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'The Blacklist' recap: 'Luther Braxton Conclusion'

We head into Lizzie’s memory only to find out that memories simply can’t be trusted.

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Virginia Sherwood/NBC

The Blacklist

TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
run date:
James Spader

All of my apologies for the untimeliness of this Blacklist recap; my own personal Post Office was dealing with an unauthorized blow to the immune system. And on Thursday, The Blacklist’s fancy new night, I realized that this episode was one that required 100 percent brain capacity because, until a second viewing, I was half-convinced that the conclusion of “Luther Braxton” was just a fever dream. So, here I am, days later, still pretty confused, but also excited. I make no promises to understand the inner workings of Elizabeth Keen’s psyche, but it seems that no one else does either, so we’re in good company.

Memory is a fickle thing—it can deceive, idealize, sadden, enlighten, control you. For Elizabeth Keen, her memory is a big empty space: Its potential is limitless if only she could access it. It could be a place full of answers—some sort of escape from the wreck her life has become—or it could be a room full of kerosene waiting for one repressed match to light everything on fire. And even though this episode spends quite a bit of time in Liz’s memory, other than a few clues, our understanding of Liz and Red’s intertwined past is really none the richer for it. Because if there’s one thing “Luther Braxton Conclusion” teaches us, it’s that memory can’t be trusted.

Take for example, Raymond Reddington and Luther Braxton. In both installments of his two-part storyline, we hear Braxton repeatedly mention Belfast, the place where his and Red’s histories intersect. For him, it’s a point of pride—a time when he defeated the great Raymond Reddington and made a name for himself in the thievin’ world. But in a truly delicious blow, and the moment that we know Braxton truly never stood a chance at uncovering the Fulcrum, Red reveals that he barely even remembers Belfast. Of course, that could all just be psychological gameplay… because the thing about memory is that it can be manipulated. The exact same moment in the past can mean different things to different people, which is why it’s very important that the Fulcrum—an object that appears to be almost entirely lost to memories of the past—be found by the right person.

The hour opens moments after last week’s Super Bowl episode left off, in the wreckage of The Factory just after it’s been hit by the missiles “The Director” (David Strathairn) sent to destroy Red. But that pretty terrible plan was unsuccessful, as we find Red, Ressler, and Samar figuring out a way to get communication back to the Post Office to let them know they’re alive (barely, in the case of poor Samar). Liz, on the other hand, is in the meaty grips of Luther Braxton, being whisked away on a helicopter to be poked and prodded until he figures out what part she plays in finding the Fulcrum.

And as it turns out, the people Braxton is working for are The Director and his gang of classy villains who we saw discussing Red’s threat status last week. This makes The Director’s decision to torpedo The Factory with the man he has hunting for the Fulcrum potentially still in it all the more confusing, but presumably destroying Red was worth it. It also clears up Braxton’s enthusiasm for his mission, as the people he’s working for are a powerful bunch, and supposedly the very same people who would be destroyed if the information contained by the Fulcrum was ever revealed. So what’s a little waterboarding of an FBI agent with all that at stake?

Braxton gets Liz to an abandoned warehouse in Anacostia and proceeds with the torturing-for-Fulcrum-information, but it’s no use… if she ever knew anything about the Fulcrum and “the night with the fire” that Braxton revealed he was privy to last week, she doesn’t remember it now. Now, this is when Luther Braxton starts to not seem like the sharpest tool in the shed—more thug than worthy Reddington opponent. Braxton tells Lizzie that he once needed help repressing a memory, and the woman that helped him forget is going to help her remember. After invading her home and taking her son hostage, Braxton informs Dr. Selma Orchard, “I’m thinking if you were able to bury one of my memories, then you can retrieve some of hers.” Dr. Orchard resists at first, letting Braxton know that the memory isn’t just a Ziplock bag—as easy to open as it is to close. But with her son’s life at stake, she gets to work and Lizzie is soon under anesthesia entering a “lucid waking dream state” to take her back 26 years to the night of the fire.

NEXT: Next time, maybe just a dream journal is the way to go…