The Blacklist s4 ep 21; s4 ep 22

End-of-season spoilers

In the first part of this season-ending double-bill, Red’s empire is crumbling: Mr. Kaplan is emptying his accounts, meaning that he can’t pay anyone, and his reputation is draining away with his money. Which poses an interesting question: what is Red Reddington if not a wealthy international mega-criminal; and, specifically, what use is he to the Task Force in that eventuality? Not much use at all, is the conclusion. Particularly with Detective Julian Gale getting in the way. So as far as Liz is concerned it’s all hands on deck to find Mr. Kaplan, notwithstanding that Red arranged for Liz to be abducted and kidnapped by the Debt Collector in order that she could be used as Kaplan-bait. There’s almost a shrug of the shoulders as they rationalise this. It’s Red. He does shit like that, the old rogue.

Mr. Kaplan’s next move is to hire Mario Dixon, top thief, to steal the signed copy of Red’s immunity deal from a storage facility. (A terrific sequence, this one, moving quickly from the removal of an eyeball to a motorcycle escaping from the rear of a van.) But Red is on top of this: he captures Mario, who in keeping with his status as a mercenary quickly offers to give Mr. Kaplan up. Once he does, of course, Red kills him, in keeping with his status as a sociopathic criminal, then drops in on Liz’s grandfather Dom (played by Brian Dennehy, and last seen in season 3) in order to pick something up.

And, when Red and Mr. Kaplan finally meet, in a theatre, the “something” is revealed to be Red’s last and best offer: a private island where she can live out her days, wealthy and safe. She declines, but before negotiations or shooting can commence Agent Gale and the FBI come bursting in, and Red gets away. Mr. Kaplan, however, offers to testify against Red in return for immunity.

It’s an excellent episode. But the next one is better. A grand jury – which has already heard from Aram, who did his very best not to dob Red and the Task Force in – takes like five seconds to confirm that Mr. Kaplan has the goods on Red, and offers her immunity. She asks for 24 hours to put her affairs in order; this means a trip to a place called Tansi Farms where she digs up a suitcase and puts it in a locker at a bus station.

Meantime, Red is sitting in a downmarket hotel destroying evidence of multiple IDs, and Harold Cooper is wondering – not for the first time, surely – why the hell Red walked into their lives in the first place, particularly as it looks as if Liz, and the rest of them, are going to jail as a result. So he roots around in an evidence vault, dugs out a bloodstained shirt worn by Red years ago, and sends off for DNA testing to find out once and for all if Red is Liz’s father.

We’ll get to that. Red, meantime, is still hard at work: he tracks down one Harry Prescott, a superstar fixer, and through Prescott finds the body of Reven Wright, which has a bullet in it from Laurel Hitchin’s gun. Using that as leverage, Hitchin is persuaded to shut down the grand jury, much to Aram’s relief, as he’s been stuck in the cells for refusing to testify against the Task Force.

But Liz doesn’t know that Red’s plan has worked, and she’s set up a meeting with Mr. Kaplan. Red and the Task Force are tracking Liz, but Red’s men get there first, leading to Mr. Kaplan shooting – and killing? – Red’s lieutenant Baz (played by the magnificently-named Bazzel Baz).

Mr. Kaplan gets away from that one, but the Task Force pins her down on a bridge, and Red confronts her. She once again refuses any sort of peace deal, and tells Red that if she dies her associate will tell Liz about the secret of Tansi Farms. Red still won’t shoot her, so Mr. Kaplan dives off the bridge, as we knew she would. We see her floating face-down in the water, but is she dead? As this show brought Liz back from actual death, I’m not convinced.

And then all sorts of things happen. Ressler goes to confront Hitchin and, somewhat randomly, kills her by accident. Then calls Prescott to do the cleaning. I wonder if he’ll be a regular next season? Aram discovers that girlfriend Janet ratted him out to the grand jury, heads to Task Force HQ, and makes out with Samar. The DNA test confirms, inevitably, that Red is Liz’s dad, news which Liz treats with a certain degree of equanimity: she heads over to Red’s hotel for a shouting match, but ends up acknowledging that she is her father’s daughter – “Guess what”, she tells Red, “I am like you” – and hugging him. (This scene is, perhaps, Megan Boone’s finest piece of acting on this show.)

But we’re still not done. Red confirms to Dembe that Liz thinks Red’s-your-daddy was the big secret, and not the really big secret: the suitcase, Tansi Farms. Dembe observes that he doesn’t think Liz will ever be ready to find out what Red did to Katarina, and Red makes it clear that they need to find the suitcase. However, someone’s already there… and it’s Tom, who opens the suitcase to reveal human bones, then calls someone: “Mr. Kaplan’s instructions were very specific. I’m on my way”.

