Red's got messages, Red's got m-m-messages.
Credit: Eric Liebowitz/NBC
The Blacklist - Season 2

“When people feel their homes and livelihood are being threatened, violence is never far behind.”

That might not be the truth on the culs-de-sac and clean streets many of us grew up on, but in Raymond Reddington’s world, truer words have never been spoken. In fact, Red and The Blacklist itself spent Thurday night’s entire hour nailing home two messages that center around this very theme: 1) Red changes the entire route of his mahogany-scented shipping container to send a message to the Director — he will stop at nothing to exonerate Lizzie, and that means taking down the Director himself; and 2) This episode delivers one message as hard, quotable fact: Lizzie has officially left her world and entered Reddington’s, that is a fact. Bad things happen to good people, that is a fact. And bad things happen to Lizzie — whether she is good is very much up for discussion in season 3.

You know you’re in for a ride when the whole Blacklist gang gets out of the Northeast (exept Aram… Aram has never seen sunlight; his glow comes from within). Because Red might have friends in D.C. places with furnished-sink homes and fridge-evators, but there are only so many fantastic getaways Red can make before viewers start to roll their eyes, and for me, the FBI only being half-a-step behind R+L=? has come just in time.

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If there’s one message that this episode attempts to nail home a little more subtly, I think it’s this: Red isn’t lucky — Red makes his own luck. To use his own analogy from last week, Raymond Reddington doesn’t so much catch every green light; instead, he runs all the red ones. That means breaking the law; that means lying; that means working with criminals, murderers, people who have caused much pain, people who are undeniably bad; for Red and, now, for Lizzie that means killing: “I shot a cop…and killed the Attorney General of the United States.” You sure did, Keen. Welcome to the show that just took you out of the protagonist’s seat.

The FBI has more or less caught up to its most-wanted fugitives (No. 1 and 2 with a bullet), but mentally, we have to assume he’s still 18 steps ahead. Because, for perhaps the first time ever, we’re watching him get there; Red is constructing a complex puzzle of Blacklisters, with the sole intention of exonerating Lizzie. The Troll Farmer helped her escape, Marvin Gerard found a loophole in the Fulcrum, and…


The episode opens in — to get specific — Iowa, the home of the double-bacon corndog. A small group of local farmers has broken into Verdiant Industries, the single largest manufacturer of genetically engineered seeds in the world. Apparently, they’re crops that are the very foundation of our economy (a.k.a. our stomachs). These small family farmers have been driven out of business because they can’t afford the seeds that Veridant produces, but they haven’t broken into the plant and killed nine people for just a little revenge… No, they want retribution. They steal the proprietary files of Verdiant’s gene modifications to release them to the public so that Verdiant can no longer have the sole hold over these seeds that make the world go ’round.

NEXT: Verdiant and the Cabal…

So why is Red interested this? Apparently, Verdiant launders money for the Cabal, and if they get these stolen files from this Robin Hood gang of farmers, led by Eli Matchett, they’ll have leverage over the Cabal…perhaps enough leverage to release Lizzie from the Director’s slimy grip. And that’s reason enough to turn that freighter around and arrive in Iowa in search of the farmers. But when they arrive, Dembe isn’t there to greet them. The only good thing about this is that it leads to a rare Badass Liz moment where she snaps off a car antenna to then break into it and steal it. The bad thing about this, of course, is that Dembe is currently locked in a room with the devil himself, Mr. Solomon, and being beaten within an inch of his life by a sock full of billiard balls.

Okay, one more good thing… Dembe’s absence concerns Red enough for him to call in probably the best non-Mr. Kaplan character in Red’s pool of oddball associates, Brimley the DMV man, to find him: “I’m clean as a whistle, which is more than I can say for your shorts.”

By the time Red and Liz track down the apartment of the inside man at Verdiant, Ressler and Samar have caught up with them, but they escape down the building’s stairs the second the elevator doors open. Of course. They’re heading to the address of a random feed store where the Verdiant employee had been sending files concerning something called the “Genesis Project.” The feed store is where the farmers who stole the Verdiant secret sauce have been hunkering down…

So it’s too bad they’re all DEAD. Well, all but one — seems that Eli Matchett is a turncoat. He stole the genetic modification files not to simply share Verdiant’s wealth but to bring them — and humanity — to their knees. He’s hired a scientist to create a virus tailor-made to take destroy Verdiant crops, which happen to account for over 90 percent of the world’s food products, and he’s got 400 little buggies in a jar full of leaves ready to be the most disastrous science-fair project ever: “Imagine, you can hold in one hand everything you need to bring humanity to its knees.”

