The Blacklist recap: 'The Capricorn Killer'
Just when I thought this episode was going to be perfectly plain little procedural in the vein of Criminal Minds — BOOM, Dexter! With, like…a hint of Silence of the Lambs? And maybe a splash of How to Get Away with Murder?
All that to say: There were a lot of influences here because there was a lot going on in Wednesday’s episode of The Blacklist. From the jump, I was expecting your classic ritualistic, astrologically-inspired, middle-of-the-woods kind of Blacklister task, then all the sudden, every single story line that is currently at play in the series was being moved forward in a serious way. I had no idea what was going to happen at any given moment, and I loved it. They weren’t twists for the sake of twists, they were twists for the sake of character development, and plot advancement, and putting an end to that nasty little monster, Ian Garvey — and those are twists I can get behind.
I should have kept a tally of how many times I gasped, or yelled I knew it (reader, I did not know it), but in the end, we weren’t just left with surprises, we were left with substance. Ian Garvey is caught but not captured; Liz is transforming further into Reddington while simultaneously exploring who she really is more than ever before through some much needed (though perhaps misguided) therapy; and though Tom’s death might not yet be avenged, the mystery of the most notorious bag o’ bones in all the land is deliciously within our grasps once more — but still just outside of Red’s. Most importantly to The Blacklist‘s canon at large, Red and Lizzie’s parallel journeys to take down Ian Garvey are quickly bending toward a crash collision. Hope everyone packed a helmet.
THE CAPRICORN KILLER, NO. 19
The episode opens with an FBI agent who is not one of our FBI agents arriving to the scene of a homicide that has local police shook. When this Agent Graves comes up on the body, it’s a man in a kneeling position with a sword shoved through his mouth, and hands tied behind his back via a…goat’s skull. It’s sick, and I should warn you now that things will get sicker. Graves immediately pulls out his phone: “There’s an agent I need you to find right away — name’s Elizabeth Keen.”
A few things, Agent Graves: She is not an agent right now, and she’s also a little tied up watching Ian Garvey, her husband’s murderer, act as a pallbearer in the funeral of the detective who was investigating her husband’s murder, whom Garvey also happened to murder. Guy’s a douche, no doubt about it. So, what beautiful relief when Cooper tells Keen that a witness came forward saying he saw Singleton’s murder. Unfortunately for Liz, who’s eager to question the witness, Cooper points out the very obvious predicament that she’s the widow, and also a witness, so not great for her to be the investigating officer.
The Post Office will handle the witness, Red will stay on top of Garvey, and there’s a case that’s come in for Liz. Liz doesn’t like that plan at all: “I’m only interested in the man that who killed Tom, and finding out the secret that got him killed,” she says, staring at Red. “I’m going to help with the former, and prevent the latter,” he replies, honestly. “Fifty-fifty split, like a good divorce.” H’oh boy.
Liz is still annoyed, and not eager to help with a case that doesn’t involve Garvey, until she hears the phrase “Capricorn Killer.” Apparently, Liz worked on the still-unsolved case during her time as a profiler: a serial killer who left his victims posed in remote, inhospitable environments, impaled with a hand-forged sword, and holding the skull of a horned goat. Agent Graves asked for Liz specifically because her profile differed from everyone else’s. They all agreed that the serial killer was a white male in his 40s in a transitory blue-collar profession, and since his accelerated killing pattern indicated that he had gone out of control, others thought he had stopped; Liz believed he had just gone dormant and would return again. It seems she was right…
Or was she? Liz goes along with Agent Graves and Samar to speak with the widow of the most recent victim, Ms. Seavers. She tells them that her husband was a good man who loved their young son more than anything, and shows them a photo…of the two posing with swords. It seems that Mr. Seavers’ hobby was hand-forging swords in his workshop. A workshop which also happens to feature a hidden room with goat-skull shrines to each of the victims of the Capricorn Killer. Seavers wasn’t killed by the Capricorn Killer, he was the Capricorn Killer, killed in the style of his own ritualistic murders.
