Dembe is here to save Red, and the world, and The Blacklist
The Blacklist - Season 5
Credit: Will Hart/NBC
The Blacklist - Season 2

Finally — let’s breathe some life into this (literal) bag of bones! Nothing makes me more uncomfortable than when Liz and Tom act sexually interested in each other — I don’t know if it’s the decade of deceitful original marriage, the continued lying, or the collective infant abandonment, but something about their relationship has always made me nervous. Therefore, nothing makes me happier than when Tom is off on his own, doing his super-spy thing, and occasionally getting kidnapped. Oh, well, except maybe one thing makes me happier…


What’s not to love about a Dembe episode, because what’s not to love about Dembe? The man has a heart so big that with his own dying breaths, he’d try to ease the pain of a child, after a lifetime devoted to trying to save the soul of a criminal. No, it’s never made sense that a man as good as Dembe would aid Raymond Reddington in his frequently homicidal criminal enterprises — and it absolutely never will — but I do enjoy the poetic language employed by the Blacklist writers in their attempts to try to make it make sense.

This week’s episode got back to what originally made The Blacklist unique: At its best, it is simultaneously serialized and episodic. There’s a titular case of the week, but there’s also an ongoing narrative where we basically try to figure out what the hell Lizzie’s deal is and why this criminal mastermind in lightly tinted sunglasses won’t leave her alone. So, it’s interesting that calling on two more minor characters made both sides of that foundational coin shine once more, but let’s not ask questions — let’s just revel in the ooey-gooey Dembe sweetness, and the signature Tom torture.


Wednesday’s cold open was a shorty-but-a-scary. An idyllic blond family plays on a beach only for one daughter to glance out and see that there are 20 bodies floating up to shore that no one else noticed. Some are alive — most are not.

When she reports to Red, Liz tells him that for the first time in a long time, she’s happy. In return, Red tells Liz that migrants are dying all over the world thanks to inhumane human smugglers. And Red would know because apparently part of his former criminal empire involved providing access to desired countries at a fair price for quality service. Now that said criminal empire is more in the “rising from the ashes” phase, someone has stepped in to fill the void left by Red’s abandoned routes. Only, they’re not so interested in the humane aspect of transporting humans.

Enter Arthur Kilgannon, who’s in the process of transferring day-to-day Kilgannon criminal operations to his son, Colin. Arthur seems fine in the way that super-criminals are sometimes fine on this show, and Colin seems awful in the way that snotty sons of super-criminals typically are. Colin is interrogating a man he holds responsible for the recent smuggling deaths; at first it seems like he’s upset that his clients died, but it quickly becomes clear he’s upset that his clients died before paying him. So he shoots the guy. Colin’s father tells him that dead employees don’t make them money either. And Liz’s “father” tells her that they have to find whoever took over his smuggling routes or people will continue to die.

Red tells Cooper they’ll need to start in Greece since he knows the usurpers are still using his routes, and he suggests they send someone undercover. One of his people…

Enter Dembe. And Aram! What a duo. I love Aram being the Q to Dembe’s Bond as he inserts a tiny mic device on Dembe’s back molar. And I love even more that Dembe doesn’t need the explanation because he’s a cultured genius who also speaks eight languages. “Other than the fact that you sometimes have to kill people for a living, you’re like my role model,” Aram tells him.

Dembe is fully prepared, but when he makes his way into the back room of the smuggling portal in Greece, pretending to be a Nigerian native seeking safe transport to Berlin, things get tense. The man interviewing him demands that Dembe open his mouth, and the agents outside are sure he’s about to find his mic device. Instead, he’s looking to see that Dembe has clearly had western dental work done. But when Dembe doesn’t flinch at a gun to his head, he tells him it’s 3,000 Euros: “The Irish are no longer accepting payment upon arrival.” (Recap continues on next page)

“Irish” is all Red needs to hear to know it must be Arthur Kilgannon who’s taken over his routes. But Red knows Arthur to be “a man with exacting standards,” and that’s exactly what he tells him when he shows up at Arthur’s home. Arthur says his son assured him the deaths due to poor conditions were a one-time incident; Red informs him that people are dying left and right thanks to his son’s operations.

