The Blacklist season finale recap: Season 1 finale
One major character's dead, two are critically injured -- but Liz and Red finally find out who Berlin is
Like many of you, I was a bit skeptical that The Blacklist was going to be able to pull off the whole Berlin reveal — but I was wrong. Jon Bokenkamp was not bluffing. He laid down his hand, and it was better than a royal flush: Berlin is none other than the inimitable Peter Stormare. Stormare, the nihilist with the “nice marmot” from The Big Lebowski. Stormare, the white-suited Satan from Constantine. The Peter Stormare — and his backstory is a Greek tragedy of horror. Berlin is a Russian expat who was sent to Siberia when his daughter was found in the arms of a dissident during the Cold War. As punishment, her body was sent to him piece by piece, and for reasons we don’t know, he blames Reddington for her death. What an excellent addition to an already stacked cast. I can’t wait for next season.
But before we get to season 2, we had to get through quite a bloodbath. We opened the show with bodies on the ground. When the dust had settled, Malik was dead, Cooper was in critical condition, Tom was presumed dead — but his body was missing, so I hope he’s alive — plus there was a ton of carnage among the extras. In the midst of this grisly death, the writers kept their sly humor; I threw the funniest moments in as “shout outs” in cased you missed any.
The curtain rises on the wreckage of the prison transport plane that was carrying Berlin and a bunch of other convicts. (It’s safe to assume every extra on this show is a criminal.) We are treated to a gratuitous scene of a survivor heavy stepping on the chest of a freshly dead body, followed closely by a shot of the fresh-faced Matt Lauer on NBC’s Today. Lauer reports that the plane crash has resulted in a wave of escaped prisoners infiltrating New York City. We see video footage of the FBI interviewing captured prisoners who all witnessed Berlin escape the plane by cutting the hand off the guard that he was handcuffed to. We then see the guard fall to his knees in a hospital, gripping the bloody stump of his wrist. Only one minute in, and we’re already bathing in blood.
By now, Scary Gary’s gotten his paws on Red, and he’s pleased as punch they’re locking him up forever. Gary gloats over Red as they cuff him to the bars of his cell. “You are going to disappear. The girl, Agent Keen, was she was worth all this?” Gary asks. “She’s worth it,” Red replies, after making a snide crack about Gary’s hair product. Of course, Keen’s in a tizzy because now she realizes the fatal mistake she made by swearing off Reddington and getting him thrown in jail. The FBI task force is piecing together intel on the crash. So far, they know that the plane was coming from Bogota, Colombia and flew through radar dead zones to land undetected in New York. The prisoners say the plane was Russian, and the Feds need some way of getting the list of passengers so they can figure out which one was Berlin. Naturally, the Russians don’t want to cop to this fiasco, so they’re claiming to know nothing about the plane.
Meanwhile, some horrific looking Russian with no eyebrows is doing calisthenics in his gulag of a bedroom. (Shout out: he’s watching the Today show. Because hello, NBC’s Today is for everyone.) A knock on the door reveals none other than our man Tom Keen, who looks like a sweet little fourth grade teacher again next to this dragon. Tom hands over a list to the Russian that has the name of every member of the FBI task force. “Are we still going ahead with this?” Tom asks hesitantly. The Russian just leers.
NEXT: Red gets a visit from Fitch
Everyone always comes crawling back to Reddington when they need intelligence; Alan Fitch is no different. Luckily, smug looks good on Red. “If you had accepted my offer of an alliance, neither of us would find ourselves in this position now: You managing a massive intelligence failure and national news spectacle, and me with this enchanting view.” So Alan agrees to give Red a “transfer,” a.k.a. a means for him to escape “by accident” without alerting the rest of his Alliance cohort. “Everyone on the task force is now a target,” he tells Red as a last warning. Guess who’s waiting in the car during the transfer? Scary Gary. Red laughs. “Of course it would have to be you — because Lady Luck just adores me that much.” Ohh, Gary is so bitter. “Two shots to the jaw is all you get, and make it count. Because if I’m not KO’d, I’m going to put a bullet in your temple,” Gary says. Rawr. One shot is all Red needs. He clocks Gary and then strangles the driver, who crashes the car. But Reddington spirits away.
Red doesn’t waste a minute calling Liz to let her know that everyone on the task force is in danger. But Malik and Ressler are at a Russian nightclub trying to track down any mobsters who can lead them to Berlin. Malik and Ressler separate; he takes the VIP lounge, and she cases the dance floor. Malik sees a hulking mobster in a suit watching her, and follows him down a dark hallway. He doubles back and comes up behind her to slit her throat with a knife in a very ’80s horror movie sort of way. She clutches her neck, blood seeping between her fingers, and falls to the floor dead. Poor Malik. She was one of the only smart agents in that whole place — and apparently she had two kids, ages 5 and 8.