And this new killer’s style is clearly a little more varied, because suddenly we’re in a room with him, and though we can’t see his face, we get a nice long look at the next man he’s captured, strapped down to a body-shaped table, and sawed off one of his arms and both of his legs. But wait — it gets worse! The killer plays a video for the strapped-down man of the strapped-down man that he’s clearly recorded under duress, reading from a script that details exactly how he’s drugged him to immobilize his body, amputated parts of his limbs while he was out, and is now gearing up his circular saw to complete the set. It is so unnecessarily gory, so thank goodness… (Recap continues on next page)
Samar found the shipping address on the sword that was used on the last body, and they show up for Ressler to get his weekly cardio in chasing the killer. But the guy got a head start, and manages to escape. The Post Office finds that his latest butchered victim was, in fact, the Tristate Butcher, a serial killer who made recordings of butchering his victims. Another serial killer murdered in his own signature style — that’s right, we got ourselves a Dexter. The thing that confuses Lizzie isn’t that there’s a serial killer killing other serial killers, it’s that he’s targeting killers the FBI was never able to identify, and he’s killing them with meticulously staged signatures that only the FBI would know. Liz thinks it could only be an FBI profiler responsible, and you want to know why: “Because that’s exactly how I would have done it.”
Seems like as good a time as any to check in with how Lizzie’s therapy sessions with Dr. Fulton are going! Presumably with the goal of being reinstated, Liz has decided to be very open with Dr. Fulton in her psych evaluation, but the thing about Liz being open is that she’s saying about 1,000 things that would be very solid grounds for not reinstating her as a field officer. She tells Fulton how she felt alive looking at the Capricorn Killer body because, “Part of me, sometimes I think I’m capable of doing terrible things like that.” Fulton brings up Liz’s first case as a profiler, the Sandman Killer, and Liz tells her that’s why she fixates on unsolved cases: “I know it sounds corny, but I obsess over the need for justice.” Fulton seems to have no problem with that idea, and maybe even seems…excited?
In her next session, Liz tells Fulton how she still obsesses on how the Sandman Killer got his last victim to put her shoes on before he took her out of the house — how he made her trust him. “What he did, what they all do, it sickens me,” she says. “But how they do it, how their mind works…honestly, it’s exhilarating.” She tells Dr. Fulton about her theory that the new killer was a profiler, and suddenly realizes that he likely would have been flagged at some point during a psych evaluation. Liz thinks she could use that to narrow down the suspects, but Fulton tells her without a court order, there’s no way she could get those records…
“Of course I can get them,” says Red when she asks. And he does, no problem, which is pretty impressive when you consider how tied up he is with this Ian Garvey mess. See, Cooper tasks Aram with transporting their key witness from police custody over to the FBI so that there’s no way U.S. Marshal Ian Garvey can get involved. It’s quite upsetting to me personally, then, that angel-on-earth Aram comes face to face with trash-monster-incarnate Ian Garvey at the police station, mistaking him for an officer at first. Once Aram realizes the situation, Garvey tries to intimidate him into letting him interrogate the witness, saying, “How about we go outside, and I kick your scrawny brown ass, and then take my witness?”
But nuh-uh, no way, the Post Office’s pride and joy is trained in the field now and he very politely responds, “First of all, it’s more a golden brown — a topaz, really. Secondly, pardon my French, but you can back the hell off.” Aram takes the witness without waiting for the D.C. field officers who were supposed to oversee the interrogation, because they clearly need to move quickly. The witness is a sweet young man who keeps calm with a fidget spinner, implying some kind of developmental disorder, so who better to interrogate him than sweet, patient Aram? And when Aram brings out the photos of bald men in glasses and asks him the witness if he can identify who he saw, he points right at Ian Garvey.
Liz is elated, telling Red on the phone that they have the witness, and Aram is overseeing his transport to protective custody. Red tells Liz, “I want this all behind you,” and she says for the first time, she really thinks that’s possible. It’s quite disheartening then to know what we already know: that Red finally got the jump on Garvey, and gets him at gunpoint in a hotel room where Garvey thought he would be getting the jump on Red. But guns aren’t necessary, because they’re both protected by having something that the other wants. Red wants his bones back, and Garvey says he wants the truth. “You have the bones, you already know the truth,” Red tells him.
“I know a truth,” Garvey says. “I want the whole truth.” All of it — Mr. Kaplan’s dying wish, Tom’s death, and Liz’s resulting dark journey toward justice — has always come to these damn bones. And now they’re what’s keeping her from getting that justice because Red won’t kill Garvey until he has the bones, and as Garvey tells him, “If you want to keep those bones a secret, our witness can never see the inside of a court room.” So what’s more important to Red: his precious Elizabeth or his precious bones?
