The Blacklist s6 ep 14

The Osterman Umbrella Company, this week’s Blacklister, is a group of relentless assassins-for-hire. Its specialism is killing burned agents on behalf of their former employers: so if the CIA, or MI5, or whoever, has an ex-operative they want rid of because he knows too much, they outsource the wet work to Osterman. Red has word that the next hit is on American soil. Well, Cooper doesn’t like that – the CIA can do what it likes abroad, but a killing in the USA is his business – and he reaches out to an old CIA friend to try to get details by asking nicely. Red, meantime, takes a more direct route, and obtains a name. And while that’s going on, Aram has taken Samar on a romantic getaway to a luxury lodge with no phone reception or internet connection.

I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t spot what was going on until the last possible moment: Samar, of course, has just left the Mossad; her illness, which Aram told Levi about last week, means that she won’t always be able to keep secrets; and the Mossad has hired Osterman to kill Samar. She manages to escape, just about, and plans to go away in order to be safe: Aram insists on going with her, but we kinda sorta know that he’s not going to be able to, even as she assures him that they can go abroad and be together forever.

What it all adds up to is, firstly, a fitting farewell to Mozhan Marnò, who is leaving at her own request as far as one can see; she’ll be missed, but I suppose if the grass isn’t greener she can always return. Secondly – and I know I’m repeating myself – this is yet another ridiculously good episode. Not just because of the action and plotting, but because of the way that the history of the show informs the drama: Samar’s apparently pointless exit interview last week very much had a point, for example; and Aram’s mancrush on/terror of Red has always been a bit of a Blacklist running joke, right up to the point where it suddenly wasn’t, as Aram finds out about the part Red played in the episode’s denouement.

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The Blacklist s6 ep 13

What a terrific episode this is. It starts with Red swaggering his way through a huge got-out-of-jail party, with lots of guest stars from the show’s deep bench: Glen, Heddie, Max; even Vontae, who now seems, delightfully, to be a part of Red’s support network. Meantime, Dembe is in Cuba, checking up on rumours that legendary (and real life) conman and fugitive Robert Vesco, thought to be long dead, is in fact still alive. This is of considerable significance to Red: Vesco, at one time his mentor, swindled him out of a vast sum of money before going on the run, reputedly in order to pursue the location of a shipwreck full of gold. So if he faked his own death, Red wants to know.

Vesco, of course, did indeed fake his own death. Keen and Ressler pursue a lead to small-town Nova Scotia, where he is inexplicably hiding out. He escapes them, and runs… straight into Red’s back seat. Money, demands Red. I want my money. Well, says Vesco (a tremendous turn by Stacy Keach), I don’t have your money, but I think I know how to find the shipwreck: help me and I can settle up.

This leads to a treasure hunt, a heist, and a chase all in one, as Vesco and Red decipher clues in old poems while Keen and Ressler follow close behind. It’s inventive and fun, and even if it could be argued that there wasn’t much point to it in the context of The Blacklist’s overarching backstory, since when did everything have to have a point?

Even the Samar plot arc was sweet rather than tiresome this week: she has to endure an exit interview conducted by the Mossad – which is, I suppose, a public sector employer after all – and supervised by the returning Oded Fehr as Agent Levi Shur. The Mossad wants to find out if she’s turned; she wants to conceal her medical condition from anyone who doesn’t need to know about it; and it develops in a way which ultimately obliges Aram to realise just how much he loves her.

“This”, grouches Ressler after the final twist, “was a complete waste of time”. You couldn’t be more wrong, Donald. You could not be more wrong.

The Blacklist s6 ep 12

This episode is the second leg of a double-parter, and it’s a little less satisfying than last week’s. I suspect that might be because it’s very evidently setting up the President’s consigliere McMahon as the Big Bad for the back half of the season. Mind you, she’s significantly more convincing in that role than the (nominal) President himself, a milquetoast who at one point is reduced to bellowing “I am the President of the United States!” at Cooper. Dude: if you have to say it…

Anyway, we pick up with Red still strapped to a gurney, needles in his arms, executioners waiting for the good word. And Cooper still trying to persuade POTUS to stay Red’s execution, because Red – and only he – knows where to find the person who killed Ava Ziegler, the murdered German diplomat (INSECTS). This works out, and Red is sprung having been given 48 hours to find the assassin, cheerfully admitting to Dembe and Liz on his way out that he has no idea where Ziegler’s killer is. 

