This week The Blacklist tones down the torture porn, goes instead for plotting and character, and is all the better for it. The Number is Alistair Pitt (a foppish Tony Shalhoub, armed with lapdogs), also known as the Promnestria: a kind of underworld negotiator-cum-fixer who brings warring crime families together, brokers deals, and takes a percentage of future profits. In this case he’s trying to avoid all-out war between Erikssons and the Vacarros, both major players in the drug world, by marrying the youngest son of one family to the youngest daughter of the other.
Meantime, Tom is trying to raise some money so that he and Liz can get out of the Red life. Fortunately Nice Tom is no longer going after a teaching job, and instead Bad Tom hits up season 1’s Gina Zanetakos – criminal-for-hire, Tom’s ex-girlfriend, babe – who is planning a big and complicated jewellery theft. Get away with it and they’ll be rich; get caught and they’ll be dead. I do like a good heist, and this is a good one; moreover, Tom and Gina have enough chemistry to burn a hole in the screen, no matter how much he might be in love with Liz. Which is at least one romantic possibility for the mooted Blacklist spin-off, I suppose.
Liz doesn’t know about any of that, though: she’s helping the Task Force keep an eye on the Erikssons, the Vacarros, and Pitt, assisted by some unpleasant DEA agents, one of whom insists on repeatedly calling her “Comrade Rostov”. (Gratifyingly, he will in due course – SPOILER ALERT – get what’s coming to him.) And while they’re carrying out surveillance on a dinner to celebrate the forthcoming wedding, Red gatecrashes, provokes the families into an all-out shooting match (“Better than TV!” he metas), scoops Pitt up, and gets away.
With that done, and since the whole thing was so neatly orchestrated, I was waiting for this week’s variation on the usual Blacklist theme of Red running the FBI for his own benefit: I expected that, perhaps, he would put his hat at a jaunty angle, fill the vacuum left by the annihilation of the families, and run the drug trade on the East Coast himself. But it’s something else entirely he has in mind; it’s drip-fed to us throughout the episode, and it’s surprisingly emotional and satisfying when we find out where the plan has been leading.
On top of that Samar gets a moment when she finds out that her ex, Levi, is getting married; Aram gets a moment when he overshares about his feelings; and Liz – well, Liz and her adoption storyline aren’t that interesting, but let’s be fair: Megan Boone was quite possibly in her third trimester when she filmed this, and she still managed to hit a baddie over the head. I thought this was terrific, and comfortably one of the best episodes of the season so far.