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Red takes on a high-level Blacklister to protect the Fulcrum, all parties included.

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February 20, 2015 at 09:56 PM EST

“So, when are you going to tell me the truth?” –Elizabeth Keen

The Patriots have won, The Blacklist is back, and after a year of actively watching the life she thought she knew get smashed into smithereens at the hands of Raymond Reddington, Lizzie is finally ready to ask for some answers. And she totally means it this time, you guys!

It’s a big deal to get that once-a-year spot following the Super Bowl (that deal escalates even more when you’ve got Ron Perlman’s chin to come in and show Tom Brady who really runs this town). Though The Blacklist already does quite well for itself in ratings, the Super Bowl brings more eyes to the show than ever—more people to entertain, whether those people know about Red’s burned up back, Tom’s affection for tortoiseshell, and that stupid key that Red found in that hanging jar last year that haunts my dreams to this day, or not. All that said, though, The Blacklist had a challenge uniquely suited to its own natural makeup in this Super Bowl midseason return.

If you’ve read these recaps before, you know that nothing can make me congratulate or reprimand The Blacklist more than its fluctuating ability to balance the serial/procedural hybrid structure Jon Bokencamp created for it from the very beginning. It is both a show that obsessively serializes the mysteriously intertwining lives of two people with layers so thick, a boiler room on the sun could barely penetrate their surfaces, and also tries to give us a new bad guy, new story, and new reason to stay tuned each week. The post-Super Bowl episode was the perfect opportunity to introduce new viewers to a complicated overarching story by way of just one big episode, but also needed to quench old viewers’ thirst for answers.

And in that, the show succeeded; rather than give us an interesting one-week character, we got a baddie to sink our teeth into with the likes of Ron Perlman and his mysterious Belgrade references, and rather than skirting around the lingering issues from November’s midseason finale, the show went full-frontal Fulcrum. The only thing I might fault this midseason premiere for is feeling quite similar to last season’s midseason return; but I don’t need The Blacklist to reinvent the fedora every week, especially if it means Red Jack Bauer-ing his way through a secret floating prison in order to tell Lizzie that she’s… something.

The episode started a few weeks after where the last left off, with Red searching for the Fulcrum, the item Fitch told him would be the key to his own protection and—I could be reaching here, but I don’t think that I am—and maybe saving the world. But instead of seeing Red roaming through Russia in a fur hat searching for the Fulcrum (why do I imagine that it’s shaped like a Bop It?) we see news footage of Raymond Reddington, number-one target on the FBI’s Most Wanted list, being captured and apprehended in Hong Kong.

Back at the Post Office, people are milling about when they get the news. Normally Red updates are delivers via Lizzie in a frazzled/fond huff, so watching her watermelon-watermelon with Samar as Agent Cooper comes to deliver the news makes me wonder what she could possibly be talking about that doesn’t involve Red and his current whereabouts. Lizzie is a Bechdel nightmare. But now that Cooper has informed her that Red is being transported to a blacksite prison called The Factory in the middle of the ocean there’s plenty of opportunity for her to yell, “But he’s our asset!” and worry about her old pal, Reddington. Always slower to warm up, Ressler feels certain that if Red got caught, he did it with a purpose, and Samar agrees that he must have wanted to be in proximity to something.

Right, they are. As Red is locked up with a bag over his head, he tells his guard he’ll give him $50,000 to take him to the Warden. The guard refuses, but brings the Warden to Red who tells him that within 12 hours an inmate named Luther Braxton will break out of his cell and “steal a classified intelligence packet that contains secrets vital to your national security.” The Warden scoffs at Red’s ploy because the Warden has clearly never watched this show. What the audience sees is Braxton (Ron Perlman) being electrocuted as a part of his regular torture routine, but as he’s being unstrapped, one of the guards slips one of the wires into his mouth to take back to his cell with him.


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James Spader returns as Raymond ‘Red’ Reddington, a mastermind criminal who teams up with the FBI.
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