Tom Keen cannot get a win

By Jodi Walker
April 14, 2017 at 02:28 AM EDT
Will Hart/NBC
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The last two lines of Thursday’s Blacklist: Redemption read like one of those six-word “Hemingway” stories. “Where are we?” asks Howard, who has (of course) been working with Whitehall to destroy the world (or whatever) all along. “We are operational,” Whitehall replies.

And at the end of Thursday’s finale, that’s where we are with Blacklist: Redemption too. We’ve arrived at a pretty satisfying endpoint that could potentially propel us into more, hopefully better, seasons. But the means of getting to this operational endpoint were… rocky. The main problem with this series seems to be that it doesn’t allow its characters to be very intelligent, usually for the sake of narrative convenience. The best example of this is taking the season’s strongest episode — Howard’s reveal to Tom that Scottie was potentially killed and replaced by a Russian doppelganger spy — and then never really mentioning the repercussions of it again.

I think Tom gave one tepid, “It doesn’t really seem like she’s an imposter,” and then just completely forgot that his not-dead-dad accused his maybe-mom of being his not-mom ever again even though she was very clearly his real mom, all in the name of having him stick with Howard. If, like me, you nearly vomited in your mouth every time Tom said “Dad” with the desperation of a small child wanting to be told that everything will be all right, then the twist that Howard was the villainous mastermind all along probably wasn’t all that surprising.

But that it became clearer and clearer to the audience that Howard was just playing the role of well-meaning tech whiz with a wicked wife, while the show’s characters simultaneously fell for his shtick more and more (sometimes happening all at once in split-screen!) was a clever way to tell the story. If the sacrifice of making their main character look like a dumb-dumb is making me seem smarter, then I guess I shouldn’t complain.

Their Mission Should They Choose To Accept It: Whitehall: Conclusion

The cold open of Thursday’s finale was a pretty riveting way to start: with consummate tertiary character, Kat, stumbling around Manhattan, absolutely drenched in blood, clutching an abdominal wound with one hand and a USB drive in the other. Cut to credits: “12 Hours Earlier.”

Howard is describing quantum computing as “like a skeleton key,” and presumably if we had cut to 24 hours earlier, Howard would have still been explaining why crack quantum computing was an exciting reveal, and 36 hours, and 48 hours, and so on. Basically, if this technology gets into the wrong hands — which Howard says are Scottie’s hands — banks will be hacked with ease, nuclear codes could be leveraged, national intelligence would be compromised, etc. And to get that technology out of Scottie’s hands, they have to break Dr. Whitehall out of Halcyon, where he’s being kept prisoner.

Tom is all, Yes, Dad, whatever you say; I have no reason to believe that Scottie is evil and ready to sling out nuclear codes, but you seem pretty certain that she created this mystery line item for Whitehall, and she definitely never told me that she DIDN’T make the line item, and that seems like something she would have mentioned, and being me, I definitely would have believed her, so yeah… I’m all in, let’s go kick mom’s ass.

The plan is to use Howard’s meeting with the board as a distraction while Tom, Nez, and a crew of Nez’s drug dealer friends whom Howard pays in precious jewels sneak in the back. You might think that institutions vulnerable to attack would think to cover “the back” at this point, but you would be wrong. Over at Halcyon, Solomon is complaining about Scottie not letting him use “enhanced interrogation” (something she was super cool with using on her son) to find out if Whitehall is working with Howard or not. Whitehall says that his new technology could do so much good in the world, he doesn’t understand why Scottie can only see the evil that it will do. “Because someone has to live in the shadows so others can live in the light,” Scottie says, ominously.

And here comes Howard, blazing through Halcyon like the prodigal kook returned. The board is meeting to decide whether to reinstate Howard as President of Halcyon since he publicly stated that he faked his death because his wife tried to kill him, or to keep Scottie in charge. Howard has told his team that he doesn’t care to be reinstated; this is just a ruse to get Whitehall away from Scottie, but he’s still kind of being an over-the-top dick: “What’s the matter? You look like you’ve seen a ghost!”

