It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Anyway, The Blacklist’s return from mid-season hiatus was given the coveted post-Superbowl slot when broadcast in America. This generally means big ratings – which this episode certainly got – and a little something extra to hook the floating voters. So enter Janel Moloney – Donna effing Moss! – and David Strathairn, as high-ranking security operatives. (Maybe CIA, maybe not. I wasn’t entirely clear about this. Lots of talk about black ops anyway.) And Ron Perlman, as this and next week’s Blacklister, Luther Braxton, international mega-criminal, etc. Braxton is being held in an incredibly secret US prison, an offshore facility in the Bering Sea, for the most dangerous of international mega-criminals, and look who’s fetched up there as well? Red, of course, who has allowed himself to be captured by the FBI, persumably so that he can be in the Bering Supermax at the appropriate time.
Red knows that Braxton is planning a breakout, but no-one listens to him until it’s way too late and Braxton, together with a team of fellow detainees, has control of the facility. The FBI dispatches Team Red, which seems optimistic in the circumstances, and sure enough on landing everyone apart from Liz is kidnapped and trussed up in a room known as The Factory, where hardened international mega-criminals are taken to have their mega-criminal secrets squeezed out of them. It’s “a slaughterhouse for spies”. Yum.
Up to this point everything’s been charging along nicely, with director Joe Carnahan at the helm giving us plenty of shootings and torture porn, and Liz prowling around the prison reprising her Die Hard number. So far so good, then, particularly as it isn’t clear what Braxton actually wants, which adds a little spice. But then things start to drift a little: Braxton wants The Fulcrum, which I’ve never really been given a reason to care about as a McGuffin. It’s delightful to learn, though, that for logistical reasons the CIA (or whoever) has kept The Fulcrum – a file with information which could be used to blackmail powerful people – in the same facility as its most dangerous prisoners. Meantime Liz and Red futz about with pressure gauges and boilers in an attempt to blow something up, and Red revives one of the show’s more irritating tropes when he hedges around Liz’s questions rather than just answering them.
But there’s a strong finish. Red doesn’t want Braxton getting The Fulcrum, because all that’s been keeping Red alive is the belief of Strathairn’s crew that Red had it. So once it’s known that Red doesn’t have it, there’s really nothing to stop the CIA (or whoever) destroying the prison, and everyone -including Red, Liz, Ressler, and Samar – on it. Cooper’s against, of course, but a missile strike is ordered. Fortunately they don’t hit before the best scene of the episode, in which Red goes stalking through the exercise yard, shooting anyone who even thinks about getting in his way, on his way to a confrontation with Braxton, who also knows more about Liz, Red, and the fire, than Liz does. But before he too can avoid answering her perfectly reasonable questions… bang. Not perfect by any means, but I enjoyed it, and I thought it one of the stronger episodes of this season.