That doubt seems to inspire Arthur to look further into this smuggling business his son is running, and soon he’s storming into his son’s office. Like Red, Arthur is not okay with packing desperate people “in equipment unfit to transport livestock.” And Colin is not okay with his father questioning his leadership skills, and he’s definitely not okay with his dad telling him, “You always has a mean streak, even as a child…. Sorry, Colin, you’re out.” You know how I know he’s not okay with that? Because he chokes Arthur out, killing his father with his bare hands. Sicko.

That also means the Post Office really doesn’t have a way to get to Colin, who is operating out of Bulgaria, where his family has protective political connections. They can crack down on the transport once it passes though Macedonia, but they’ll have to send someone on the inside…

“I know what it feels like to be seen as less than human, a thing transported for money,” Dembe tells Red, convincing him why he must do this. “You saved me from that, which is why I know you’ll want me to try and save others.”

The next thing we know, Dembe is joining a large group of refugees and guards are putting bags over all of their heads, including the little girl who is fleeing a migrant camp in Greece along with her parents. And you better believe that gentle-giant-angel Dembe is about to be so sweet to her. Once transported to Macedonia, they go to a shipping complex that seems to serve as an undercover weigh station for Colin’s hub of smuggling operations. The bad news is that there are hundreds of frightened migrants there; the good news is that the Post Office is able to track Dembe’s device there, and they’re confident there’s enough inside to make a case against the Kilgannons, get the local authorities involved, and get Dembe out.

With that temporary sense of relief, let’s check in on Tom, shall we? He’s meeting up with Pete’s ex-girlfriend, Lena. The bearded man who has been following her is also there, watching. They’re at the gas station where Pete last used a credit card in Lena’s name. Inside, Lena proves herself a natural super-spy as she distracts the attendant while Tom goes in the back to scour the security footage. He’s able to spot Pete and snap a few photos and — I kid you not — from zooming in on the dashboard of a car in a picture of a screen displaying grainy security footage, they’re able to read the name of a hotel off of a keychain.

And thank goodness for super-spies and super-eyes, because they do find Pete at that hotel. But he’s not happy to see them — he insists that he’s been attacked, and he’s got the three missing fingers to prove it. Ick. He says guys came to his house to get the bones and kill him, but first they tortured him into saying how he got the bones. But he didn’t give up any names, and Nik came in while he was passed out. He woke up to the men choking Nik and was able to sneak out, but he knows they would have killed him. And wouldn’t you know it — there they are, busting into the hotel room and knocking out Tom with the butt of a gun.

Things aren’t going that well over in Macedonia either. When Dembe tries to stop the guards from placing the little girl in a separate truck from her parents, he gets punched in the jaw, breaking the device keeping him connected to the Post Office. But perhaps that will be all right, because local authorities are pulling in now by the dozens. Inside, they find hundreds of humans packed into trucks…but no Dembe.

It seems that seven trucks made it out before the authorities arrived, including the one holding Dembe and the little girl. The drivers were instructed to ditch the trucks in hard-to-find places and evacuate. So unless the Post Office is able to find the drivers, they have little hope of finding the seven trucks quickly. And speed is a factor here, because Aram notices that these aren’t just any trucks, but airtight refrigerated trucks. He calculates there will be enough oxygen to last two and a half hours before everyone inside suffocates.