Scottie tells the board that Howard returning just proves that they made the right decision to disavow him in the first place. She says that since faking his own death, Howard has been “pursuing the holy grail of quantum computing,” which thank the lord above, no one needs explained to them. Howard tells the board that the man who cracked it is being held prisoner by Scottie, but she insists that it’s just so her husband can’t force Whitehall to give him the technology — that he has been pursuing quantum computing in secret, away from their company, where no one could keep an eye on him. “There’s only one explanation: Howard is no longer working for this company; he’s working against it,” Scottie says.

It’s a conceivable notion, so it’s really too bad that Tom and Nez are in the parking garage shooting everyone they see with tranquilizer darts in the first step of getting Whitehall away from Scottie. I kind of can’t stand Howard, but I did like his plan to get in the building: dramatically slamming down a stack of papers that’s supposed to prove Scottie tampered with his plane, but more importantly has a QR code that can be read by the table’s “smart glass,” triggering the system to begin calculating 100,000 games of chess being played simultaneously, overheating the servers and setting off the cooling protocol that opens the air vents from the server room to… the parking garage.

As Tom and Nez make their way to the server room through the vents, Howard cockily explains to the board that “not being normal isn’t the same as being nuts,” which is true, but also, this muthaf—a is clearly nuts, right? He says that, yes, he believes in conspiracies and can be a bit delusional: “I think that delusions are the same as dog whistles — just because you can’t hear them or see them, doesn’t mean they’re not real.”

It’s a metaphor that’s clearly won over some others more effectively, because Tom and Nez are currently holding guns at former team member DuMont’s head, telling him to give them the access code or they’re going to tranq him in the face. It’s LeBron: “Cleveland against the world.” Once Howard has word that Tom and Nez are making their way toward Whitehall, he informs the board that he didn’t come there to win their vote; he came to take over their facility. He hits something on his phone, and all the doors lock and shutters close. So, like, we’re all on the “This guy is so clearly the villain he probably has a tank of hungry sharks somewhere nearby just in case” train, right?

He tells the board that Whitehall will explain what Scottie has been trying to use his technology to do once he’s in his team’s capable hands, but there’s one last set of hands he hasn’t accounted for… Solomon shoots through the board room’s wall of glass, grabs Scottie, warns like six people off by simply saying, “Nuh-uh,” and they head straight for Whitehall.

Indeed, they do get to Whitehall first, and they inform him that he’s no longer safe there. Howard has made it to DuMont by this point and tells him to bring up all of the building’s happenings. DuMont doesn’t want to, but Howard convinces him that her keeping Whitehall from all of them proves that she has nefarious plans, and they soon find that Scottie, Solomon, and Whitehall are in the subbasement, and since Solomon just shot out the power grid, the only door is automatically locked. That means they have no way out, but also that Tom and Nez have no way in to get Whitehall. Bring on the blowtorches from the outside…

And the construction of a DIY generator using a defibrillator and the man who cracked quantum computing. Whitehall is able to restore power to the elevator long enough to get them one floor up to the parking deck, and they’re fully out of bullets but have Whitehall in the car just as Tom and Nez catch up with them… and Whitehall runs out of the car to them! They’re out of bullets and have no way to get Whitehall out, so Scottie and Solomon get the hell out of there and Tom and Nez let them.

Back upstairs, shortly after basically taking the entire company hostage, Howard is laying on the “good guy” shtick thick, saying he wants everyone to be released safely and that he won’t hold it against anyone if they don’t support his mission to hunt down Scottie and want to part ways. One board member storms out in a huff and goes straight to Scottie to tell her that Whitehall sided with Howard, and that’s not her only problem: An internal investigation took place after Howard’s return, revealing a number of financial irregularities under her watch, including several off-the-books facilities.