Liz and Red don’t know about the whole humanity-to-its-knees thing yet, so when they find the empty lab, they’re just focused on downloading the stolen files that will give them leverage over the Cabal. But Ressler and Samar are even hotter on their tails, and they have to get out of there when the file is only partially downloaded. They retire to a local watering hole (presumably for some double-bacon corndogs), but when Liz sees a sketchy-looking man eyeballing them, she says they need to leave. But next thing you know, the guy has a gun pulled on them and knows exactly who Red is (and “that Russian spy,” too). Red seems to talk him into lowering his gun, but when he spins around and takes aim at Keen, she shoots him first… right in the heart.

Also not doing great: Dembe. Brimley tracks his car to a restaurant, steals the surveillance cameras with a story about gluten and gorgonzola, and finds the footage of Solomon laying down his evil, evil threats to sweet Grandaddy Dembe. He later calls Red to tell him they have a problem, but we know that the problem is larger than he might know. Solomon, likely knowing Dembe’s selfless ways, brings in a little collateral for getting Dembe to spill on Red: Mr. Vargas is in the house and he looks to have also been beaten with some kind of small, firm sporting ball. Word of warning, Lizzie: Riding with Red is hazardous to the health (and structural integrity of one’s face)…

NEXT: Which is obviously exactly what she’s doing now

Unwilling to let the undercover police officer — oh, did I mention that he was an undercover police officer? — lay there and die by her hand, Lizzie and Red take a few liberties with his car and hand deliver him to the local hospital and the road again.

By now, with the help of the FBI’s Employee of the Year, Aram, the FBI/Mossad’s No. 1 ass-kicker, and Ressler’s newly patented car-ramming skills, Samar and Ressler are chasing Eli and his little jar of bugs through a cornfield; he and Ressler get in an adorable fist fight, but it’s Samar for the win, stomping down Eli’s wrist just as he goes for his humanity-ending mason jar: “You boys about finished?” More Samar please!

Now, we’ve probably had enough Lizzie existential crises at this point, but the one ahead is particularly good. First, Liz and Red track down the scientist who made the virus and use him to track down the Cabal member whose been laundering money through Verdiant: Susan Hanover, Chief Technical Officer/Chief Evil Plotter. It turns out that Eli Matchett was working with Verdiant all along… because they had a cure for the virus all along. The plan was to put out the virus and then have Verdiant swoop in as world-class heroes who would then make world-class bank for all the farmers clambering to get their hands on that cure.

But that little plan has already been stopped, and Red informs Susan that he’s told the FBI about it (via fax machine, no less): “At the risk of sounding immodest, I’m on their most-wanted list — No. 1 with a bullet!” Red isn’t there to take her in; that will come. He’s there for one reason and one reason only, and that’s to pass along a message to the Director: “This is only the beginning, and I won’t stop until his own people realize that their only way forward is to exonerate Elizabeth Keen and leave the Director to me. Please — tell him I’m coming.”

Lizzie is looking at a one-way road, herself. Well, literally, she’s looking at a dark highway as she and Red barrel toward their next puzzle piece, but… I’ll just leave you with this:

Liz: I shot a cop…and killed the Attorney General of the United States.

Red: Yes, and when you did that, you crossed over a threshold — leaving your world, entering mine. Bad things are going to find you now, Lizzie. This life has a mind and a momentum of its own… Bad things happen to good people.”

Liz: Am I a good person? I’m not so sure anymore.

Red: I am.

But that doesn’t mean we have to be.

A Few Loose Ends:

  • I’ve always seen the purpose in his character, but tonight, I found the episode coming to a screeching halt every time he made puppy-dog eyes (much less preferred than Warby Parker eyes, if you ask me) at that Chinese Restaurant phone. That is, until recently employed paper-pusher, Harold Cooper walked in the door and told Tom he thinks he’s a total doucher, but he’s got a job, and Tom is the one for it…enter the Karakurt Folder. What are you up to Intern Cooper?
  • We have to talk about Diego Klattenhoff’s mime-driving skills. The man can sell a car chase, but when he’s just driving down a street, he’s jerking that thing around like Brimley yanking Red’s chain while playing Tetris.
  • Liz calls Ressler at one point and asks him to pretty-please stop pursuing her, and he’s all “Not gonna happen, Keen.” Pick a lane, you two.
  • Did that scene with Susan Hanover and the dead Verdiant employee’s son feel particularly Forrest Gump-y to anyone else?
  • “Sometimes bad luck is the best luck you’ll ever have.”
  • I know Lizzie is growing up into a full-time murderer and all, but with her new blond hair (which looks great, by the way) and her resistance to crime, I can’t help but think about her as a sullen teenager being dragged along on a tour of colleges by her over-eager dad. Actually, I’m pretty sure that’s already a movie starring Martin Lawrence and Raven-Symoné, and I guarantee you, “I’m not anxious; I’m scared” is a line from it.
  • How much brown liquor and red wine was consumed in that shipping container. Estimates in the comments — go!

Episode Recaps

The Blacklist - Season 2
The Blacklist

James Spader is Raymond "Red" Reddington, a mastermind criminal who teams up with the FBI.

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