Keen goes to tell Reddington that Malik is dead, and asks him why they are being targeted. Red tells her that the work they’ve done has forced Berlin out of the shadows, so he can’t allow the FBI to continue. “I’m afraid just by association I’ve made you all targets,” he says. “It was Tom,” Liz says. “If he has the names of the agents in the task force, he must have gotten them from Tom.” Yes, Liz. I’m trying very hard not to be surprised when you say something clever. Liz’s adoptive father, Sam, was also listed as a target, and Keen wants to know why. Red assures her that his only connection to this was as her father. She seems unconvinced. Can’t blame her; Red lies easily. But alluding to a larger problem than Berlin, Red says that they need to figure out who was behind the prison plane. That person wanted Berlin and the rest of the prisoners, and Red wants to know why. Another potential criminal for season 2?
Ressler managed to wrestle a Russian with a recognizable hand tattoo to the ground in the nightclub while Malik was being murdered, so he hauls him in for questioning. (Shout out: Ressler mocking the Russian’s accent. “I’ll tell you how things are done in the U.S.A.”) The man turns out to be a Russian fugitive who was being brought back by his own country. They determine that they need the Russian Ambassador to cough up the plane’s manifest, so they send Reddington to “persuade” him.
Persuasion looks a lot like eating peaches with the Ambassador’s Yorkie puppy. “I rarely enter someone’s home for the first time without bringing a gift, and there’s a wonderful little produce stand around the corner,” Red says, gesturing with this sharp knife he’s using to spear peach slices into his mouth. (Shout out: Dembe silently ninjas the cellphone out of the Russian Ambassador’s hand when he threatens to call the cops.) As he’s talking, the little Yorkie whines. “If you hurt him…” the Russian says. “Oh, no, no, no. I would never harm a dog,” Red laughs, before throwing the blade across the table where it sinks into the Ambassador’s thigh. So we get the manifest.
Using the manifest, the Feds can account for all but four prisoners. One of these must be Berlin. Their best lead is the one-handed guard who is recovering from surgery. As Ressler and Keen charge off to question him, Cooper tosses Liz an evidence bag. It has the bracelet that the little girl in the pilot gave her. “I thought it might remind you of all the good we’ve done,” Cooper says. Thanks, Coop-a-loop, you sentimental man.
NEXT: Peter freaking Stormare
Ressler and Keen arrive at the hospital to question the “guard,” who is played by Peter Stormare. At this point, it becomes pretty clear that he’s actually Berlin. Peter Stormare should do crime fiction audiobooks. His husky voice is entrancing, alternating between a harsh whisper and a rumbling growl. He recounts the story of Berlin. He was a Russian Army officer turned KGB bigwhig who sent many a man to Siberia during the Cold War. But he had a daughter who fell in love with a dissident, so she was thrown in jail. Berlin helped her escape, and, as punishment, the Kremlin sent him to the Gulag in Siberia to live among his enemies. He prayed every night that his daughter was safe, but one day he got a package with a pocket watch he had given her. It had her picture inside. Then he got a box with her severed ear, and her finger, and her eye and so on. He used one of her bones as a knife to break out of his cell and kill every man in the Gulag. So now he’s on a vengeance mission to murder the man responsible for his daughter’s death. Clearly, he thinks this is Reddington. (Could Reddington be the dissident she was in love with?)
Meanwhile, Agent Cooper and Scary Gary are having a pow-wow at the waterfront. Gary is sporting his shiner from earlier. Despite being royally annoyed with everyone and everything, Gary offers to let Reddington resume his deal of immunity for information, if Keen will stick around too. Cooper is confused and, frankly, a bit put out by all this flip-flopping. (Why? Reddington is obviously the only asset in this task force. It’s not hard to believe the FBI sees that.) “I don’t want Red. People do,” Gary says. “People? What people?” Cooper calls after him. He gets back into his car where he’s garotted from the backseat by the same hulk who knifed Malik. Nearby, the eyebrow-less Russian crosses Cooper’s name off his hit list.
The Feds pick up the hulk and Ressler gets to question him. Ressler wants answers from this scary cat who is not properly afraid of his clean-cut good looks. “I used to be a real boy scout,” Ressler says. “I followed all the rules. Then my fiance is murdered right in front of me, but the only way I could get the killer was to break the rules. And I realized that sometimes that’s okay. Like when some greasy Russian starts murdering my friends.” He uses his coat sleeve to choke the Russian into talking. Yes, Sexy Ressly! The hulk gives up the eyebrow-less man as Berlin. Which is a ruse, though our heroes don’t know that. Red passes this info along to Alan Alda, who sets about tracking this guy down.
Keen visits Cooper at the hospital and gets the news that he probably won’t make it through the night. She and Red are sitting in the back of the car outside the hospita,l and she tearfully asks Red again what Sam has to do with all this. “The way Sam tells it, an old friend showed up at his house one night saying he had to leave town because he was in danger and that he needed someone to care for a little girl, that her father had died that night in a fire,” Red says. “So Sam raised her as his own, sheltering her from the truth about his biological father.” Liz presses him again for the truth. “The only memory I have of my real father is from the night of the fire,” she says. “I remember him pulling me out of the fire, saving me.” Red insists knowing her father’s identity would put her in grave danger. “I loved Sam. Of all the difficult things I have done, taking Sam’s life was the most difficult,” he says, his voice breaking. “And I did that to protect you, so I’m certainly not going to tell you now.” At this moment, he gets the eyebrow-less man’s address from Alan, so he flies off to the compound. Guns blazing, he bears down on anyone standing in his way, as the silencer muffles the shots into a high-pitched whine.
