In the world of The Blacklist, Red is the East and Lizzie is the sun: He may be larger than life, but she’s the thing defining him. And I guess that would make the Cabal the envious moon? (Aram is for sure Mercutio, re: stealing the show.) What I’m really trying to get at here is that this show revolves around the big solar-system players, sure, but there are some damn interesting Plutos out there, too, just waiting for their time to shine. We’ve been given the gift of learning about Dembe’s past and how he came to know Red; Ressler had that pill problem and, in what seems like ages ago, Audrey; we spent all of season 2 slowly but surely finding out what Cooper was made of (principals, grit, and not-cancer mostly). And tonight — tonight we finally and truly make our introduction to Samar Navabi.
It’s just in time, too. People have been talking, you see. And by people, I mean you. And me! Everyone has been wondering what the deal is with Samar. She used to be in the Mossad, she was introduced to the series as Red’s Post Office mole, and now, 20-something episodes later, she seems to just be rolling along as Ressler’s partner. Plus, she’s always calling Lizzie out, which is something pretty much else no one does. Every time Ressler and Red are all, “Elizabeth Keen is a good person — bottom line,” Samar is like, “You guys. That might be true, but she straight up murda’d the Attorney General of the United States.”
Rather than simply addressing those questions directly, what this episode smartly does, is better define for us who Samar is as a person, making the way for much more complex answers. As with Dembe’s origin story, I left this hour with a much better understanding of what motivates Samar Navabi — past, present, and future — rather than just being told whose side she’s on. Samar isn’t defined by whom her allegiances are with; she’s defined by the things that she believes in. And in that way, she could work with any number of entities because, as a person whose parents were taken from her for speaking out against a tyrannical government, I imagine battling a corrupt group of world leaders trying to start another cold war would be her top priority, no matter who it put her in a cubicle with. (Check out my Q&A with Mozhan Marnò to find out more about these motivations and THAT FINAL SCENE.)
Oh, and in between all of this intense character development, something completely crazy happened. Actually, like 16 things, though only one involved the unbuttoning of pants. But we’ll get to that…
ZAL BIN HASAAN, NO. 31
The episode opens in Tehran, Iran, in 1992, as a man enters a home and kills multiple adults while a young girl and her little brother play outside. When the girl sees her slain family, she won’t let her brother look, simply promising that she’ll be there for him forever. We learn that the girl is a young Samar, and as we already know, the little boy, her brother, grows up to be killed by a terrorist bombing in Iran.
In the present, there’s another terrorist situation to deal with. Six tech experts for Israel’s missile-defense shield have been abducted on American soil, and Red thinks he knows who’s responsible: Zal Bin Hasaan. With this information he first tells a tux-clad restaurant owner whose Bellinis he’s drinking that he’ll hand-deliver Hasaan in exchange for getting a meeting with the man’s boss. It’s unclear why the boss would want Hasaan, but it’s very clear why Samar would, which brings us to the other part of Red’s plan: Get Samar to lead the Post Office in finding Zal Bin Hasaan, the assassin who’s killed more Mossad agents than any other in history; the assassin whom her Mossad task force was solely devoted to finding; and the assassin who it is presumed planned the bombing that killed her brother.
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Needless to say, Samar is absolutely down to nail this guy’s ass to the wall. The problem is he’s a totally mystery — he’s thought to be Iranian-born, in his mid-30s, and there’s only one confirmed picture of him…and it’s of the back of his head. When Samar tells the Post Office team about his continued presence in her life and then the risk of trying to find him, Aram’s response is, of course, “We are doing it. For you — for your brother” because Aram would do anything for the people he loves. We don’t need an origin episode to know that one (BUT WE WILL GLADLY TAKE ONE… Maybe a flashback to his days being ignored by the popular nerds at MIT, just spit-balling here).
NEXT: It’s all in the eye of the hostage…