Reddington goes searching for the key to taking Ian Garvey down, while Lizzie stumbles upon a huge family secret
From the moment the camera’s perspective expands in the opening scene, suddenly revealing that a person we presumed was being pursued, is actually the one doing the pursuing, it was clear that Wednesday night’s episode would be an especially clever installment of The Blacklist. Or, at least, that it could be. That it went on to live up to that potential over and over with new twists, surprise turns, and at least one total shock, makes that initial cat-and-mouse reversal all the more impressive upon reflection. (The opening scene is also scored to French hip hop, so…really a win all around.)
From camera switches to automatic-translating apps, there’s a sense throughout the entire episode that, while most of the things we’re learning and witnessing are vital to figuring out what’s going on with Garvey and that preeminent bag o’ bones, they can’t exactly be relied on as fact. That makes the final shocking reveal all the more compelling. This new woman who’s known Ian Garvey for most of her life could be Raymond Reddington’s daughter, as she seems to believe she is. Or she could be lying for Garvey to trick Liz…or Garvey could have been lying to her for her whole life…or she could be Red’s daughter in that way that Liz is his daughter where it’s like, Okay but IS she though?
No matter what — it gets us closer to figuring out these bones that have connected Garvey and Reddington all season, while also moving the story at large in a whole new, still connected, but completely unexpected direction. What this episode does best, in fact, is call on the established history of the series and its characters in order to subvert those norms, and create fresh new perspectives, then flip those on their heads all over again. Liz and Aram, a charming duo that rarely gets a lone project, finally got to work together and achieve some success, only to have Liz go fully rogue and turn her whole world upside down. Even the tone serves up a big ol’ gotcha, starting with an atypically solemn Red explaining this week’s case to Lizzie over some classic cinema, pivoting into a practically buoyant Red in Grand Paris, and finally having him knocked on his ass without even knowing it when Liz learns he has another maybe-daughter.
Cynthia Panabaker’s confusing language as she told Agent Cooper, “I am not going to non-deny deny,” was a silly, fun moment, but its purposefully misleading nature and inclusion in this particular episode was no accident. Wednesday’s hour was highly intentional, and more importantly, it was necessary. Season 5 needed this hour of The Blacklist — not just a good episode or an exciting episode, but asp one that ensures we simply cannot stop watching without finding out what happens next.
ZARAK MOSADEK, NO. 23
This recap is a rare case where I actually started at the beginning, so we’ve already covered a bit of the episode’s opening scene. A young man is walking down a Paris sidewalk in what appears to be a rather menacing pursuit of a woman we assume to be walking in front of him. But when the camera pans out, we see that it’s actually the woman who’s following the young man. She stops him to ask for directions, and when she does, a van pulls up, men pull the boy inside, and the woman hops in behind them. In Kabul, Afghanistan, a man is told, “They have the boy.”
Somewhere near Washington, D.C., Ian Garvey sits outside a loading dock like the creep he is. Outside, a shipment of something is being seized by the DEA; Garvey will later say it’s on purpose. A woman dressed in all white, wig included, that I would like to know a lot more about, immediately gets into his car and starts speaking another language into her phone. It automatically translates for her: “This seizure; losing our contact at the port; your obsession with Reddington is becoming a distraction we cannot afford.”
It’s all quite mysterious, much like Reddington’s quest to find that ledger was last week. This week, the ledger is firmly in his hands when Liz comes to visit him at the private theater where he’s watching a Rita Hayworth film. Red tells her that from the ledger, they’ve gotten the new lead he was hoping for; Liz reminds him that she already had a lead who he helpfully made disappear. “You didn’t have a lead, Elizabeth,” Red tells her. “You had an unreliable witness …no jury would convict based on his testimony.” He also reminds Liz once more that it isn’t legal threats that Garvey is afraid of, it’s threats to his power. And that’s just what they have now that Red has found out the identity of the Nash Syndicate’s main opium supplier in Afghanistan.
Zarak Mosadek who, when Liz debriefs him at the post office, we see to be the same man who was informed after the boy was kidnapped at the top of the episode. Mosadek is the department interior minister counternarcotics of Afghanistan, and also the country’s largest drug dealer. Yikes. The Nash Syndicate answers to Mosadek, which means Mosadek is their key to attacking Garvey’s power. He would be untouchable in Afghanistan, but coincidentally, he happens to be preparing to travel to Paris.
That means Reddington, Dembe, Ressler, and Samar will also be traveling to Paris. And if you hoped all of that would add up to an Ocean’s Eleven style caper to extract Mosadek from his hotel (and one tragically untouched cheeseboard curated by Dembe), then you are in luck. Between a Sudanese contact of Dembe’s, a cad of a man named Jean-Philipe, and some explosives by way of a Greek munitions expert, Dembe and Ressler are able to get inside Mosadek’s hotel, just as the cables of his elevator are blown, which should trigger the emergency brakes, and safely plummet the elevator to the basement, where Dembe and Ressler can retrieve Mosadek.
But since one of the cables doesn’t blow, the elevator gets precariously stuck between floors, a very compacted shootout ensues, and Dembe has to go inside the teetering elevator to pass Mosadek, the others, and himself through, causing me to go into a full Pam Beasley panic, and be certain that someone was about to get sliced in half. Thankfully, all torsos and legs remained connected, and Mosadek is whisked away toward Reddington.
