Gird your Oedipal loins — The Blacklist: Redemption has arrived.
We go into The Blacklist: Redemption with the understanding that the Scottie Hargrave is Tom Keen’s mother, and that her not-really-dead husband Howard is his father. It’s wise of Jon Bokenkamp and crew to nip the parentage question that has defined The Blacklist for so much of its run right in the bud on Redemption. After all, Raymond Reddington, omnipotent and all-knowing presence on his own show, told Tom that he is Christopher Hargrave, and so it must be true. The question that dominates Thursday’s Redemption premiere isn’t if the Hargraves are Tom’s real parents, but rather, what that biological connection means to him. Which of his parents can he really trust when their family motto seems to be, “Try for real murder when you can, but if you must, just fake it”?
The switch of thematic focus from law enforcement to espionage is also a smart one, allowing Redemption to be a little more carefree than Blacklist, a little faster paced, and a little sexier (whether you really want that out of your familial leads or not). This series may not have the all-consuming presence of Spader, but a well-balanced ensemble might prove to be just as worthy a draw. Here, Ryan Eggold gets to be the straight man that his ease and confidence onscreen warrant; Famke Janssen and Terry O’Quinn ooze intrigue while being charming enough to keep poor Tom spinning in circles; and the Halcyon team… well, they’re just a fun bunch’a spies looking for redemption. Let’s get to know ’em, shall we?
The premiere of Redemption picks up right where Blacklist left off; Liz is recovering from a health scare with Red, so Tom is taking care of Agnes. It’s probably going to be important from here on out that we agree to not worry about who’s taking care of Agnes on a day-to-day basis. Sometimes spy-babies just have to learn to take care of themselves. Because as soon as Tom gets a call from Howard Hargrave’s lawyer saying that he needs to come to New York to talk about Howard’s estate, Liz tells him to go for it: mostly because the man is a billionaire and the Keens seem to like to keep a few of those within reach, but also because Tom has been itching to learn more about his parents and childhood.
And right away, he gets a nice little summary of it from a stranger on a payphone. Tom’s taxi drops him off at the wrong address, but the driver just tells him to answer the ringing payphone and leaves. The voice on the phone tells him there’s a book in the next booth with a photo of Christopher and Scottie Hargrave, then gives him the Tom/Christopher SparkNotes: vanished from a family vacation in 1988, ran away from foster parents at 12, taken in by the Major for super-secret spy school at age 14. It ends with this fun little salutation: “You have no idea what’s coming for you.”
But the man calls back to tell Tom to meet in Washington Square Park. Waiting for him there is Howard Hargrave (O’Quinn). Given that he’s supposed to be dead, Howard explains that his plane was sabotaged by those seeking to take control of his company from him. But now he’s leaning into the whole being dead thing so he can accomplish some freelance goals, namely, requesting that the son he searched 30 years for infiltrate the family company and gain his mother’s trust. Like Reddington, Howard tells Tom, “It is imperative to the mission that Scottie not know you’re her son.” He also repeatedly yells at him to stay under the trees: “They can’t see you under the trees!” So the jury is maybe still out on this guy…
Just like it’s still out on Scottie, but as Howard predicted, she does come to Tom with an assignment. The episode opened on a rollicking scene of Scottie (Janssen) making a guy think he’s about to get pushed out of a plane (it’s just a plane simulator! #spygames) to get a name out of him: Leland Bray. Apparently Bray is a former CIA operative who went rogue a few years ago and has now abducted one of his former CIA team members, Anna Copeland, and her son. He’s made a fortune targeting assets like Copeland and selling the intel he gets out of them, and Halcyon has been tasked with getting them back. As Tom Keen did a job with Anna a few years ago, Scottie is hoping he’ll have a leg up on getting her back. Tom agrees to do this one mission, which, lucky for us, means working with Solomon (the man he shot in the stomach and left for dead, as you may recall) again.
NEXT: No explosions 30 minutes before swimming…