Not on Reddington’s watch. He goes back to Arthur Kilgannon’s house, and upon learning that he’s died, Red forces Arthur’s widow to get Colin on the phone. With the threat of Red putting a bullet through his mother’s head, Colin tells him to go ahead: “I would have done it eventually, but you could save me the trouble.” Red gets off the phone, crestfallen, and apologizes to Mrs. Kilgannon. In return, she tells him that if he lets her go to her computer, she can give him Colin’s exact coordinates via a tracking device on his sports car. I write, “Yaaaas Irish queen!” in my notes. (Recap continues on next page)

Red is waiting for Colin with his gun drawn when he comes walking into his garage. Red shoots both of Colin’s associates and turns his gun on Colin: “Your mother brought you into this world; do you really think she couldn’t take you out of it?” Colin tells him where the names of the drivers are. “Thanks, Colin,” says Red, and then shoots that jerk dead.

Somehow, Red identifies Dembe’s truck driver and goes after him directly. But the man isn’t in his apartment, there are 30 minutes left on the oxygen clock, and Red is feeling desperate. He calls Liz and asks if she ever wondered why someone so decent would stand beside someone like Red. Red says Dembe didn’t stay just because Red saved his life: “He stayed because he saw me for the man I really was. A man surrounded by darkness, no friends that could be trusted, no faith that love or loyalty could ever truly exist. Dembe connected his life with mine to show me that day and every day that the world is not what I fear it to be.… Dembe guards my life because he is determined to save my soul.”

And while it’s still a stretch, it is a lovely stretch, and lovely words delivered by a lovely actor about a lovely character. In the truck, Dembe is laying the little girl down on his lap as she slowly slips out of consciousness. “Your parents will be here when you wake up,” he tells her.

AND DEMBE IS NO LIAR! Because the driver finally comes home, Red gets the answers he needs, and we’re given the immediate gratification of him ripping open the back of the truck. They rush the little girl to the hospital, and Dembe grins as he reports back that she’s going to be fine. Red tells Dembe if he had died today, it would have been all the proof he needed that he’s been right about the evil in the world all along. “And here I am,” says Dembe, an angel.

But it’s not all halos. As you’ll recall, Tom was recently hit in the head with a gun by a team of dudes who cut off three of Pete’s fingers. And now Tom is coming back into consciousness to find that along with Pete and Lena, he is bound and bloodied, seated in front of a man who looks innocuous enough — glasses, suspenders, kind of like a more serious Glenn — but is one of the more terrifying dudes we’ve encountered in a while. His ruthlessness combined with his matter-of-factness is almost grotesque.

He tells his three captives that the person who gets him to Raymond Reddington first will live: “I can’t guarantee the quality of your life, but breathing is part of it.” Yeesh. And as for the other two? They’ll die. And, indeed, they do. The man shoots Pete when he tells him he has no idea who Red even is, and he shoots Lena in the back after saying, “Darling, I’m not uncivilized,” and setting her free.

The man tells Tom he’s stumped. Of all the people who would want that bag of bones and do anything to get it, he says, “How the hell could it end up in the hands of a little p— ant like you?” And that underestimation seems to be Tom’s only hope. Because as we know, Tom is no p— ant. He tells the man that Red is his boss; he simply sent him to get the suitcase, but if he gives him a chance, Tom can deliver him to Raymond Reddington.

The bearded man who was following Tom and Lena calls his boss. He tells Red, “We’ve got a problem.”

A Few Loose Ends:

  • Listen, I’ve got my theories, but I really cannot crack who is in that suitcase. And this scary dude now in possession of it makes me all the more intrigued. That’s an incredible story chess piece with which to play…as long as the final reveal doesn’t end up being totally dumb :)
  • Cooper gives into his conscience and lets his agents transporting the found migrants be intercepted by a mystery party so that said fedora’d mystery party can ensure their safe transport to their original destinations.
  • I’m currently in a rewatch of Arrested Development, and Liz and Tom’s romp on the couch made me convinced that they’re Never Nudes, incapable of taking off their black jeans and tank tops.
  • When Liz tells Red about her marriage, he gives her a very delayed hug and says, “Tom and I have had our differences, but I believe he wants what’s best for you and Agnes.” I wonder if he really believed that, and I definitely wonder what he believes now.

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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