Very much away from Reddington is Elizabeth, who chose not to go to Paris in order to stay back at the post office and casually convince Aram to hack internal affairs with her. See, internal affairs has looked into her accusations against Garvey, but since they haven’t been able to find any actual proof that he’s a crooked cop, there’s nothing they can do. But Liz is convinced they’ve missed something within their investigation, so she convinces Aram (whose principles must be weakened by his current romantic predicament with Samar) to steal the file from internal affairs.
It isn’t so much a hacking project, as it is “programming a red light to suddenly change so that the IA boss has to slam on brakes, and Aram can throw himself in front of the car and pretend to get knocked off his bike while Liz goes in the IA boss’ car, and runs a flash drive program that automatically downloads any files pertaining to Ian Garvey.” It’s…quite fun, especially because Aram is so annoyed about all the risks they’re taking. And when they’re looking through the files, at first it does seem like all the risk was for naught; there are no signs pointing to Garvey’s criminal activity. But there is something a little odd: Every Friday, Garvey goes to a pub an hour away in Baltimore.
When Aram and Liz stake out to watch him there, he simply nurses one beer for an hour or so and leaves. Except, on his way out, he hugs a woman who works there that he runs into outside. They speak to each other like they’re well-acquainted, like they’re…intimate in some way. The woman is Lillian May Roth, and other than working at the pub for a few years, never being married, and having no kids, there’s nothing they can find that’s particularly remarkable about her…yet.
Back in Paris, Mosadek is delivered to Reddington, and the first thing he does is dump $10 million in diamonds on the table and beg to have his son back. Which is peculiar because Red doesn’t know what he’s talking about (a peculiarity in itself). Red says there’s been a misunderstanding: “I was planning on forcing the issue, but now I can give to get — you do what I want, and I’ll make sure you get our son back.” Of course, what Red wants is for Mosadek to cut Garvey’s drug supply, therefore taking away his power, and now, in order to get that, he apparently has to get his son Mateen back from the Taliban.
It seems that a little bit like our very own Reddington, Mosadek has been acting as an informant for the U.S. military and the Taliban opium traders that he works with aren’t happy about it. Cooper attempts to get approval from Panabaker to intervene in Mateen’s rescue; he doesn’t get it, and they do it anyway. Sounds about right. But the attempt for Mosadek to hand over the diamonds in a cemetery goes south, and he seems to disappear from thin air. When Samar and Ressler call Reddington, he knows of the cemetery as an entry point to the catacombs that run under the city, and he knows the next entry point to be in a church he once had some dealings with.
So, as Ressler and Samar head down into the catacombs to chase after Mosadek and Mateen’s abductors, Red and Dembe head them off at the church. After a few close calls, just-in-time arrivals, and one shootout in the middle of a sanctuary, Mosadek and his son are back in Red’s custody, and he’s asking for the diamonds…which he promptly hands over to the startled church employee: “My apologies, I hope this helps cover the damages. Au revoir!” Once the dust has settled, Red tells Mosadek that he can express his gratitude for the rescue of his son by making good on his agreement to give him the one thing he wants out of Garvey: “It has to do with a meeting I need you to arrange — a meeting that concerns your operation.”
Back at the port, Garvey meets with the be-wigged woman once more, who tells Garvey that “he” wants to meet. Whoever he is, he’s coming to America just to see him, and we finally see what fear looks like on the face of Ian Garvey. Red really wasn’t bluffing about that loss-of-power bit.
But Liz still wants to do it her way. And her way apparently involves going fully unauthorized to the door Lillian Roth’s pub at closing time, flashing her FBI badge, and saying Lillian needs to come with her…back to her apartment to look at her creepy murder wall. Lillian is reasonably suspicious, so Liz just straight up tells her: Garvey killed her husband, and now she’s going to tell Lillian everything she knows about Garvey, so that Lillian can fill in the cracks with what she knows about Garvey. Liz’s side of the story lasts until the sun up, and when it’s finally time for Lillian’s contribution, boy has she prepared a hell of a kicker.
She tells Liz that Ian Garvey is a good man who’s been like a father to her. He got her into the Witness Protection Program for the majority of her life in order to protect her from her real father. “Perhaps you’ve heard of him,” she says. “Raymond Reddington.” Lillian asks why Liz looks so surprised that she’s Raymond Reddington’s daughter.
“Because I am too.”
A Few Loose Ends:
- Wow, wow, wow, wow. SO. Is this Jennifer Reddington, the daughter of Naomi and Red that Naomi has referenced keeping hidden from Red at various times early on in the series? Please drop any and all daughter theories in the comments, I need them.
- When Liz is complaining about Red disappearing her witness for his bones, Red tells her, “Must be nice, not having anything precious you want to keep to yourself.” I wonder if that can still be said for Liz…
- I loved that final daughter/sister reveal, but I couldn’t help but think of the perfect Floribama Shore SNL skit where two other sisters have a similar discovery. Just watch it, I beg of you.
- “Welcome back, how’s the noggin, you went down like a bag of rocks.” “Reddington, you low life, son-of-a-whore.”
- As far as Samar and Aram are concerned, I’m simply reporting TBD, and completely backing Samar up on this assessment: “You’ve got to stop asking for relationship advice from people who have only had terrible relationships!”
- “If it’s any consolation, if he doesn’t have the file…and he is texting and driving…and you do die…I will be very sorry.” More Aram and Lizzie!
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