The Blacklist s5 ep 22

Osseous spoilers. Big ones.

This episode is really all about the final five minutes, but it has a lot of fun getting there, including a bizarre cameo from John Waters. This week’s Blacklister, Sutton Ross, is – not that it matters – an expert in stealing R&D secrets. More significantly, though, he’s the present holder of the Bones, which means that Liz and Red are both after him; Liz being assisted by the FBI, including Aram, who needs a distraction from the fact that Samar is still in a coma.

Liz and the FBI get to Ross first, and he’s taken into custody. A furious Red tells Cooper that if Ross isn’t handed over to him, there will be no more Blacklisters. Cooper stands firm. Ross, meantime, offers to tell Liz and only her the truth about the bones, and the two of them are left alone in an interrogation room. But he then takes her hostage and manages to get her out of the building. Ross phones Red and proposed to trade his life for Liz, and Red agrees.

Once Ross – who is evidently quite a player – has both Red and Liz in his hands, Liz is taken away and smacked around a bit. Red is told that she’ll be killed unless he tells Ross the truth about the Bones, but he only gets as far as “I am not…” before the FBI bursts in. Ross is arrested, but with typical insouciance Red shoots him on his way out, taking the Bones with him, then burning them in front of Liz’s grandfather (Brian Dennehy). So Red’s secret remains safe. And Samar has regained consciousness and accepted the marriage proposal she received while comatose, which is nice, albeit maybe a proposal when she could hear it would have been nicer.

Which… brings us to two reveals. The smaller one (although still pretty spectacular) is that Liz was working with Sutton Ross from the point at which the two of them were alone in the interrogation room, and that she already knows the truth about the bones. As does Jennifer, also part of the Ross/Liz scam. And the bigger reveal: those are the bones of Raymond Reddington. Whoever “Red” is, he’s not Reddington. (This has been a fan theory for a while: in addition, the producers have confirmed that they have had this in mind for a long time, and that James Spader has been in on it to inform his acting.)

So who is Fraud Frauddington? He’s a criminal mastermind, for sure, but why he came into Liz’s life a few years ago is something which is now entirely unexplained. And Liz and Jennifer have teamed up to find out who Fraud is, what he wants, and then, y’know, bring him down. The show has been renewed for a sixth season, which I’m delighted about: quite a few of Unpopcult’s favourite shows seem to run a bit dry on inspiration after only one or two years, but the fact that The Blacklist, five seasons in, is still fairly close to the top of its game is hugely impressive.

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The Blacklist s5 ep 21

Samar comes to in a van being driven by this week’s Blacklister, Pruitt Taylor Vince, also known as Lawrence Dean Devlin, who is a fixer and body-disposal-man for last week’s Blacklister. In the manner of baddies down the cinematic and televisual ages Devlin is planning to kill her in an inventive way, which buys her time to work out how to escape. The two of them battle each other until the timely, if curious, intervention of a bear removes Devlin from the equation but leaves Samar in the middle of nowhere, in a van, which is rapidly filling up with water. Aram divines her whereabouts through love, more or less, and then when she’s lying comatose in hospital proposes marriage and puts a ring on it. Which is kind of mitigated by her telling him, before she slipped under the water, that had he proposed to her a few weeks ago she would have said yes, but still. Dude.

Meantime Red is in Puerto Rico, in order to attend an auction for big criminal hitters, in an entertaining but ultimately pointless pursuit of the Bones. These, it transpires, are now in the possession of next week’s Blacklister, Sutton Foster, an old enemy of Red’s. Liz is there as well, but the race is still on: Red doesn’t give her a seat in his private jet back to the States. It’s not the best Blacklist of recent weeks, but the show has earned a pause for breath before the finale.

The Blacklist s5 ep 20

In a sinister cold open, a girl and her father are in a forest, trying to escape from someone or something: the father gets caught; the girl gets away. Meantime, in the non-arboreal world it’s still a race between Red and Liz to find the Bones: Red is at home recovering from last week’s injuries, and Liz visits him to make it clear that the death of the man who killed Tom doesn’t provide closure, as Tom died trying to uncover the ossific secret.

