If Thursday’s arthouse episode settled one thing, it’s this: The Blacklist may go on without Elizabeth Keen… but the Blacklist cannot.
From the moment “Cape May” typed out onto the screen without a number following it, it was evident that this hour of The Blacklist would be different from anything else we’ve seen in this series… it would not even be close. And that makes perfect sense. For as long as we’ve watched this show, and as long as we’ve known Raymond Reddington, the center of his universe has been Elizabeth Keen. And without her taking up residence in the nucleus of his psyche anymore, it’s logical that there might need to be a little rearranging under that fedora. The easy way to play that out would be to have him go on a murderous rampage to a spooky Johnny Cash song…
But we’ve seen Red do that before to deal with a problem. We’ve never seen Red have to deal with life without Lizzie. And we’ve certainly never seen an episode of The Blacklist like this.
It’s not hard to kill off a character on a TV show. The decision may be hard; it may be hard to watch; but the actual act? As easy as a heart monitor going flat or a guillotine being released. To change everything about your series, however — the pace, the cinematography, the cast list, the music — and sustain that for an hour in a way that’s still meaningful to the series… now that is a risk, and one that I think The Blacklist pulled off not just with this episode’s fine performances or eerie-dreamlike quality, but in a way that I hope will continue to prove this hour’s worth throughout all of season 3’s remaining episodes.
At least, that’s what I hope. I know Raymond’s experience at Cape May isn’t one he’ll soon forget, and I don’t imagine we as the audience will either. This episode was dark — it felt all wrong; at times, desperately slow, and then at others, like everything was moving too fast to possibly keep up; it felt oppressive and confusing and painful to witness… it felt a lot like mourning.
I will admit that I’m a little nervous to recap for two reasons: 1. I’m, uh, pretty confused, and 2. While almost the entire episode was some kind of opium/grief-fueled dream, it also kind of seemed like maybe every single line was important. So I’ll do my best to hit you with the biggest points, the most minor quotes, and every time someone wore red, just in case this is a Sixth Sense kind of thing.
Straight from the cold open, this hour was off on uneven footing, as the inquisition of Dr. Nick only lasted about 20 seconds before the title sequence rolled, and we didn’t even get to find out if he got his wish: to not die for his inability to save Liz. And even though I’m a big fan of Dr. Nick and his whole salt-and-pepper deal, it as easy enough to forget about him as soon as “Cape May” popped up, giving us our first ever Blacklist episode without a Blacklister in the title, followed immediately by Raymond Reddington waking up in a stupor inside a bunk at what appeared to be an opium den (if there is a single restaurant in New York City without a magically retractable false wall, The Blacklist does not know about it).
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After he’s awoken, he stumbles out into the street, nearly gets hit by a taxi, and then offers that taxi $500 to drive him 200 miles to Cape May, New Jersey. On his way there, he stares at the picture of baby Lizzie, her mom, and that lens flare on a swing, and flashes back to his last moments with Liz in the ambulance before she died. When he arrives, he calls Marvin to tell him that he’s going on an extended leave and then pays his driver what could have been anywhere between $100,000 and $1 million to let him have his cab, and drives to the nearest diner for some bacon. Now, that is a type of mourning I can understand. Post-bacon is where things get interesting…
NEXT: Lady in the water…