a step to clear Liz. The entire plan will be for naught however if Aram does not fight boldly and desperately to keep Liz alive as the second half of the season kicks off on The Blacklist!
If anyone didn’t absolutely love Aram before, they certainly do now.
Outstanding episodes stick in our minds because of defining moments. In all honesty, this hour had so many genuinely good moments that no review could do it justice, but brilliant writing and inspiring work by Amir Arison gave Aram several that definitely stood above the rest.
Arison deserves all the praise he’ll get for this performance. Few have represented the heart of this show with more passion and raw courage than he did as this story unfolded. He put it all on the line and gave us his most powerful moments to date on this show. He dramatically raised the emotional stakes for Aram and we’re better for it.
“I won’t let you take her.” ~ Aram
That defiant stand will be one fans remember for a long time. Every man has a breaking point where their conviction will no longer let them stand by. Aram reached his. As each successive crisis escalated and Aram became more helpless to stop The Director from getting Liz out of The Box, the emotional outpouring from Arison was heart stopping. Aram is a good man and in that trembling moment holding The Director at gunpoint, Aram’s life wasn’t worth living if he didn’t stop The Director from taking Liz.
Fans already loved Aram, but he will forever have a special place in our hearts for his willingness to die for Liz. Injustice happens every day in this world. Some make a stand, but buckle when the price gets too high. Some however, like Aram, are driven to give everything when it hits home in such a personal way.
His life was forfeit and worthless to him without stopping the tide of wrongs that would lead to Liz’s death. Would any of us have the same courage? It’s hard to say, but one would like to think that this is one of those moments where fiction can inspire courage in the real world. Thank you Amir Arison for your courage to put so much into this role. Aram would be proud.
Principle is a bitch.
Nestled in the middle of the struggle for Liz’s life was a completely unexpected buddy cop montage complete with flying bullets, desperate odds, and two very unlikely partners forced to bond over life and death. We’ll just say it now. As much as we’ve itched for a complete throw down between Tom Keen and Donald Ressler, seeing them work together—and even bond a little—was more satisfying than we could have hoped.
Funny things happen when you assume you’re about to die. Despite all the differences between Tom and Ressler, Donald realized Red was right. Harold and Tom were working to do exactly what people should do when they believe in someone. They were fighting for a cause and for a person they cared about. Ressler finally needed to step up and fight for what he believed was right and not what the letter of the law dictated he should.
To the outside world, Ressler has been walking a narrow path. His convictions to do the right thing no matter what have blinded him to the murky world shrouded in shades of gray around him. Things aren’t nearly as black and white as he’s tried to convince himself they were. But there are lines you still don’t cross and it was utterly refreshing to see Tom’s growth reflected in his advice to Ressler.
“Your dad. You wanna know if he died for nothing? Whether he did or didn’t depends on whether you pull that trigger.” ~ Tom
In true buddy copy fashion, these two wildly different men shared a moment and that won’t be forgotten. For Ressler to hear words of conscience and wisdom from, of all people, Tom was telling for both men. We can’t be certain that Ressler would have pulled the trigger and killed Mateus, but we loved that it was Tom’s words that finally registered. It didn’t hurt at all that Ryan Eggold and Diego Klattenhoff were both fantastic through their soul searching, sarcastic banter and moments of clarity. Bravo to both actors for doing a fantastic job.
Yes, they’ll be at odds again at some point. This is Tom and Ressler after all. But they’ll always have this moment of understanding between them now. Men that have trusted one another in the face of death have a bond that can’t be easily undone. Knowing The Blacklist as we do, we’d expect further payoff from both characters ahead. They both put Liz ahead of themselves and they both now have a vested interest in taking on the Cabal.
Hope runs deep.
Because of all the stories that were so expertly wound together into one narrative, this will go down as one of the most complex, yet most satisfying, episodes of the series. There’s no doubt about that. But for all of Red’s chuckle-inducing lines throughout and all the things he accomplished, it was his final moments with Aram that set the tone for things to come and tied this episode up with a neat, satisfying emotional bow.
“I’d be staring at another body right now if not for you, Aram. It wasn’t weakness that prevented you from watching your friend die today. It was hope, and thank heavens you were in a hopeful mood. You saved Elizabeth. I’m forever in your debt. Now gather your team. It’s time to take down the Cabal.” ~ Red
If there was a dry eye in the audience after that sentimental speech, we’d like to check their pulse. Okay, not everyone may have had actual tears, but you can bet that Little Sweet would have called them out for being all tender and mushy on the inside. He can see that you know. We certainly were affected by it as much as Aram. Lizzy is safe and Aram is the reason.
We admit that we were slightly nervous at first. Was there something cataclysmic that we didn’t know about Aram? Was Red about to put someone we’d just been through the wringer with into that grave? Had we been like Ressler and trusted the wrong person? Lots of things floated through our minds as Red started his speech in typical story time fashion, but as he concluded with such emotional gratitude, it put the perfect finish on one of the best episodes of this series. Hope was exactly what we needed. Aram and Red gave us exactly that and we can’t wait to see things unfold from here.
FINAL VERDICT: The Blacklist returned with a roar. Emotional complexity, touching moments and sharp twists had us glued to the screen. If this is what we can expect, Season Three is going to finish with a roller coaster that leaves us exhausted and begging to ride again.
