“My name is Masha Rostova. I’m a Russian agent — I work for the FSB, and I’m seeking diplomatic immunity.”
Those words, spoken by one Elizabeth Keen while slammed against the inner fence of the Russian embassy, were nothing I could have predicted when The Blacklist premiered two years ago with James Spader throwing himself on the ground at Quantico and requesting to speaking to that very same Elizabeth Keen. Nor could Liz — then a hopeful adoptive mother, freshly trained FBI profiler, wife of a Warby Parker-wearing third grade teacher — have predicted them. No, life has not gone the way Elizabeth Keen thought it would. Because if there’s one thing Thursday night’s premiere hammered home, it’s that instincts really aren’t something to count on.
I’m really quite surprised at how conceptual this season 3 premiere turned out to be; compare it to that of Red’s “The Man Comes Around” murder walk of the midseason 1 premiere or the finger dismemberment being administered by Berlin in season 2’s premiere, Thursday’s night’s opener was pretty light on action: There were bread delivery trucks harboring fugitives, but no car chases; there was a Blacklister, but no Blacklister hunt; there were threats — lots of threats — but no follow through. Yet.
What the season 3 premiere of The Blacklist smartly spent its time doing instead was laying out the current stakes for Red, Liz, Ressler, and the Post Office Gang. And let me shoot straight with you here: They are some high-ass stakes. As the Director of the National Clandestine Service/Director of the Cabal says of Red and Lizzie: He’s the FBI’s most wanted fugitive, assisting the terrorist daughter of a KGB spy. Following Liz’s murder of Attorney General (Slimy) Tom Connolly and her framing by the Cabal as a Russian spy sent to America to infiltrate the FBI and murder a senator as an act of terrorism in last season’s finale, everyone’s favorite pair of paternity-themed question marks have a bit of a branding problem.
The one glaring omission from the chessboard of stakes is, y’know, that pending world war. At the end of season 2, Red delivered the Fulcrum (which ultimately amounted to a PowerPoint of Eeeeevil) to the best investigative journalists in the country. On that front — the Cabal and its worldwide axis of evil — we appear to be moving slowly, starting with what has to be one of the most menacing mother-effers in Blacklist history. Listen, if you want to get me to hate someone really quickly, just have them threateningly talk about the fragility of baby skulls and then reveal that delicate-skulled baby to be Dembe’s granddaughter. This whole premiere is one big threat about what’s to come, and it does its job — I’m nervous, I’m worried, and I want to punch this Mr. Solomon guy in the nuts.
THE TROLL FARMER, NO. 38
That’s right, the baby threatener isn’t even the Blacklister of the week! No that would be the Troll Farmer, and that is not a reference to the Blacklist EPs who are very clearly trolling us with Lizzie’s hair a this point. That’s not to say that Megan Boone isn’t pulling off being a blonde — the woman has a jaw line to cut glass-top coffee tables with; she can pull off whatever (non-wig) hairstyle she wants to. But I don’t think it’s any coincidence that each season starts with a new hairstyle here. With each new hairstyle and each new season, comes a brand new Liz, both for the audience and for the woman herself.
Because Elizabeth Keen, three seasons after meeting Raymond Reddington, knows less about herself than she ever has. What she knows now: She’s the daughter of a Russian spy who she knows nothing about; she’s Undesirable No. 1 to both the FBI and the secret evil agency comprised of the world’s most powerful leaders; and the only person she can trust with her safety right now is her No. 1 frenemy, Reddington. The premiere opens with excellent ’80s cop show vibes as newly minted Post Office Director Ressler is putting a Tupperware-tight lockdown on the D.C. perimeter. They get eyes on the silver van that Red and Liz escaped in during last season’s finale just as it’s entering a tunnel, and you will figure out a full 30 seconds before this crew of FBI agents that it drove onto the 18-wheeler car carrier truck ahead of it in the tunnel. Alas, Ressler is new at this, so Red and Liz are able to lose their tail, exchange their can for a cop car and cop uniforms and make it to their next stop…
Dive Bar Panic Room…