Meantime McMahon is quarterbacking a search using Bastien Moreau, this and last week’s Blacklister, for the MacGuffin-y dossier which contains proof that she and POTUS are part of a conspiracy against America, or…something? It scarcely matters at this stage, I suppose; Red has already seen her for what she is. And when he and Moreau confront each other, he is able to use that information to turn Moreau against McMahon. Moreau, you see, is ideologically-driven rather than a gun for hire, and thought he was working in the service of a German nationalist group called, improbably, Black Fist.

Moreau is captured by Ressler, but shot – by another of McMahon’s operatives – before he can provide any useful intel. By then he’d dropped the dossier – in USB drive form – in an unsuspecting schoolkid’s bag. Red’s immunity agreement is restored, and the lovely Vontae is paroled as part of the deal. Answering my question from last week, everyone agrees to pretend that Red has broken out of prison, so that he can go back to being a CI: or, as Cooper puts it, “We have our work cut out for us. We know there are people plotting against our country. As is all too often the case, we’re looking straight down the barrel of what’s wrong with the world. But tonight, we’re also witness to something pretty great: the man we hate to love lives to fight another day”. Red, unsentimentally, remarks on how the Task Force office “reeks of stress and anxiety, coffee and deodorized body odor”.

So we’re back to normal. Except that McMahon herself is going to be overseeing the Task Force. And that Samar is leaving the FBI, because of her health. As ever I’ve tried not to look for spoilers, but it did feel like farewell. I hope not.

The Blacklist s6 ep 11

Red’s chances of escaping execution appear to depend on whether the President can be persuaded to pardon him and restore his immunity agreement. I say “appear”, because after this week’s episode – which, in the best traditions of The Blacklist, also pulls in several threads from previous episodes – I’m not entirely clear who’s working for whom. His plan still revolves around the conspiracy against America he divulged last week, with further details to come if he’s spared. Cooper takes that to POTUS, who – together with his advisor McMahon – nixes it. This isn’t entirely surprising, because McMahon and POTUS are both part of that conspiracy; and McMahon is, in fact, working with Blacklister Bastien Moreau, the Corsican, from earlier in this season.

After the Task Force fiddling around a little in Luxembourg it becomes clear that Moreau is planning to assassinate Ava Ziegler, a high-ranking German diplomat, in order to prevent her from disclosing the (presumably) conspiracy-related contents of a dossier. Red’s prison regime permits him to Skype McMahon, Cooper, and Panabaker so that he can offer to save Ziegler, but once again he’s turned down. Rather sweetly, Cooper thinks that if it’s made known that the President did nothing to protect Ziegler this will be bad for his reputation. We’re in a parallel world, but I can’t help but think the damaged-reputation bar is much, much higher these days, and that PRES DOESN’T LIFT FINGER TO SAVE FRAU DIPLOMAT wouldn’t even make it to the end of a news cycle before being replaced by something even more unconscionable.

So there’s nothing more for Red to do except await death. Random thought: if Red escapes this (and he will), how can he go back to being Red Reddington the CI? His trial and sentence have been all over the media; he’s no longer undercover. Anyway, Ziegler is killed by the horrendous insects-in-the-lungs thing we saw a few weeks ago, and which I really didn’t want to see ever again. Liz, given a final meeting with Red, opts not to ask him who he really is, but instead tells him that she loves him. (This, as I said last week, is something of a volte-face, but no-one seems to care.) Red also says farewell to Cooper: “You are the best, Harold — as an agent, and a person, and a friend”. 

And, even though I know that Red won’t actually be killed, I must admit that the final scenes, in which he was taken into the execution chamber, strapped to a gurney, and had tubes inserted into his arm, while Dembe sat and prayed in the public gallery, was more unsettling than I thought it would be. Terrific.

The Blacklist s6 ep 10

In a nicely chilling cold open, a hacker stops the pacemaker of a football-playing young girl, in order to leverage her father – who also owns the company which manufactures the pacemaker – into liquidating some of his assets and transferring them. But the hacker – known, helpfully, as The Rat – isn’t this week’s Blacklister. That’s The Cryptobanker, who launders illegally-gotten Bitcoin. (Which is one of those things, like swimming and powered flight, that I just don’t understand, but which happily continues in the face of my scepticism.) While Aram builds the girl a Faraday cage, so that the hacker can’t interfere with the pacemaker again, Red asks the Task Force to find The Cryptobanker, because reasons. It’s a brisk, muscular plot.

