“Those who abjure violence can do so only because others are committing violence on their behalf.” – George Orwell
(“What a visionary, but good Lord, his books are a downer.” – Red on George Orwell)
The marketing before season 2’s premiere made it look as though The Blacklist is mostly about James Spader being mysterious in a fedora. Which is, in fact, almost entirely true. The marketing during the second season, however, has made it seem like its opening seven-episode arc has revolved around one closed door… which is, somewhat problematically, also true. Because while That Door has proved to be the least interesting storyline of season 2 (excluding The Pillz, obviously), it also became symbolic of a larger problem that presented itself after the intermission on Berlin: Every plot door in the Blacklist house is wide open, and there hasn’t been a guiding light in the place.
Berlin: an open door. Jennifer: an open door. Fowler: a door so open, it’s nearly forgotten. Tom: technically a closed door until last week, but also, the most open metaphorical door of them all. At the end of The Mombasa Cartel, things were starting to feel just a little too breezy. The weave of Red and Lizzie’s past, present, and future seemed just a just a little too loose to hold one more bit of mysterious water.
And then, tonight… we finally walked through some damn doors. Honestly, I’m still not sure what exactly the Scimitar’s villainous mission statement was (destroy the world, etc.), but I know that his episodic arc informed our main characters more than any other Blacklister has in quite a while. And for that, we thank him. In between the suicidal cults, and the terrifying bald men, and the terrorists bent on destruction via various vials of bacteria, all I’m every really trying to figure out is what these people are thinking/feeling/plotting at any given time. At the core of The Blacklist world, it seems there are two kinds of people: people who will murder, and people who won’t. Oh sure, there’s plenty of killing going on in the gray area: a car chase here, a Russian mobster there—even Dembe has been the accessory to many (many, many) a murder. But would Dembe shoot someone outright for revenge? Red told us explicitly last week that he would not. But there are “men like [him],” and like Geoff Perl, who will take down most anyone who gets in their way or wrongs them.
And there are women like Samar, who, as we learn tonight, also has the moral elasticity that enables revenge murders, the theme of the hour. And suddenly, this Tom sticking around business carries some weight. What stands behind That Door (which apparently is located in a ship) is less Tom, and more a test of Lizzie’s true character. The Lizzie we met in Season 1 surely wouldn’t have considered killing someone for revenge… but Lizzie from Season 1 also wouldn’t have kidnapped her husband, locked him in a ship, and demanded information from him so she could have his boss killed.
But that’s enough about Lizzie. Tonight’s episode is really all about Red’s unique ability to manipulate young women into doing his bidding. As Red systematically uses Lizzie (what’s new?), Samar, and Zoe to achieve his purposes, I’m reminded of Naomi warning Liz that Red has a special way of making women feel like they’re “the center of his universe.” His truest skill, rather, seems to be making himself the center of theirs.
THE SCIMITAR, NO. 23
For a Blacklister so high on the list, we learn very little about the Scimitar’s actual skills—although he seems to be a great manipulator himself, with an aptitude for hand tattoos. The episode opens in Dubai, where Samar is sitting at a bar—looking downright fierce in a blue dress and being hit on by the man next to her. Or as Red tells it later when he pitches this week’s Blacklister to Lizzie and new It Girl, Samar: “Persian man walks into a bar, meets a beautiful woman, has a few drinks—next thing you know, he’s falling from a 12-story balcony.”
Turns out, pre-12-story-fall, that man was the top nuclear scientist in Iran. Samar took him out in a joint mission with the Mossad and the CIA. Word on Red’s particularly informative streets is that the Iranians are wise to the truth of the scientist’s death, and plan to retaliate by taking out America’s top nuclear scientist. For that revenge mission, they’ll be using their best assassin. Codename: The Scimitar (Waleed Zuaiter).
This is where things get a little ridiculous as far as, y’know, reality and details are concerned. But it’s also where I logged about a gasp per second, so that’s what I like to call a Blacklist draw. While Agent Cooper is working to track down and protect the government’s top nuclear scientists, all a part of the ground-breaking nuclear research initiative called “Cloud Top,” Ressler and Liz head out to the location Aram has determined as the Scimitar’s hideout. There, they find that he has been tracking a man named Jonathan Reese, whom they assume is a part of Cloud Top. They realize that they have to get to Reese before the Scimitar does, and just as I’m thinking, “Couldn’t they just track down a cell number and give this guy a heads up not to go to his car?” they’ve already gotten to Reese, someone is shooting his tires out, he’s getting in the car with them, men on a motorcylce are shooting at their car, and Ressler, Liz and the man are flipping over, and over, and over…
NEXT: Meet the Blacklist’s newest Most Interesting Woman in the World…