While talking to Liz, Red casually covers up a newspaper story about a mysterious girl who has wandered out of a forest and who, when examined, shows no sign of having been exposed to the modern world. Liz infers that the girl is in some way connected to the Bones, because that’s all Red’s interested in at the moment, and decides that she and the Task Force have to unravel her secret before Red does.

The girl, Maybelle, is diagnosed as having leukaemia and hospitalised. She is a member of a community which, under the sway of one Nicholas T. Moore, who failed as an author but succeeded in getting onto The Blacklist, is convinced that it survived an event which it knows as The Contagion. Any outsiders – known as The Ollo – and anyone who escapes and is recaptured, such as the girl’s father, are contaminated and need to be burned to death in what looks like a human-sized smoker.

A hospital orderly turns up to take Maybelle, for tests, and the fact that it’s PRUITT TAYLOR EFFING VINCE doesn’t seem to raise any red flags with Liz and the staff, given how surprised they all are when he chucks her into a van and drives her away, all the better to smoke her. Samar tries to prevent him and gets taken along for he ride. By the end of the episode the girl has been saved from a good smokin’, but Samar has disappeared. Which might mean there’s a little more yet to be revealed about Moore and his community: I wasn’t quite sure what they were up to, the significance of those vertical lines the father and daughter drew on their foreheads, or what Pruitt Taylor Vince had to do with them.

Meantime – spoiler alert – Red, unhindered by Liz, is still trying to find the Bones, because Maybelle and Moore had nothing whatsoever to do with them. Nice one, Red. In the first place he reaches out to Jennifer, his daughter, in case the Bones were left with her mother. Jennifer filibusters for a while, then takes him to Naomi’s grave and says that she doesn’t want to see him any more. So Red makes contact with Garvey’s number 2, Judson, who tells him that the suitcase is in Costa Rica, as presumably we will all be in the next episode. It’s a nicely creepy and fast-paced episode; not as good as last week’s, maybe, but that was exceptional.

The Blacklist s5 ep 19

Red sets up a meeting with Garvey to exchange the Suitcase O’Bones for Mosadek and his drug supply. Garvey agrees, but he and Mosadek are planning a double-cross. Liz still wants to know the truth about the bones, even though Red flatly tells her that it’s none of her business. I find that as hard to believe as Liz does: not only does it lead, in all probability, to the reason why her husband was killed, it’s The Blacklist, in which everything is connected. (Apart, it seems, from Samar and Aram, who are separating for reasons I don’t begin to understand.)

Anyway, by planting a bug on her half-sister, Liz discovers that Garvey and Mosadek are plotting to kill Red, and warns Red that he’s heading into a trap. Meh, says Red; “God doesn’t want me and the devil isn’t finished yet“. He consults previous Blacklister Raleigh Sinclair for assistance. Would it not, asks Sinclair, be easier just to skip the meeting? Not an option, says Red. Sinclair pleads that setting up a lookalike normally takes him months, if not years. Too bad, says Red: you’ve got hours. But the good news is that I don’t need an alibi; I just need a double.

Well. What ensues is such a dazzling piece of sleight-of-hand that it’s difficult for me to say anything about it without risking a spoiler. Suffice to say that once the dust has settled Mosadek is dead and Garvey (“With a butterfly kiss and a honey bee hug, sleep tight little one like a bug in a rug”) is in the custody of Red, who has managed to fool Liz and the FBI.

But Garvey escapes, leading to a stand-off at the bar where Lilly/Jennifer, Red’s other daughter, works. Guns are pointed; Lilly stands in front of Garvey to protect him; Liz demands to know the truth; Lilly tells Red that she’s Jennifer, his daughter… then it all goes off. Red – I think – takes one to the chest, but Garvey takes more than that, and by the end of the episode might well be dying, taking his secrets with him. ‘Ian Garvey: Conclusion’ is a truly great Blacklist episode, and once again it’s worth applauding the fact that, five seasons in, the writers can still put something like this together. All the more reason to be delighted that this show has been renewed for another year.

The Blacklist s5 ep 18

What a great episode. This week’s Blacklister is Zarak Mosadek, who combines being Afghanistan’s deputy interior minister for counter-narcotics with being the prime supplier of heroin to Garvey and the Nash Syndicate. He’s an obvious potential source of leverage on Garvey, so Red, Ressler, and Samar head to Paris to collar him.

