The Blacklist s5 ep 15

A woman infects everyone in a diner with a lethal virus; she then turns up at the hospital where the victims are being treated in order to leave the cure. What gives? Well, she’s Pattie Sue Edwards, a biochemist and former US Army officer, whose husband – also a soldier – was killed while trying to steal opiates. What she isn’t, by any stretch of the imagination, is a Blacklister; but we’ll let that pass. Edwards, it transpires, has engineered a virus which, once uploaded to the CDC database for analysis, is capable of infecting computer systems as well as humans – we’ll let that pass as well – in order for her to obtain access to yet another network. It all seems like quite a lot of trouble to go to, and it’s reasonably obvious from early on that she’s trying to track down the person who killed her husband.

Meantime, Singleton wakes up to find the number 1 on the FBI’s Most Wanted list sitting on his bed. With a gun. “He broke into my house!” Singleton yelps to Cooper. “He threatened to kill me!” Cooper is unperturbed: “Reddington has a flair for the dramatic”, he soothingly replies, which if nothing else should bring home to Singleton just how bizarre the relationship between Red and the FBI actually is. Anyway, he and Liz set a trap for whoever is behind the killing of Tom. It goes very wrong – yet again, The Blacklist is more than willing to kill a character off – but it does lead to Liz catching sight of Garvey and realising that he’s the person she’s been looking for. It’ll be interesting to see what develops, as Red has already warned Liz that she’ll be wasting her time if she looks to the legal system for redress: “This doesn’t end in a courtroom. It ends on the street.”

And Red has a job for the fireraiser he sprung from prison a few episodes ago. As a storyline it amounts to more or less nothing, but it’s surprisingly entertaining. Which probably sums up the episode.

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The Blacklist s5 ep 14

This week’s Blacklister, in an enjoyable episode, is Mr. Raleigh Sinclair III, played in full affable-but-creepy style by Unpopcult royalty John Noble. He’s known in Red’s underworld as The Alibi, because his particular skillset is to provide his murderous clients with perfect alibis. It’s quite a neat trick: he encourages clients to set up a daily routine, ensuring that they’re seen by plenty of potential witnesses, while finding a lookalike. Then, on the day of the crime, while the client is carrying out the killing, the doppelgänger goes through the routine, ensuring that otherwise independent witnesses will be able to provide convincing evidence that the main suspect was in fact unable to have committed the crime. (He then kills the lookalike, which presumably helps to avoid detection, but seems a little ungrateful.)

Red sets the Task Force on Sinclair but, inevitably, gets to him first. What he wants remains unclear: he trades Sinclair’s freedom for a list of the crimes in which he provided an alibi, and the fact that Sinclair is still out there at the end of the episode suggests that we’ll see him again. Which is understandable: if you’ve got John Noble playing a role in your show, you’d presumably want to keep your options open.

The other big name guest star this week is the wonderful Martha Plimpton, playing a therapist who needs to evaluate Liz as suitable to get her badge back. Happily, we get Plimpton in a scene with James Spader (“You disgust me”, she tells Red. “You’re a glorified serial killer”, which is fair comment.) And when Singleton’s surveillance of Liz picks up her meetings with Red, Liz seems to trust him enough to take him to meet the Task Force, thus explaining to him what’s going on. It may be, in fact, that Singleton is clean after all, but unknowingly keeping company with dirty cops.

The Blacklist s5 ep 13

In an excellent cold open, a group of friends is at a restaurant, meeting Tim, the new boyfriend of one of their number. The mood turns from jovial to hostile, though, when they start interrogating Tim about his business, which is the manufacture and sale of inexpensive guns. They then bury Tim alive. It’s the work of The Invisible Hand, this week’s Blacklisters, a “provocative” (Red) group which takes action against people whose activities are legal, but morally reprehensible. It’s a promising set-up, but it descends from there into a standard battle between the group and a company which has been recklessly polluting the land, and I kind of feel as if I’ve seen The People vs Big Chem in a dozen procedurals by now.

The other plots are more interesting, though. Liz has Tom’s special effects returned to her by an ever-more-hostile Agent Singleton, and finds a key, which opens a case, which contains more references to a former Russian Cold Warrior codenamed ‘Oleander’, which – following an assist from Cooper – takes her to Dominic (Brian Dennehy), who falsely denies being Oleander, and fails to mention that he’s also her grandfather.

And Red is approached by Anthony, The Mailman from a few episodes ago, needing help – he may have, uh, redirected a package containing cocaine, and the owner, one Big Willie, is looking for restitution. (Red counterclaims that he’s Moby Dick.) Red helps out, and asks Big Willie for assistance in bringing down the Nash Syndicate, the drugs gang Liz thinks was behind Tom’s murder. That gang, says Big Willie, is untouchable – they’re protected by cops.

Which links nicely to Red’s ulterior motive – because there’s always an ulterior motive – in pointing the Task Force towards The Invisible Hand: their state-of-the-art surveillance equipment. Red manages a few seconds alone with one of The Hands, who directs him towards The Toymaker, also responsible for the equipment found in Ian Garvey’s hangout last week. The Toymaker can’t help with Garvey’s whereabouts, but is reasonably sure that the people ordering that particular job-lot of apparatus were cops. Which leads to the episode’s big reveal: Agent Singleton is working with Garvey, who has a badge as well. Nice.

The Blacklist s5 ep 12

This could have been quite a good episode, but I was left feeling less than comfortable by the A-plot. The Blacklister of the Week is The Cook, an inventive arsonist who, to start with, looks like he might be some sort of killer-for-hire, but is revealed to be murdering for personal reasons. It’s a nasty, #problematic little tale, and not in a good way; his final victim, for example, really doesn’t need to be in her underwear when he calls in on her.

