I agree with Tom — we need to talk. But as opposed to whatever he and Ressler need to discuss (spoiler alert: it’s Lizzie), you and I… we need to talk about that scene. You know the one. THE scene. The one where Red and Lizzie walked out of a shipping container decorated like an X-Men villain’s secret lair, onto the deck of a cargo ship in the middle of an unknown ocean, and he told her that she’s his North Star. Because if there was ever any question that this show is about the relationship between Raymond Reddington and Elizabeth Keen — not just the connection between them, but their relationship: the people they are, the people they make each other — then season 3 is answering that with a loud and resounding, “This IS the story of Lizzie and Red, and here’s an itemized list of their childhood dreams to prove it.” It’s doing that with confidence; it’s doing that with pizzazz; it’s doing it to the tune of “Our House” by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
The Blacklist is — to borrow from the series’ own writers — taking “a perilously fast run down a slippery road” toward becoming a very different show in its third season than it was in the two that proceeded it. And to continue borrowing from Marvin and Red’s analogies, thus far, I think they’re hitting every green light. The moment the tracks of the FBI and the tracks of Red and Lizzie began to run perpendicular rather than the hazy form of parallel they’d been following for the first two seasons, the entire construct of the series changed, in even its most basic form — a Blacklister is no longer a Blacklister in the way that they were when Red was forking criminals over to the FBI for his own gain. Now we’re exploring Red’s network of shady acquaintances on his terms and his terms alone. Look at Marvin Gerard: the man was already in jail, nearly finished with his lawful punishment, and certainly not someone Red would hand over to Ressler. Exactly what kind of list are season 3’s Blacklister’s comprising.
The Blacklist’s creators have done a very smart thing by keeping the plot focused on exonerating Lizzie, while making Red’s devotion to that mission what’s propelling that narrative forward. Only two episodes in and we’ve already met two acquaintances with secret hidey holes just for Red, and one man close enough to Red to know that Lizzie is “the one who made him throw away his freedom.” If learning about Red as a means of learning about Lizzie-and-Red is the new Blacklist then bring it on…
MARVIN GERARD, NO. 80
Don’t forget though, that for a very brief moment at the end of last week’s premiere, Lizzie and Red were separated, and in that moment, Lizzie did something that would go on to nearly get her killed. I’ve grown to really enjoy Elizabeth Keen as a character, but the woman cannot be left alone and still be expected to live. Pick out a good disguise hoodie? Definitely. Make it out of the Russian Embassy alive? Absolutely not.
That’s where the episode picks up, with Liz inside the Russian Embassy she escaped to last week, once again declaring herself Masha Rostova, and this time with an ever so slight Russian accent. It turns out that her plan is to trade intel with Russian Intelligence regarding their common enemy — the Cabal — in exchange for protection. It seems like she does a pretty good job too, when after a few calls, the Russian Chief Intelligence Officer to the western hemisphere tells her that they will escort her to Moscow under diplomatic protection. But — whoops — turns out those calls to Russian government are being rerouted to Mr. Solomon’s brand new iPhone 6S. You remember Mr. Solomon? He’s the new villain from last week who’s extra terrifying and extra hate-able due to threatening Dembe, and the only thing cuter than Dembe: a Dembe-adjacent baby.
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NEXT: Who’s saving who, here?[pagebreak]
Luckily for Lizzie, some things haven’t changed in season 3, and for as wrong as she is about most things, Red is still right about just as many. He uses his ties at the Russian Embassy and a little blackmail on some illicit “water wiggling,” and finds out that the person who made the call for Lizzie to be “sent to Moscow” is the same one who signed the paperwork for Karakurt to enter the United States, a.k.a., someone who works for the Cabal. He calls Ressler, who’s just watched Lizzie pull out of the Embassy because short of declaring war against Russia, there’s nothing he could do to stop a diplomatic vehicle, and tells him that the second she gets on that plane to Moscow, she’s a dead woman.
And the next thing we know, an SUV is ramming Lizzie’s transport car from behind, and one Donald Ressler is the driver of that car. As Ressler runs them off the road, the Russian agent next to Lizzie tries to shoot at him, but she prevents him from being able to take aim. After both cars crash, and Ressler gets out of his vehicle, the driver takes aim on him, but Lizzie shoots him from the back seat before he can shoot Ressler. But by the time Ressler has fended off the other agents, she’s running away on foot. And he apparently thinks he will not be able to the catch up 30 yards to the woman who is still wearing a bralette in his motorized vehicle, so he just watches her run away.
Sidenote: I really don’t see how anybody is going to be able to keep their Federal employment status with this current working relationship with a coupl’a fugitives, but the Deputy Attorney General mostly seems exasperated-but-lenient thus far (she should ask Cooper where that attitude got him… fake cancer, it got him fake cancer).
So, Lizzie runs straight where she should, to the waiting anecdotes of Raymond Reddington. He’s at a diner owned by one of his many acquaintances and quickly corrects Lizzie that Ressler didn’t just try to kill her, he successfully saved her from her own little From Russia with
Love Diplomatic Immunity stunt. But as it turns out, the FBI get a tip about a sighting at the diner, so when Lizzie and Red spot the first police car, Red promptly walks out, shoots up the front of the car, walks back in the diner, locks the door behind him, and gives his deepest apologies to the diner patrons that he’s about to have inconvenience their afternoon by holding them hostage. Talk about a case of the Mondays, amirite?