Liz, though, wants to get to Garvey before Red does. Back in America she and Aram obtain details of previous Internal Affairs investigations of Garvey, from which they discover that he’s been recorded as paying weekly lunchtime visits to a nondescript bar in Baltimore, miles from his place of work, but that he doesn’t seem to do anything while there. So is he making the journey for the hot wings? Liz and Aram stake the bar out, and sure enough he doesn’t do anything worthy of note… until he’s about to leave, when they see him hugging one of the waiting staff, named Lillian. Liz meets Lillian, and tries to convince her that Garvey is an evil murderer, Not so, says Lillian; he’s been like a father to me, and he got me into the Witness Protection Program to protect me from my real father. Whose name… is Raymond Reddington. Has Liz heard of him?

The action and plotting alone are enough to mark this episode out as above-average. But it’s also tremendous fun: there’s the dialogue between Garvey and the Asian woman using the translator app; Cynthia and her equivocations (“Whether Zarak Mosadek was in the employ of the CIA, I am not going to non-deny deny. What I will not deny is that he is no longer in their employ. If he ever was which I will not confirm… or deny”); Aram getting himself knocked down by someone who, happily, isn’t texting-and-driving; Samar’s exasperation with Aram for discussing his love life with Ressler and Liz (“You’ve got to stop asking for relationship advice from people who have only had terrible relationships”). And, above all, Red sauntering around Paris, dining on Reblochon, touring the Louvre, and staging shootouts in churches, then paying for the damage with the sort of insouciance which makes it clear that being an international super-criminal is, in fact, the best thing in the world. Top-drawer stuff.

The Blacklist s5 ep 17

In the opening scene, it appears that an unremarkable man is murdered in his unremarkable suburban house, while his unremarkable daughter does her homework. Except he’s not unremarkable: he’s Jerry Jawal, who was on the phone to Red at the time is connected to the Nash Syndicate; his safe contains a ledger, which contains crucial information in respect of Red’s war against Garvey; and his teenage killer, Anna-Garcia Duerte, this week’s Blacklister, isn’t interested in any of that. Duerte’s involved because Jawal’s “daughter” isn’t his daughter; she’s his child bride.

Meantime Liz has discovered that Red was behind the capture of the witness in last week’s episode. This should set the scene for a titanic showdown, but it doesn’t, really; Red makes it clear that it’s all about the Suitcase O’Bones, and she basically accepts that. And Aram is involved in relationship dilemmas, wondering just where Samar sees them as a couple. It should be annoying, but because it’s written to character it’s quite sweet. The episode as a whole is diverting but rarely more than that.

The Blacklist s5 ep 16

An inventively-murdered corpse turns up, showing the hallmarks of having been offed by this week’s Blacklister, The Capricorn Killer. Liz is brought in, as Capricorn is one of her cold cases from her days as an FBI profiler. It looks like a standard Blacklist episode; but, unexpectedly, it becomes one of the best of the season.

To start with, after a little investigation it becomes clear that the victim is, in fact, The Capricorn Killer himself; then another serial killer turns up having been murdered using his own M.O. Yes, there’s a vigilante of sorts out there killing the killers, and it isn’t Dexter, although it isn’t a million miles from that: Liz works out that it has to be an inside job, because only someone with access to police records would be sufficiently aware of the details of the cases to be able to impersonate the murderers. Then, just as I was thinking that REDACTED was getting a little creepy, and unhealthily interested in Liz, she reveals her involvement with the vigilante.

Meantime, a witness who can identify Garvey as Singleton’s killer has been found. Aram is despatched to bring him into Task Force protective custody, leading to a terrific throwdown with Garvey himself – “Pardon my French, but you can back the hell off” – and to Red offering a deal to Garvey. Red wants the Suitcase O’Bones. Garvey wants the witness. Swapsies? They agree, but then Red snatches the witness and declines to hand him over. But, says Garvey, I told you I wanted him. “A thuggish order I immediately disregarded”, Red replies smoothly, “because I don’t take orders from you”, going on to make it clear to Garvey that Liz is entirely off-limits. So the Bones are still out there somewhere, as is Garvey, as is REDACTED; because, given a chance to bring her in, Liz decides instead to allow her dark side to call the shots. Outstanding.