Let’s just take a moment to soak in how spectacular James Spader was in this little saga. One only had to watch the reactions of Mozhan Marnò on screen to see just how much fun we were all having watching the same thing from our couches at home. Her sly smiles were reflective of our chuckles and giddy enjoyment. We got to watch Red at his charming, sarcastic, witty and cunning best and it was a blast to see.
There were so many satisfying elements in this episode that it’s hard to give them all their due, but seeing Red work with Samar to secure the package, coordinate the protection of Liz, and ensure Karakurt stayed alive was just plain fun. While a psychological thriller was taking place at the Post Office and a buddy cop action piece was erupting in the woods, we also got a slick heist caper unfolding complete with fake cops, real donuts, and an FBI Agent posing as and FBI Agent. Were we having fun watching? You bet.
It’s becoming pretty well known that The Blacklist and Jon Bokenkamp care deeply about finding music that’s just perfect for each moment. In fact, we don’t know of a show that does it better than The Blacklist right now. All three selections were perfect. The Kills’ “Sour Cherry” had a defiant punk feel that spat on authority as Liz was walked back into the Post Office in chains. Little Scream‘s “The Lamb” was a sublime distraction from the violence and chaos of the gun battle. But “Gamble Everything For Love” by Ben Lee as the ending montage unfolded just proved this show is on top of its music game. Any fan of The Blacklist that isn’t keeping up with the Spotify playlist for the show curated by Jon Bokenkamp is simply doing music wrong and needs to fix that.
A lot of credit for this episode has to go to the writers’ room, specifically Writer Daniel Cerone. This episode shifted back and forth between completely different story types with ease and nothing got lost in translation. In fact, beautiful dialogue unraveled throughout and just worked. Hitchin’s mistaken reveal to Ressler was a stroke of writing genius in how it was handled. We should have seen that coming but didn’t. Crisp, prose flowed from Red time and again. We’re used to that, but there was an extra level of mojo this time. His sensual reasons for denying himself artificial stimulants was a delight and his final speech to Aram was nothing short of a work of art.
The performances and moments that breathed life into all those words won’t be forgotten anytime soon. James Spader was unequivocally brilliant. We’ve said it so many times now that it sounds as if it’s a given, but we should never take for granted just how lucky we are that he decided Red was a role he could make his own. In addition to Spader nearly everyone nailed their moments in this episode. It was a fantastic ensemble performance, but not enough praise can go to Amir Arison for such a gutsy and raw show of emotion. Great writing gave him something to work with and he ran with it at full speed. Tears, snot and feelings were spilled all over the place in one of the best emotional performances of this series.
RELATED | The Blacklist Playlist on Spotify
Director Mary Lambert, Director of Photography Michael Caracciolo and Editor Emily E. Green collaborated beautifully on wide and close shots just at the right times and with just the right tone. We loved the tight shots of Aram as he let everything go in his effort to save Liz. Camera angles aren’t always appreciated, but we enjoyed how the overhead and through the glass shots of Aram and Liz around The Box almost had a claustrophobic feel. The tension was thick and real. Angles and light made the final scene with Red and Aram both unnerving and ultimately tender. Early views from inside the open grave made him a towering figure, but more intimate shots later during his heartfelt gratitude to Aram brought warmth to Spader’s emotional performance.
Red’s final words kicked our brains into overdrive. What a team our entire cast would make if they ever truly operated on their own under Red’s direction. The good they could do without the shackles of the law would be immeasurable. Not everyone has been ready for that move. In some ways, Ressler has been the last of the group to come around, but it would seem that he’s finally on board with saving Liz and bringing down the Cabal. It’s about damned time that all of our favorite characters on this show worked toward one goal. It looks like the second half of the season may do just that and this episode has us stoked for the possibilities ahead. We don’t know about anyone else, but is it time for the next episode of The Blacklist yet? We’re ready!
Questions, Comments, Concerns and My Reaction on Twitter…
- “We’ve collapsed entire governments in less time.” But were they being protected by Red?
- And the cabin. Boy. Awkward.
- The box is back! We’ve missed the box. Nice to know it’s not been forgotten. 😉
- “Hi Dembe.” Aram making nice. No response. Dembe wins that round. lol
- Red is always one step ahead Ressler. You should know that better than anyone. #LessonLearned
- Dammit Ressler. Could you have made matters any worse with that slip of the tongue??
- Did red make up that photographer story on the fly? Maybe all his story time moments are imaginary diversions. lol
- Samar is as entertained by Red as we are. Spader is on point tonight.
- “If it wasn’t about sex, then why did you have sex!?” Damn a good question! I think we KNOW the answer. 😉
- Did the director just refer to Liz as Red’s prima ballerina? Wow. What dots does that connect?
- Okay, I want Samar and Red working together every week now. This is fun. 🙂
- Uh oh. Butch and Sundan…I mean Keen and Ressler are in deep shit.
- No crime scene is complete without fake cops and real donuts. 😉
- “Principles are a bitch man. I avoid em at all cost.” THIS .. I believe 100%. lol
- Navabi? Oh boy Aram. That smacked right in the feels. @amirarison is killing it this ep.
- Wow. Ressler, Tom, Karakurt…that was badass.
- “Did you even GO to the academy?” The sarcasm is strong with this one.
- That was one hell of an ending. All the right notes. All the right emotions. All the right words. That episode ROCKED!
- Does anyone want to see what this entire team could do under Red’s direction? What an incredible force THAT would be!
THE BLACKLIST airs THURSDAY at 9|8c on NBC
The Blacklist Review: 3×09 “The Director”