This week’s real thrills, though, are to be found at Red’s trial. Faced with a prosecutor who is planning to reveal the existence of the immunity agreement, and therefore the Task Force, Red gambles. He changes his plea to guilty,  then rushes through the jury’s consideration of whether he is to be subjected to the death penalty, in order to be back at the prison by a certain time. Because he has an escape plan. And it’s a great one, which totally works… right up until the last moment, when it doesn’t, and he’s recaptured on the verge of freedom.

Now convicted, and awaiting execution, does Red have anything else up his sleeve? Well, of course he does; he wanted the Cryptobanker found because he did some business with a man in Cairo, which is evidence of a great big conspiracy, which will get Red another immunity agreement. Or something. It hardly matters. It’s The Blacklist, and it’s brilliant, even if I’ve now decided not to bother worrying about whether Liz loves or hates Red at any given moment. This week she loves him, I think.

The Blacklist s6 ep 9

Red’s trial is about to start: He’s being accused of treason by providing details to Russia, in 1990, of the whereabouts of a US navy submarine, which was then attacked. (I don’t think I knew that.) Hang on, he says, there’s a Blacklister who can clear my name: Minister D, serial blackmailer, has proof that I didn’t commit the offence. So this week, at least, Liz and the Task Force are in no doubt that Red has his own reasons for wanting a Blacklister found.

Minister D’s MO is to gather incriminating information via an old-school phone tap, record it on an old-school tape, type out a transcript on an old-school typewriter, deliver it to the target, then demand vast sums of cash money. It’s remarkably successful, but – as it turns out – it hardly makes him the most difficult Blacklister to find. And while the Task Force is on that, Red’s trial finally gets under way. It is, of course, ludicrously entertaining, with Red still representing himself and prosecutor Sima calling Ressler as his star witness. Ressler cheerfully perjures himself by declining to reveal that the man in court isn’t actually Red Reddington; if “Red” is happy to face the death penalty when he could exculpate himself in seconds, reasons Ressler, it’s hardly for him to take an alternative view.

Minister D is found, as is the tape which proves Red’s argument that he was framed by Katarina Rostova, Alan Fitch, and the Cabal. (I could have done without ever hearing about the Cabal again, but there we go.) Red is found not guilty, but remains in custody as there are further trials to go. The question of why he would continue to take the hit for the actual Red remains unanswered. And Dembe finds out that Liz did, indeed, betray Red by ensuring that he would be arrested, but keeps that secret from Red, presumably because he has enough shit to do without also managing a full-on Red vs Liz war. All that and another #Kessler moment – don’t think I’m not watching you, you crazy kids. Six seasons in, The Blacklist continues to deliver.

The Blacklist s6 ep 8

Liz and Jennifer are homing in on Marguerite Renard, the nurse who was present when Red’s plastic surgery was performed. Unfortunately, she’s also the girlfriend of this week’s Blacklister, drug baron Marko Jankowics, who has security in place to protect her.  So when Liz and Jennifer try to grab Renard, Jankowics’s thugs intervene. Liz manages to kill one, but the other abducts Jennifer. This has two consequences: with a dead body to be wrangled, Liz has to tell Ressler the whole story. And with a half-sister to be traced to the premises of a notorious criminal mastermind, Liz has to ask Red for help without telling him the whole story. He works out pretty quickly, though, that if Liz is in the vicinity of Renard then she knows he’s not the real Reddington.

Meantime Red is mediating in a prison dispute, and Ressler is hanging out with his Alter Ego girlfriend. Who may have actual feelings for him, as opposed to the ones she was hired to simulate; but isn’t overjoyed when Ressler starts to bring work (i.e. a traumatised witness suffering from an involuntary drug OD) home with him. They split up. But did I thereafter detect the flickering flame of the #Kessler ship, which was more or less extinguished several seasons ago?

Anyway, Red sorts out the prison business, more or less, and deals with any lingering ill-feeling by carrying out a thoroughly efficient shanking of one of the protagonists. He also gets Dembe to extract Renard before Liz can get too much information out of her, with a clear implication that she’s going to be resettled in Scotland, “a beautiful place”. Indeed it is! Represent! And Jennifer is rescued from Jankowics, but decides she’s had enough of being abducted and beaten up by drug barons and steps away from the Red inquiry, although not before telling Liz that it may have been Katarina Rostova who arranged Red’s surgery. I liked this episode more than last week’s, at least in part because of the lack of INSECTS. Although the scenes in which radiant young women were delivered, via Caesarian section, of beautiful… prosthetics containing vast amounts of LSD, weren’t for the faint of heart.