Scottie and Solomon head straight to the most suspiciously funded site, knowing that Howard could have also seen these numbers and be waiting there for them. But when they walk in, no one is waiting for them but a handful of scientist who seem to be going about their daily work in a fancy lab. Scottie asks how many people are in the building, and the head scientists laughs, “You know how many people, Scottie — nine per shift.” See, these people seem to be under the impression that Scottie hired them to come conduct their research in this abandoned warehouse, and it’s even more convincing when the man shows her that she’s been signing their checks for the last three months.

That’s when Scottie wanders over to the giant device sitting in the middle of the room: “the Whitehall prototype.” She’s been set up…

And right on cue, the FBI and Halcyon teams show up. Solomon tells Scottie to find a way out through the lab while he covers the front. Of course, that’s where she runs right into Tom, who really hasn’t had a lot to do in the finale of this spin-off that was spun off specifically for him. But, oh, do we get that incest vibe back in full force that everyone so loved in the series premiere. Tom lunges at Scottie and wrestles her to the ground, where he proceeds to hold her in his lap from behind for, like, ever. She tells him that Howard is setting her up and that they both know it was cruel how Howard kept him from her, but that she was glad he got to see how she “never stopped loving my son… never stopped loving you.”

In between cheek-to-cheek pants they hear others coming, and for a moment it seems like Tom is going to let her go. Scottie asks her son, “Can you honestly tell me that you believe what Howard says about me?” Tom puts his hand on his gun and replies, “Today I can.” So I guess at least Tom knows he’s kind of a malleable pushover.

The FBI takes Scottie into custody and proceed to question those closest to her, which for some reason Tom, who super does not work for the government, and Howard, who might not even have a valid social security number anymore, are able to watch. Dumont tells them he doesn’t think Scottie tampered with the plane; Whitehall says that the prototype being constructed in the facility was accurate and clearly being built from his research, which only Scottie would have had access to; and Kat verifies that she and Scottie were the only ones authorized to make payments from the account used to fund the prototype facility. When she sees the list of payments made, she tells them that she wasn’t even working during those times, and the FBI concludes that it must have been Scottie. “You did it, Dad,” says Tom to Howard up in Scottie’s former office, which Howard seems to be taking over despite having taken this office by force just an hour ago.

Does Halcyon have an H.R. department? A question for another time…

Because suddenly Kat is at boytoy Trevor’s hotel room (does this guy live in a hotel?), and she looks mad. She’s looked into the payments made from her account and realized they were all made from her laptop at times when she was with Trevor. She’s livid and accusing him of working with Howard, an accusation she thought it would be really fun to go make by herself and unarmed. Naturally, he attacks her with an ice pick, stabbing her in the spot on her side we saw her clutching in the cold open. But the blood spattered all over her face? Oh, that comes from when she gets the upper hand and goes full Gone Girl on him with a candlestick on the bed. I mean, she really beats the shit out of him, and they really play it out to completion. It’s a curious choice for a one-dimensional character who was so clearly being fattened up for this slaughter.

At his own AirBNB, Tom is chatting with an unseen Lizzie about how he’s finally returning to D.C. as Jacob Banks’ “Unholy War” plays overhead in perhaps the best musical cue of the season: “Let love lead you home, oh no / Let redemption keep you warm.” Home might be getting further away, and redemption has surely run cold, because when Tom hears a knock at his door, he finds Kat, covered in blood and handing him a USB drive saying the truth is within it. And that truth? “It’s him.”

At the prototype facility, Howard asks Whitehall where they are… They’re operational.

A Few Loose Ends:

DuMont: “Yeah, well you did try to decapitate Solomon.” Tom: “No, we threw a bomb at his head, it’s a little different.”

Just so we’re all clear: Tom’s dad, whom he trusted, is evil; Tom’s mom, whom he betrayed, is in FBI custody; Nez is his sister now; and Solomon is the only surviving member of the Pequod.

As far as I know, Redemption has yet to be renewed for season 2… what say you?

Thanks for reading along on this spin-off adventure! See you back in this spot next week for the return of Blacklist: Original Recipe.

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  • 02/23/17
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