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In the last two minutes of Thursday’s episode of The Blacklist, there were about 10 different brutal, series-altering lines I could have pulled for the top of this recap. But instead of picking the most thematically apt, I’m just going to put my personal favorite, devoid of context, right here: “Forget having your testicles scratched; you have been castrated.”
Indeed, Raymond Reddington is in big trouble, and he’s not even the one who had to save his own life with a pair of custom Warby Parkers tonight. What seemed like a fun procedural episode — a chance for Aram to wear his undercover beanie and flex his bazooka trigger finger — for the first 58 minutes of its run time suddenly became, in its final scenes, a serious look into just how far Raymond Reddington has fallen. The outlook is far more dismal than we could have imagined for our omnipotent criminal kingpin with a heart of questionable gold-like substance… and the episode is far better for it.
Much like last week, this episode is juggling quite a few moving parts, but unlike last week, they’ve all fit together to tell a complete story by the end of the hour, while still leaving the larger questions open to gain traction one little piece of intel at a time. Why did someone pay a man to say he killed Tom/Christopher Hargrave as a child, forcing him into a life of orphan adolescent espionage? Who has so much power that they could hire Isabella Stone to take out Red with Red’s own money from Red’s own impenetrable bank? What will Cooper do now that he’s finally turned the corner on believing that Red is only involved with the Post Office for his own selfish reasons?
I don’t know! But this episode did give me enough insight to ask the right questions, it finally pulled the trigger on Cooper’s mounting fury with Red, and did I mention that Aram shot a bazooka?
THE ARCHITECT, NO. 107
The actual concept of the Architect as a Blacklister isn’t particularly novel — a man hired to “design, construct, and execute the perfect crime” — but the action that he brings about in the Post Office, plus a menacing performance from Brent Spiner, more than makes up for that. The episode opens on Merle Haggard’s “Mama Tried” as a prison priest hands a Bible to a man scheduled to be executed, recommending a verse from Luke. That verse just happens to have the word “escape” in it, and that Bible just happens to have a detailed map in it. Something an architect might draw up…
Even though the Architect wasn’t originally scheduled into Red’s day planner. No, he’s still busy interrogating Isabella Stone about who hired her to character-assassinate Red. However, Harold Cooper is quite miffed that Red kidnapped his prisoner and brought her to the world’s largest ice gas station ice cooler. He tells Red that Main Justice is threatening to shut them down altogether: “From their point of view, you’ve become a bigger liability than an asset.” Coops demands a big ticket Blacklister as penance, and it almost sounds like Red is making it up when he settles on the Architect.
But he’s not! As Cooper explains to his agents, the Architect has a resume full of orchestrating intricate, long-con crimes, and at this very moment he’s in Philadelphia to recruit hackers at an underground event called BlackMass 13. Aram, resident non-underground hacker, describes it as where “the worst of the worst” compete for jobs that steal your soul. Scouring the internet, Aram finds some GPS coordinates in no time flat, but that’s just the first step — one doesn’t simply hack a hacking convention.
And so follows a very fun wild techy goose chase around Philadelphia led by Liz and Ressler, who I’m sure would still have a flip phone if the FBI would let him. My favorite Ressler is grumpy, by-the-book, nose-to-the-ground, gnome-kickin’ Ressler, and we get a lot of him this episode (see more in the Loose Ends). The GPS coordinates lead to a QR code on a mailbox, and the QR code leads to a weird phrase that Aram immediately knows the response to, which leads to a smoothie stand, which leads to Aram telling Liz what to order, which leads to a box with a keypad lock, which leads to Liz saying, “This is going to take hours!” which leads to Ressler putting it on the ground, stomping it open and smirking, “How long did that take?”
Not long at all, Donald. With the chip that was inside the box, Aram finds out the pick-up point for a hacker hoping to get on BlackMass 13 (and the dress code: a yellow hat). He explains to his co-workers why whoever goes undercover will really need to know their stuff about hacking while his co-workers all look at him like, “Boy, you playin’?” Obviously Aram is the only one for the job, but obviously Aram is a little hesitant because the last time he went undercover he got beat up by his “girlfriend” and wound up “screaming our safe word like a baby who needs his diaper changed.”
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