NEXT: Which body parts would you rather I shoot?
Red bursts into the Russian’s room while he’s on the phone relaying the message to kill Keen and then Ressler. (Shout out: [Thick Russian accent] “…then I want you to take care of the ginger.” That’s way harsh, Tai.) “You must be the one they call Berlin,” Red says, gun leveled at the Russian’s head. He straps him to a chair. “You want to know the key to finding people, remembering their names. Everyone knows a drug cartel leader in Colombia…but I know their wives, their children, their enemies, their favorite bartender, their butcher. I even remember the name of the baker I stole the raspberry bismarck from when I was a child and his wife, Trudy Zapota.” Oh, Red. Even with all these names, he doesn’t have any idea who Berlin is or what he wants. So we turn to the gun. “Being shot in the hand is just an absolute bitch. All those little bones. At least it goes right through. Worst part, honestly? Is needing someone to help zip your fly. Being shot in the hip, on the other hand, Jiminy Cricket. Thick bone, big artery, not to mention the fact that it makes walking upright forever impossible.” Eyebrows finally breaks: “Beirut, 2010.”
Liz is waiting in the car while Red tortures the Russian. Suddenly, in jumps her husband, Tom Killer Keen. “Hey babe,” he says, all smokey and villain-y. Arghhh, not the “babe!” Too good. The Blacklist is excellent at making you feel excited, scared, eager and anxious all at once. I laughed and screamed at the same time…which was rough, since my mouth was full of half-chewed spinach omelet. Well, Tom has Lizzie at gunpoint, and walks her into the room where Red is taking apart Eyebrows. Things start to get really out of hand. Tom is threatening Red. Eyebrows is yelling for Tom to shoot Liz. Tom is clearly trying not to shoot Liz. Liz is begging for her life. It’s ugly. Red shoots Eyebrows in the head and goes, “Well that simplifies things.” Tom shoots at Red, but the bullet only grazes his arm. Liz whips around and suddenly bang! bang! she fires two shots into Toms stomach with his gun. When Red lifts his weapon to plug Tom in the head, Liz stops him. “No, please go. I’ll finish it. This is between us.” She puts her hand on his chest covering the wounds and he whispers that he’s sorry. But before he loses consciousness, he whispers something we can’t hear into her ear. Don’t die, Tom! Luckily, when the FBI come to check out the crime scene later, Tom’s body is missing.
All that’s left of the task force are Ressler, Keen and Aram. These three get the news that the charred body from the plane matches the third guard, meaning that the “guard” they thought they were speaking to earlier, the one who told them Berlin’s life story, was actually Berlin himself. And now he’s escaped from the hospital, leaving behind a bone fragment that he used to kill a few nurses. Gross. When Keen relays the news to Reddington, he is unsurprised. He knew Eyebrows wasn’t Berlin when he said “Beirut 2010,” because Berlin has been hunting him since long before that. “I need Berlin to believe that I think he’s dead. That gives us an advantage.” He tells Liz that at this point, she can either accept who she is and work with Red, or she can reject her past and quit the FBI. She chooses option B.
During the ending montage, Liz sits in her now clean house and flips through photos of Sam. Her stuff is packed; she’s leaving town. As Ressler sits by Cooper’s hospital bed, he notices his hand twitch — so Cooper will live. Peter Stormare, the real Berlin, is shaving his beard, and flips open his daughter’s pocket watch to glance at her picture. As Reddington is putting his bags in the car, Liz pulls up. When Red sees her, his whole face lights up. She’s choosing option A after all. They sit and talk, and Liz reveals what Tom whispered to her — that her father is alive. Red says that her father died in that fire; there’s no uncertainty. The final shot is of Reddington looking at a polaroid, the one he took from the Stewmaker’s book of victims. It shows Berlin’s daughter — the same picture that he has in his pocket watch. He unbuttons his shirt to dress the gunshot wound he got from Tom. As he pulls the shirt off, we see that his entire back is covered in burn scars. So he was definitely the one that saved Liz from the fire and deposited her to Sam’s door. Still, we don’t know who her real father is…
Clearly, Berlin and Reddington have similar motives, since Red is looking for the girl in the photo too. He would never have hired the Stewmaker to melt a woman. So the question is, who is the Russian who ordered the prison plane to round up Berlin? Is that the same man who murdered Berlin’s daughter, the woman who was possibly Reddington’s lover? Why is Tom Keen working for Berlin? Who the hell is Liz’s father? But most importantly — what to do to pass the time until season 2?