Which ends season 4. It got a little bogged down in the middle, but the post-hiatus run of episodes was, in my view, as strong as anything we’ve seen from this show since the first season. Moreover, with Red on the ropes, Liz now confirmed as family, Tom floating somewhere between all of them, and a mysterious suitcase full of bones out there, the prospects for season 5 look good. For example: would Liz assist in reviving Red’s criminal organisation? Or would the Task Force, now seemingly insulated from criticism, on the basis that they get more from a powerful Red than a diminished one?


The Blacklist s4 ep 20


I don’t know what they were putting in the water in The Blacklist’s writers’ room when they were putting the post-hiatus run together, but this is another storming episode. The Blacklister of the Week is Edgar Grant, a mild-mannered school janitor known as The Debt Collector. He’s a sociopath-for-hire who is paid by people who want to extract a fitting revenge on those they think have wronged them, and he’s after Liz.

So when he abducts Liz, there are a few questions: who wants revenge on our beloved Liz, why does he want it, where has The Debt Collector taken her, what does he plan to do, and can he be stopped? With no better options, and the corpse of a previous Collector victim to examine, Red offers Mr. Kaplan a truce: they need to work together to save Liz. Mr. Kaplan agrees, sort of, which among other things takes her to the school where Grant works, giving her a brief but wonderful opportunity to prove that she’s the best substitute teacher ever.

The Task Force, meantime, has worked out that the Collector was hired by one Tyson Pryor, a former professor convicted years ago, after the intervention of a young FBI profiler, for sending anthrax through the post. Now terminally ill, Pryor has been released on compassionate grounds, but when confronted claims – plausibly – to have nothing whatever to do with Liz’s abduction.

And he’s telling the truth. Because The Debt Collector was hired by Red, in order to dangle Liz as bait for Mr. Kaplan. And it’s working: the Collector has taken Liz to a remote lodge, where Red and Dembe are already waiting. Mr. Kaplan isn’t far behind, and Ressler and the FBI come charging in fairly quickly thereafter. A tense standoff ensues. But what Ressler doesn’t know is that Detective Julian Gale is onto him and the Task Force, and has followed Ressler in order to take a shot at Red; which he does, but without success.

So everyone gets away, just about, and Red now has to reckon with two crucial facts: Mr. Kaplan isn’t prepared to allow for the possibility of peaceful co-existence, and whoever it was who tried to shoot him is a new player entirely. Which sets us up very nicely for this week’s season-ending double-bill.

The Blacklist s4 ep 19

This week’s Blacklister is Dr. Bogdan Krilov, a specialist in the science of memory manipulation; and, in fact, the person responsible for erasing Liz’s memories of The Fire. Mr. Kaplan has been in touch with him, so Red thinks he should be found, and – of course – the Task Force jumps to attention. Liz and Samar are on that, during which Liz will encounter Dr Selma Orchard, who also played around with Liz’s memory a couple of seasons back, and will discover that Dr. Krilov was inside her head as recently as two years ago. Liz seems to be a bid of a memory-manipulator magnet, it has to be said. And Red heads to Vienna on the trail of Mr. Kaplan. Almost early-to-mid-period James Bond-esque, this: cafés with sachertorte, trains with compartments and passenger lists.

Meantime, Ressler is still digging into the murder of Reven Wright, which I didn’t care that much about when it happened, still less a season and a half later, and which doesn’t seem to have a lot to do with the rest of the plot. Until… it does, and I don’t think I can say much more about that. Suffice to say that Mr. Kaplan’s plan is to bring down the Task Force which is shielding Red. And, as it happens, Detective Gale is trying to do the same thing; he’s worked out that mysterious mega-criminals started being arrested round about the time that Liz joined the Task Force, and concludes that Red is feeding intel to the FBI. It’s a busy and exciting episode; perhaps not quite up to the standard of the last couple of weeks, but very good indeed.

The Blacklist s4 ep 18

Mr. Kaplan has hired this week’s Blacklister, bounty hunter Philomena (our old friend Susan Misner, always a welcome sight), to assist with her ongoing war against Red. Philomena is hunting down Red’s accomplices in the hope that Mr. Kaplan will be able to turn them. She starts with Red’s finance guy, then moves onto a woman who appears to have nothing whatever to do with Red. But Philomena is playing a long and subtle game. I didn’t see where it was going until the moment of revelation.

