And everyone thinks I dodged a bullet
But I think I shot the gun
It’s not news that The Blacklist’s soundtracking team is one of the best in the biz. This has been established time and time again, often with Johnny Cash (and once with a George Ezra song that prompted me to create a Pandora station I basically haven’t switched from since I heard it rocked my Blacklist world months ago). But it will be quite some time before I get over the perfect inclusion of Greg Laswell’s “Dodged a Bullet” in the final scenes of Thursday night’s season 3 finale. Given that the chorus above could apply to just about any of our main characters — Red, Tom, Cooper, but most especially, Mr. Kaplan and her backfiring plan — it’s particularly fitting that it repeats itself about 30 times in Mr. Laswell’s track.
Over and over, the most important people in Elizabeth Keen’s life attempt to protect her — keep her out of harm’s way, shield her from her past, keep her off the FBI’s Most Wanted list, give her fancy DC lofts with more exposed brick than she could have possibly dreamed. And over and over again all they seem to do is endanger her more. Because whether it is because of Red or in spite of Red…because of working with the Post Office or in spite of it…because of having a baby with Tom Keen or in spite of it…Liz’s past is coming for her. Many powerful people have gone to many great lengths to protect Liz from a danger they may not even understand, and yet here she is…tied to a chair, looking into Alexander Kirk’s blue eyes that look so much like her own and hearing him say, “Masha — I’m your father.”
I’m not gonna try and make it even
You’re way ahead by now
I’m not gonna try and make it all even
Even though I know how
Oh, I should probably mention…Liz is alive. To which you all yell in unison, “I KNEW IT!!!” Of course we did! And some of us may have even guessed that Alexander Kirk would turn out to be her father (or her uncle or her brother or whoever he turned out to be, I would have assured myself that I knew it all along if the thought had ever spent a fleeting moment in my mind). So, I’m going to borrow a sentiment from the Mr. Kaplan School of Tricky Business here and say that “the how won’t change anything.” How we got to an alive Liz meeting her alleged father — that we had to navigate a real-life maternity leave with a fake-death maternity leave; that we were either shocked by its twists or smug in our correctness; whether we enjoyed being toyed with or were simply biding our time until that middle parted bob graced our screens once more — doesn’t really matter. It matters that we’ve gotten here at all: “Masha, I’m your father.”
ALEXANDER KIRK, NO. 14, CONCLUSION
Okay, but just as Mr. Kaplan concedes that, yeah, it does kind of matter that a few weeks ago she slowed Liz’s pulse down to nearly nothing then zipped her live into a body bag in order to trick Red into thinking she was dead…it similarly is important to note how we found ourselves watching Tom Keen arrive to his presumed dead wife in Cuba only to soon let her be kidnapped by the very same guy who’s been trying to kidnap her for about six episodes now. So here goes…
Thursday’s finale opened on the titular Alexander Kirk speaking with a handful of advisers about his current predicament: Raymond Reddington has stolen all the money he’d contributed to Senator Diaz’ presidential campaign and convinced the man to announce to the world that he’s putting said campaign on pause to go after Alexander Kirk, a man financing terrorism, and force him to answer for his actions. But here’s the real kicker: All this stuff about Kirk financing terrorism — totally false. Sure the guy’s bad news, what with all the baby kidnapping and what not, but he’s not buying oil from terrorists and bringing it into the United States like Diaz is telling people he is.
But if Raymond Reddington has anything to do with it, those false charges of transporting terrorist’s oil will be made true via a classic Tom Keen heist, a dummy oil tank switcharoo worthy of Fast Five, one super cute dog, and one sleeve of gas station powdered doughnuts.
NEXT: You’re a good man, Harold Cooper…[pagebreak]
But even for all that excitement, frankly, the stakes on the will-Red-or-won’t-Red kill Kirk to avenge Liz’s death stuff remain pretty low for the majority of the episode, as it’s not until the last 20 seconds that we’re given any reason to care much if he does, in fact, live or die. I’ve long given up on pretending that any of these characters are as principled as they think they are — that includes you, Ressler — but what the mission to draw Kirk out, and the subsequent hunt to kill him does bring us are a couple of excellent scenes with a few more than excellent actors.
After Red does successfully frame Kirk for funding terrorism and seems to have gotten him to come in person to his trial with Diaz, Cooper and Ressler are forced to reckon with the gun they’ve helped shoot in an attempt to dodge a bullet: Red is going to kill Alexander Kirk. Cooper, for one, seems fine with settling the score for Liz’s death, leading Red to give him this tear-inducing bit of validation: “I know so many zealots, men and women, who choose a side, an ideology by which to interpret the world. But to get up every single day and do the hard work of deciding what to believe; what’s right today; when to stand up or stand down… that’s courage. It’s been a privilege to see first-hand why the people you lead love you the way you do.”
Ressler, on the other hand, is forever at odds with his own moral handbook and finds himself in this visually thrilling situation: Dembe has a gun pointed at Ressler, who has a gun pointed at Red who has a gun trained on Alexander Kirk. I’ll give you one guess who gives in first…
Tom helps with a bit of the framing Kirk business as part of his agreement with Red that if Red is going to be in Agnes’ life, Tom gets to help bring down the man who killed Liz. But mostly he spends his time watching over his infant daughter with the help of Mr. Kaplan and her regular entourage of guards. At Red’s request she’s set up some sort of creepy soundstage nursery in the middle of a warehouse. I get that it’s to protect her from Kirk, who is very obviously after her (just ask the Fargo-esque omnipotent assassin who keeps popping up on Tom’s tail), but I don’t enjoy the idea of Agnes growing up in a fake bedroom. But it looks like that needn’t be a worry after all because Tom just gave Mr. Kaplan the slip while grocery shopping, whisking Agnes off in a getaway car to a private plane.