Red’s intentions aren’t immediately clear, and of course he doesn’t give Lizzie any insight, but he lists his demands to Ressler as follows when he arrives: restoration of power that the SWAT team outside has already pulled, and armored car to transport them to the runway of his choosing, and Marvin Gerard. If it’s not done in 90 minutes, people start dying.
Luckily for the innocent people inside, Ressler at least hops right on the Marvin Gerard demands. Marvin (a perfectly uptight Fisher Stevens) is graduated magna cum laude from Harvard, rose to the top of the criminal law field by 30, and now resides in prison where he still gives legal counsel to some of the biggest criminals around… including Raymond Reddington. Marvin arrives to the diner very perturbed that he’s being called in, and with no information about why. When he learns that he’s there as one of Red’s hostage requests, he still doesn’t seem particularly thrilled to see his former client.
NEXT: He doesn’t need a wire…[pagebreak]
Marvin makes his way inside, making sure everyone knows that it’s under duress, and we find out why Red wanted him: lawyers find loopholes, and Red is on the hunt for one. He has Marvin looking through the Fulcrum intel, presumably looking for… well, something. Red’s top priority is to exonerate Liz, but what Marvin finds in the documents that could potentially help them, I have no idea. About the time Marvin reads something that could have them going perilously fast run down a slippery road unless they hit every green light, a particularly unsavory man in the diner lunges for Lizzie’s gun. She fends him off, pushing Red’s diner-owning friend in the process, and once she has the guy on the ground, she doesn’t stop beating him up until Red yells, “Enough!” The man spends the next 20 minutes or so with his lungs filling with blood because Liz managed to puncture them, but Red says he’ll get help soon enough. Their time in the diner is done and everyone is instructed to head to the kitchen.
Simultaneously, Ressler finds out that the anonymous tip they got about the diner sighting wasn’t a sighting of Liz, it was of Red… which doesn’t make sense… unless Red called the tip in himself because this was all part of his plan. Yep, yes, that is what happened—this whole diner scene where Red was half-heartedly holding people hostage, but mostly refilling their coffee cups, was never really a hostage situation—it was a prison break. Ressler and the gang figure this out just in time to rush the diner and find it totally empty save for one walk-in refrigerator full of hostages, and one walk-in refrigerator that’s totally empty, having already returned from its second job as an elevator that safely deposited Red, Lizzie, and Marvin on the street where there’s a car waiting to transport Marvin (and his beloved paralegal fiancé) somewhere safe to wait until Red needs his assistance.
As for Red and Lizzie… well, they next show up in some kind of mahogany-bomb of an office, swilling brandy and trading wisdom. Well, Red has wisdom—Liz has questions. Like how does he deal with people looking at him like they’re terrified of him, a look she was getting a lot of in that diner, especially from the wife of the man she nearly killed. Red tells her that the people who look at you like that think they know you, but they don’t really; for example, they don’t know that he grew up wanting to be a ship captain, navigating the seas with only the stars as his guide, like Odysseus, who “spent a decade at war, but his biggest battle was finding his way home.”
Red has been at war a long time. The more we learn about him, the more people from his life-before-Lizzie that we meet, that more obvious that becomes. He doesn’t want that life for Lizzie, and yet hear he is, counseling her on how to deal with people being terrified of her. He tells her that it’s not easy to ignore that look, but he hopes she can take some solace in the way that he looks at her. And then, as “Our House” (is a very, very, very fine house) plays on in the background, they step out of their tiny quarters—the inside of a shipping container, it turns out—and into the big, wide world, nothing but stars and ocean for as far as they can see. And Red finally tells Lizzie what it is that he sees when he looks at her: “That’s Polaris, the North Star. That’s how sailors used to find their way home. When I look at you, that’s what I see—I see my way home.”
A Few Loose Ends:
- There are a few scenes that will go down in the Blacklist history books, and that “I see my way home” number under the stars is surely one of them. That, combined with this promising line—”We’re not going to be able to fight our way out of this, Lizzie, we’re going to have to think out way out”—may have my hopes just a little too high for this season. Are you feeling as hopeful?
- Don’t think I’ve forgotten about Dembe! It’s just that I wish what’s happening wasn’t what’s happening. The episode ends with Mr. Solomon stripping off his shirt, loading up a sock full of billiard balls, and asking Dembe, tied up and sweating on the floor, “Where is Raymond Reddington.” SMACK! Ugh.
- I didn’t really mention that the guy Liz beat up in the diner was pretty much depicted as a domestic abuser because, I guess, I wonder if that might have been a more powerful turning point for her character, had the guy not been so deplorable in the first place. What if some other person just trying to save the diner from two fugitives had lunged for her gun? Would she have punctured their lungs too?
- Cooper has now been relegated to a paper-pushing job in a cubicle where it looks like he’ll spend his time researching Karakurt.
- I loved the fake-out with the waitress at the diner seeming like the one who called in the tip on Liz and Red, when really she is yet another loyal friend/elevator operator to Raymond Reddington.
- Now I want pecan pie.
- Samar wonders why Red would go through all this trouble just to set Marvin Gerard free… do you? Any thoughts on what he uncovered in the Fulcrum transcripts? Sound off in the comments!