Which is a shame, because before the episode turns itself into an exploitation short there are some interesting things happening. When Red points the Task Force towards The Cook, he also provides details of another arsonist who might be able to help, in true send-a-thief-to-catch-a-thief style. However, this one is already in prison, about to apply for parole, and looking for a good word. (He’s also creepy as eff.) He’s duly released, after Ressler – through gritted FBI-teeth – offers a measure of support at the parole hearing, but what Red wants with a sector-leading torch remains to be seen.

Red himself, meantime, is working with Liz to try and work out what in the name of God was going on with Navarro’s glass eye, while keeping her at arm’s length as she probes Tom’s death. Red admits that it had something to do with him, but he’s not going to say what. Which leaves Liz in the awkward position of needing Red’s help, but not trusting him.

The Blacklist s5 ep 11

Much to Cooper’s amusement, Red has been robbed: his car is T-boned by a truck being driven by someone working for this week’s Blacklister, Abraham Stern (who is, fittingly, number 100 on the List, in the show’s 100th episode.) Stern then takes the rare coin Red obtained from Greyson Blaise earlier in this season. Red knows who took the coin and why, and he wants the Task Force’s help in retrieving it. He acknowledges that it might sound like a treasure hunt for his benefit, but insists there will be something in it for the FBI as well. “I think”, says Aram, “it sounds like fun!”

And he’s right; it is. The plot – something to do with four rare coins leading to dollar bills worth hundreds of millions – is of course ridiculous, but tremendously entertaining. Stern is played by Nathan Lane, and as ever James Spader visibly relishes the opportunity to play opposite someone whose acting chops match his own.

Liz’s storyline, meantime, isn’t what you’d call fun, exactly, but it’s hardly dull: having accidentally killed Navarro, one of the people behind Tom’s death, Liz goes way, way back in the show’s history and – once she’s able to deflect Aram’s puppyish enthusiasm – digs out the file of The Stewmaker, an expert at disposing of bodies, in order to mine it for tips. (Lots of acid, basically.) Agent Singleton is after her, though, and knows that she’s up to something. As it happens, Liz’s manipulation of the situation this week is skilful but… well, I was going to say out of character, but it’s entirely possible that we’ll see more of this sort of thing from the post-Tom Liz. A strong episode.

The Blacklist s5 ep 10

We start in Toronto, and for a moment I fantasise about what a crossover between The Blacklist and Private Eyes might look like. It wouldn’t be anything like this, though: a nerve gas is released in a crowded nightclub, leading to the death of 57 people from foaming-at-the-mouth disease. I can’t see Angie and Shade wanting anything to do with that.

The terrorists responsible are arrested quickly, and the bank accounts which financed the attack are traced. They’re due to be frozen in a couple of days: it’s slightly odd that it can’t be done immediately, but maybe even account freezers need a weekend off. Which gives this week’s Blacklister, The Informant, the opportunity to obtain access to the accounts and lock them. His plan is that, for a price, the account holders will be given an opportunity to get their money out before their accounts are frozen.

While that’s going on Liz is back, and starting to construct what will in time be, I expect, a splendid Conspiracy Wall dedicated to tracking down Tom’s killer. And Prescott is connected to the main Informant suspect, a man called Howard Bishop, and once again blackmailing Ressler in order to keep the Task Force away from Bishop.

This should have been a much better episode than it was: there’s plenty of set-up, and the ending is very strong. (The conversation between Cooper and Ressler, both men who know they’ve sold their souls in their own way, is powerful.) Moreover, The Blacklist remains very willing to kill characters off: there are two significant deaths this week, and the way in which the writers have always been prepared to throw a petrol bomb over their shoulders while exiting an episode has always been bracing. The bit in the middle, though, felt somewhat underpowered.

The Blacklist s5 ep 9

Spoilers, although they really relate to last week’s episode

It’s A Very Special Blacklist: one of the rare episodes which follows a big death and doesn’t have a Blacklister in its title (‘Ruin’, after ‘Cape May’ and ‘Requiem’). Liz, mourning Tom, leaves Agnes with Scottie Hargrave (! – and can Famke Janssen become, at least, an every-now-and-again guest star?), and heads off to a remote cabin in the woods, accompanied only by Kate the doggy, presumably named after Mr. Kaplan. 70s rock stars suffering from “exhaustion” used, in much the same manner, to “get themselves together in the country”.

But trouble finds her, as it will: she finds a stranger on her doorstep, close to death, and after she takes him in four more men turn up in her cabin claiming that they were all in a plane crash. On the most obvious of levels this isn’t welcome – “You know”, she tells them, “the one thing I have learned in all my time out here alone? Men just get in my way” – but there’s more. Rather like in the episode of Hawaii Five-0 I’ve just watched, Liz and the viewers immediately know something isn’t right: Liz, because (lest we forget) she’s a shit-hot FBI-trained profiler; and us, because the most talkative stranger is played by William Mapother, and when ETHAN EFFING ROM turns up on someone’s doorstep talking about plane crashes, and the radio isn’t working, you know that something terrible is about to happen.

And it duly does, leading to a tremendously entertaining fight to the death between Rom’s gang (“You’re one woman in the middle of a storm against the four of us”) and a fired-up Liz (“You know what the four of you against me in the woods is gonna be for me? Practice”). I quite like badass Liz, and we get a lot of that this week. It’s one of Megan Boone’s best episodes, in fact. So by the time Liz has laid waste to the baddies, dropped injured dude off at a hospital, and returned to the city, leaving no trace behind, she’s ready to seek revenge for Tom’s death. This will presumably be the driving force behind the second half of the season. I’m looking forward to it.