But Kirk’s tale is at the runway and quickly learns that Tom and Agnes are headed to Cuba, and so, and as his mission is to kill Tom and get Agnes at all costs, he’s also headed to Cuba… and so is Alexander Kirk, as Red learns once his aimed gun goes un-shot when Kirk never gets out of the vehicle for his hearing. Red tracks Kirk’s rerouted flight to Baracoa, Cuba, then gets Aram to search any other Americans who flew there in the past six hours, finds Tom Keen, and then finds that man who loaned Tom the plane. He’s an associate of Red’s and he tells him he never would have given Tom the plane if he’d known it would cause Red to dangle him 40 feet over a driving range — he simply assumed that when Mr. Kaplan asked for the plane for Tom Keen’s escape, she was asking on Red’s behalf.
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Okay, and now we get it out of our systems, altogether now: WE KNEW IT!!! But before we get to what many have been so certain would happen since Lizzie “died” (y’know, unless of course, it didn’t happen), we must address the fantastic scene between James Spader and Susan Blommaert. Red and Mr. Kaplan’s struggle to remain in opposition to one another after being in such a steadfast partnership for decades was heart-wrenching to behold — both of their faces, nearly unmoving, said so much about the strength it took for Kaplan to defy Red, and the equally unbearable way in which it broke him. As Red tells “Kate,” he has “no parables about loyalty, no florid speeches” with which to explain her betrayal. And so she explains it for him: “What do you want to know, Raymond? If I’m sorry? Yes. I’m sorry you weren’t more honest with Elizabeth from the beginning. I’m sorry that you wanted to know her so desperately that you convinced yourself we could keep her safe. I couldn’t sit back and watch you make the same mistake with Agnes. I didn’t betray you. I did what I’ve always done: I protected you — this time, from yourself.”
NEXT: Liz, meet Alexander; Masha, meet Constantine…[pagebreak]
Red has sought to protect Elizabeth Keen for her entire life, and we have to imagine, that for most of that life, Mr. Kaplan has also been behind the scenes, making the big moves and pulling the small strings to ensure Red’s plans — and so, when Red’s plan failed, she stepped up to the plate. She made a new plan to keep Liz and her child out of harm’s way, to get her out of the reach of Alexander Kirk, to help her dodge the bullet that is a Raymond Reddington so full of love of he can’t see his own impact…
But instead, Mr. Kaplan fired the gun. Because despite the perfectly executed fake death of Elizabeth Keen (the details of which I’ll leave to Dr. Nick and his medical jargon montage), and despite the heaven-like villa Liz has apparently been living in since she fled the U.S. to Cuba, Tom’s arrival to what should have been their paradise — “We did it; we’re free!” — led Alexander Kirk right to what he’s been hunting: Elizabeth Keen and her daughter Agnes. Tom arrives home to find men inside their happily-ever-after villa, and let me tell you what, you haven’t seen Tom Keen fight, until you’ve seen him fight for his daughter’s safety. But he’s still no match.
By the time Red and Kaplan arrive to the villa, it’s been wrecked, with no sign of any of the Keens. There’s blood on the floor, baby toys strewn across the ground, and Red is asking what he’s going to do with Kate, his gun almost tenderly rested against the side of her face
And everyone thinks I dodged a bullet
But I think I shot the gun
And everyone thinks I dodged a bullet
But I think I shot the gun
And the next thing we see is Liz in a chair, demanding from a blurry figure to know where her daughter is. He steps out of the dark, slowly coming into focus, as if emerging from a foggy memory. He greets her: “Hello Masha.” It’s been a long time since we’ve spent any time with Liz, and one must assume Megan Boone was quite tired at the time of filming these final scenes, but the tiny expression she gives in response to her birth name from Alexander Kirk’s mouth is just perfect — that hesitant look of childlike curiosity that could easily double as recognition. He tells her that he’s been waiting for this moment for the past 25 years, that his name is Alexander Kirk: “But it wasn’t always. Once, a long time ago, my name was Constantine Rosov.”
“Masha, I’m your father.”
A FEW LOOSE ENDS:
- MASHA, I’M YOUR FATHER!!!!!!!!!!!!
- In an episode full of stellar acting moments, Ulrich Thomsen adds yet another at the last second. That “Masha, I’m your father” line not only manages to not evoke any thoughts of Star Wars for at least five seconds (a true feat, really), but so many emotions seems to cross Thomsen’s face and flood his voice in those four words, Constantine’s intentions are unknowable and will remain so until season 4.
- But what the hell, let’s give it a try — what was all that blood transfusion business going on with Mr. Rostov, and does it have anything to do with why he suddenly wants to make up for lost time with his precious daughter and even more precious granddaughter?
- I’ve been so sure Keen was coming back that I hadn’t really considered how she might come back, and that utterly angelic reveal was so perfectly cliché — loved it.
- This finale was very much about finding Liz, but it also felt a little like losing Red, what with that extensive goodbye to Cooper and the Post Office, Mr. Kaplan’s betrayal, and another hat officially being thrown into Liz’s already crowded ring of paternal figures.
- Among Red’s parting advice to Cooper: “Aram, set him up with someone for god’s sake. He’s like a kid with his first erection on the school bus.” Oh right, there’s Red — found him!
- Over/under on Dr. Nick’s fate once everyone gets back from Cuba?
- Same question for Mr. Kaplan, said through nervous sobs.
- What did you make of that final exchange between alleged father and daughter? Did it feel almost… tender? And with Lizzie’s past finally catching up with her, what does Red have left to protect her from?
As always, it’s been a pleasure to watch along with you — thank you for reading, and please do sound off in the comments with your most insane theories, wild predictions, and florid speeches regarding season 4!