Unclear, but for her part, Liz is willing to go fully off book, storming into Dr. Fulton’s office with her stolen medical records and begging her to tell her if the dismissed profiler she’s identified as the possible serial killer, Anthony Hollis, would be capable of this. Fulton begrudgingly says yes, and Liz takes off and has eyes on Hollis before we know it. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have a badge, so Samar and Ressler are on their way to meet her while she tails Hollis. She’s pulled over on the edge of some woods that he seems to have gone into because she’s lost eyes on him. Of course that’s when Hollis knocks on her car window with his gun pointed at her: “Let’s go for a ride.” (Recap continues on next page)
Hollis walks Liz through the woods at gunpoint to what looks like an abandoned cabin. But it’s not abandoned; inside is none other than DR. FREAKIN’ FULTON. Now, I knew this lady was up to something because she seemed way too fond of Liz’s darker tendencies, but I did not know she was operating her own Dexter factory. “YOU’RE MY THERAPIST!” Liz shouts, kind of preciously. Fulton lays it out pretty plainly: “I kill serial killers. I brought you here to recruit you, same way I recruited Hollis.” She’s had her eye on Liz ever since she shot the Attorney General — something I never grow tired of being reminded of, because it’s insane — for being a trader.
She knew Liz had what it took as a profiler, but then she made sure to get assigned as her psych evaluator, and found out she was the daughter of Raymond Reddington: “In our sessions, you were everything I could have hoped for,” Fulton tells Liz, which…yikes. Fulton and Hollis bring Liz into another room in the cabin that looks like a child’s room, and asks if she knows where they are. “Susie Baker,” Liz responds, the name of the Sandman Killer’s last victim. “He brought them all here,” Fulton tells her, opening a closet to reveal a gagged and bound man, and Liz’s final test to see if she’s really got what it takes to be Fulton’s next recruit. She passes Liz a pillow, the exact thing the Sandman used to suffocate his victims, and Liz’s vision starts going topsy-turvy…
That’s when Samar and Reston bust into the cabin, Fulton takes off, and Hollis gets himself killed in a shootout. Ressler and Liz take off after Fulton in the dark woods, but it’s Liz who gets to her first. “I can’t believe I read you wrong,” Fulton says to Liz, who has her gun trained on her. “Maybe you didn’t,” says Liz, turning off her flashlight and lowering her gun.
The most successful thing this season of The Blacklist has done is take a character who has been tolerable but necessary for the last five seasons and turn her into someone we’re just now getting to know because, after all this time, and with so many of the former lies that made up the foundation of her life, she’s just now getting to know herself. What letting Fulton go means will reveal itself more soon, but at this very moment, if you can believe it, a much more important person has been let go. While Aram is in the car with the witness, the car’s engine somehow goes out, and they’re immediately overwhelmed by a fleet of black vans loaded with armed men. They throw the boy in a van before Aram can even get to him, but he does manage to get a good look at the portion of one man’s face that isn’t covered with a mask: He has two remarkably different colored eyes.
As you can imagine, Aram is distraught to have to tell Liz this when she returns to the Post Office. Aram swears they’ll get him back, but she cuts him off sternly: “Aram! This is not your fault, I’m not blaming you — but five minutes after he was taken, that sweet kid was dead.”
Moments later, Cooper is telling Liz that in this line of work he’s learned you have to take the good with the bad, passing her over to Dr. Fulton, who’s just arrived to reinstate Elizabeth Keen as an FBI agent. So, perhaps that’s part of why Liz let her go, but she explains another reason as she walks Fulton out: “My father has people he can turn to for help…people with special skills. You have a special skill, and I’d like to know that someday I can turn to you.” Who are you, Lizzie Keen?
And where do you stand with Raymond Reddington? Ian Garvey arrives at a warehouse to meet Red saying, “I don’t see the witness…I told you to bring him to me,” as if he’s the one in charge here. Gah, he’s such a schmuck. “A thuggish order I immediately disregarded because I don’t take orders from you,” Red tells him, immediately assuring me that maybe things can be okay here. Red has secured the young man and his grandmother, and tells Garvey that as long as he’s alive, no one will testify. Garvey asks what about Keen then. “Where she is concerned, you have no leverage,” Red tells him. “If you reach out to her, I’ll cut off your hands; if you look in her direction, I’ll cut out your eyes; and if you ever utter her name again in my presence, I’ll cut out your tongue.” There’s our guy! But there’s never been any doubt that Red would protect Liz, but what about Liz’s greatest desire: Ian Garvey’s head on a stick?
“I will find those bones, and when I do, I’m going to kill you,” Red tells Ian Garvey just before he willingly lets him walk out the door.
A Few Loose Ends:
- “And I am but a humble killer with a gun pointed at the withered prune that passes for your heart” — a spoken self-portrait by Raymond Reddington
- Button your coat, Liz, its freezing!!!!
- Aram’s favorite Doritos? “Spicy Nacho, unless I’m depressed, then I mainline Jacked 3D Bacon Cheddar Ranch.”
James Spader is Raymond "Red" Reddington, a mastermind criminal who teams up with the FBI.