Meantime the 86 bodies Mr. Kaplan left at the ice rink in last week’s episode are being investigated by one Julian Gale (Enrique Murciano, who was Danny in Without A Trace). Entertainingly, Gale – who might be a bit of a horse’s ass, too soon to be certain – used to be Ressler’s partner when they were trying to hunt Red down, and assumes that Red is still at large; he doesn’t know about Red’s arrangement with the FBI, and why the discovery of dozens of Red-related corpses might actually be something the FBI could happily live without. Another excellent episode, if not quite as good as last week’s.

The Blacklist s4 ep 17

Last week’s episode established that Kathryn Nemec is the person behind the campaign against Red; and that Kathryn Nemec is better known to us as Mr. Kaplan. So in this week’s Blacklister-free episode, ‘Requiem’, we’re shown more about what Mr. Kaplan is planning, and that’s excellent in itself: enigmatic and menacing to start with before it all falls into place, and rounded off with a final shot to take the breath away.

But what really counts in this episode are the flashbacks, starting in Kathryn Nemec’s childhood, moving forward to her time as Liz’s nanny and Katarina Rostova’s confidant, showing how she came to call herself Mr. Kaplan – particularly poignant, this part – and all the way up to her recruitment by Red and the beginning of the very first episode, with Red turning himself into the FBI. It covers just about every aspect of The Blacklist’s backstory, and does so in a way which is both deeply satisfying and intensely thrilling. All that’s left is the question of whether Red is Liz’s father, and I don’t think there’s much room for doubt about that now, to be honest. It’s a highpoint for this season and, perhaps, for the show as a whole; and it’s to the credit of the The Blacklist’s writers that, four years in, they can produce an episode like this. Absolutely wonderful.

The Blacklist s4 ep 16

Aram is in the shower with his new squeeze Janet, who is in fact Elise, the pretend girlfriend from a few weeks ago…? Oh well; I’d probably forgive her too, if I’m being honest. Anyway, sexytimes are interrupted when Aram is abducted by this week’s Blacklister, one Dembe Zuma. This is potentially problematic, because we know Dembe poisoned Red, but no; Dembe convincingly explains that he didn’t do it, and wants Aram to help him prove his innocence. Meantime Janet reports the theft of her boyfriend to the Task Force and to Samar’s predictable, if misplaced, fury. Janet coolly wonders whether they should “talk about the fact that we’re both into the same guy”. Hee. It’s about time someone called Samar on her bullshit.

While the Task Force tries to find Aram, Red looks for Dembe. This includes a visit to his DMV ally Glen, who is always good value, this week observing that having a “big black guy waiting on you hand and foot” is a little bit “Edgar Rice Burroughs”. It also involves the Sanctum Corporation, an “Underground Railroad for miscreants”, according to Red, which relocates criminals who want to disappear. And Dr Sofia Gallup, a therapist who covers her fire-scarred upper torso in bees. And Kathryn Nemec, a name Red immediately recognises. And that weird hunter dude who took Mr. Kaplan in after Red managed not to kill her.

Alll of which illustrates that this was a terrific episode in which, if anything, you could argue that there was a little too much going on: Dr Gallup, for example, was played by Paola Turbay, a proper actor, and could really have had an episode dedicated to her as a stand-alone Blacklister, as could the Sanctum Corporation. And Samar is now so insufferable that it’s not really tolerable any more. By the end, though, Red knows that Mr. Kaplan is alive and that it is she who orchestrated the attempt on his life, which presumably sets the scene for an emotional end-of-season showdown in a few weeks.

Public Service Announcement 17 of 2017: The Blacklist

Now that The Blacklist: Redemption has finished its run, The Blacklist is returning, with Dembe the Blacklister of the Week in the next episode. Given what happened before the hiatus I can’t see that ending well.

As for Redemption: it hasn’t been renewed, and I can see why not. I watched it all. I quite liked it. The characters were interesting, as were the plots. But it stubbornly refused to take off. That does give the main show’s writers a few opportunities, though, particularly given that Redemption’s final episode was clearly designed to open up the possibility of a second season. It’s been announced that Ryan Eggold is returning to the parent show, and Scottie and Solomon have already been Blacklisters, so the crossover is in place. Moreover Howard Hargrave (Terry O’Quinn) hasn’t yet featured, nor has quantum computing genius Richard Whitehall (Clarke Peters), and given that The Blacklist itself has been renewed for another season I wouldn’t be surprised to see Halcyon Aegis featuring again (Wednesday 24 May, 9pm, Sky 1).