We gave it a B+
Well, that’s what we would call sticking the landing.
No, not necessarily the landing of the entire season; there were parts of this two-hour finale that were occasionally uneven or unnecessary (the Gale parts… I’m talking about the Julian Gale parts). The final landing of Thursday’s finale, however…
Y’guys. When it was Tom! With a beard! Who, at this point, I thought might have just been an extended dream sequence I’d had after staying up until 3 a.m. to write a Blacklist! I screamed. I’m not proud of it. My apartment neighbors probably didn’t love it. But, indeed, I yelped, and it was a yelp well earned. Thursday’s season 4 finale, especially the second hour, built to such a fever pitch with the voluntary deaths, and the accidental deaths, and the can-they-or-can’t-they kisses, and the inverse Maury moments that it didn’t seem like the tension could build any higher. And it didn’t — that mound of tension burst wide open with the reveal of the aforementioned beard, the long-lost husband attached to it, and a suitcase full’a bones potentially belonging to a long-lost mother.
There’s going to be a season 5 of The Blacklist, after all, and so we need a new road filled with question marks and plotholes to walk down. Because the final suitcase was more or less a jump-scare: the edible flower garnish of this final Blacklist course. The meat of this finale is the small fact that after four seasons, many suggestions, just as many derailments, and countless false starts — The Blacklist finally confirmed that Raymond Reddington is Elizabeth Keen’s father. They did it with DNA, and a test that passed directly from the hands of golden boy Harold Cooper to perma-orphan Lizzie/Masha Keen/Rostova. It was the real deal, and after four seasons, we finally got our answer, not with a bang, but with the culmination of a long, drawn-out, “Come ooooooon, you guys.”
But while the familial ties between Red and Liz may be what this series has been circling around for four seasons, it wasn’t what this finale focused on until its very final moments. That’s what’s weird about a two-parter like this. By the time you get to the end, you’ve traveled so far, you almost can’t remember how you got there in the first place. One day you were a nanny for a nice lady and her spy-baby, and the next thing you know, you’ve spent three decades shoveling blood and guts in the name of creating an immoral criminal empire only to be shot in the head by the only person who shares your unique life’s mission, and now you must destroy him. We’ve all been there, right?
KAPLAN, NO. 4
Taken as a whole, Thursday’s two-hour finale was about Mr. Kaplan’s efficient and systematic takedown of Raymond Reddington — of his criminal empire, of his power, of the relationships he holds most dear. Of course, this has been happening for weeks, but as many different characters reminded us throughout the episode, we’ve finally come to an endpoint. Kaplan’s final stand takes advantage of Red’s constant underestimation of her devotion to Liz, and just how far she’d be willing to go to protect her charge, especially from him. When Kaplan throws herself off that bridge rather than go to prison, Red might have won the war she waged against him. But Mr. Kaplan took measures to make sure Red hasn’t fought the last battle in his fight to stay in Elizabeth’s life.
Her first step: take down the Post Office task force, the one thing protecting Red from being prosecuted for his many, many crimes. Unfortunately, our beloved task force is also being protected by Red in many ways. Because as we soon find out, via Special Agent Julian Gale getting misty-eyed over a pile of criminal bones for what must be the 100th time, he has managed to instigate the assembling of a federal grand jury to hear testimony on whether the task force enabled Raymond Reddington to continue to commit crimes while working as an FBI informant. Poor Aram is subpoenaed and granted immunity, which takes away his right to plead the Fifth Amendment; he must either testify against his friends on the task force, or he’ll be going to jail.
And even Red is coming up short on ways out of this mess. Kaplan has drained his accounts, meaning that none of his people are getting paid, meaning that none of his people will work for him anymore. The criminal empire that Red has spent half a lifetime creating in order to facilitate his protection of Lizzie is now completely useless. Well, not completely useless. Red does have a boa constrictor on loan from Bremley, and enough knowledge to get a lead on the person Kaplan most recently paid to work with her…