To talk about Friday night’s very engaging episode of The Blacklist, it’s important that we establish one thing first: it is increeeedibly unlikely that Raymond Reddington is going to die by lethal injection. That would be like killing Jimmy Kimmel off of Jimmy Kimmel Live. Raymond Reddington is…kind of why we’re all here.
Well, we’re here for him, and just as importantly, his relationship to Elizabeth Keen. But you can’t have one without the other. For that reason, it’s been difficult to become too invested in the stakes of Raymond Reddington’s pending execution — not to mention, death has a way of not entirely sticking on this series. So, tonight’s episode made the very smart decision not to ramp up the tension on the literal stakes of Red dying, but instead, to focus on what Red’s impending death would mean emotionally for the rest of the ensemble. We know this likely isn’t goodbye for Reddington, but seeing as he’s strapped down to a chair, swabbed in the very last moments of this episode, everyone inside the show could — and should — think this is the end.
And the end is a good time to give it everything you’ve got; to leave no stone unturned; to orchestrate an Ocean’s 11-style pickpocket scheme; to force yourself into two meetings with the President of the United States. It’s also a good time to say “I love you.”
This lens of culmination makes for one of the more emotional episodes of The Blacklist in recent memory. And it feels good to have experienced that emotional catharsis through these characters, all the while knowing: it’s very likely that in the 10 minutes immediately following the blackout that ends this episode, someone is going to figure out a way to save Raymond Reddington from a federally-mandated lethal injection.
I have no idea how they’ll do it, but I can’t wait to find out — and that’s a successful result of this execution story line in and of itself.
BASTIEN MOREAU, NO. 20
When I say I have no idea how Reddington’s life will be spared, I mean I really have no idea. My most commonly used note while watching this hour was, “hmmmmm.” Since the very beginning of this season, Red has been cobbling together Blacklisters and siccing the FBI after them as some sort of attempt at salvation. But those attempts have been a little all over the map: sometimes it’s evidence for his legal defense, sometimes it’s an escape plan, and more recently there’s been talk of a “conspiracy” that Red apparently uncovered somewhere within tracking the last 10 or so Blacklisters. Of course, we don’t know what this conspiracy is, when exactly he uncovered it, who it involves, or how it will save him.
But this episode makes one thing clear: everything — and I mean, everything — started with Bastien Moreau.
He was the last patient to have his appearance surgically altered by Hans Koehler (y’know, because he murdered him afterward) in the premiere of season 6, which led Liz to discover that Fraymond Freddington was also a former patient of Koehler. Bastien’s plot to bomb the United Nations in episode 2 of season 6 is what eventually led Red to uncover a conspiracy that involves the very highest echelons of American government, the uncovering of which he considers his only chance at escaping lethal injection. And you have to admit, “I’m going to blackmail the President of the United States” is riiiight up there with “I’m going to steal the Declaration of Independence” in terms of plans so zany they just might work.
How Red goes about blackmailing the President is a slightly more complicated tale. The episode opens with Moreau on the phone with the same female voice we heard instructing him during the United Nations plot. Since that plan failed, she tells Moreau they’re in crisis mode. He says to tell her boss to chill: “It will be handled within two days.” We finally see the woman on the other end of the line as she gets out of a car at the White House…and tells security the president is expecting her.
Whatever is happening here, Red thinks it’s big enough to use as leverage for the president to issue a commutation of his execution, which is scheduled for the day after next at 12:01 a.m. Red tells Cooper the first step in uncovering the conspiracy is stealing account information from a bank in Luxembourg. As Liz further explains to Cooper at the Post Office, Red assumed the Cryptobanker could lead him back to the mysterious man in Cairo who’s at the center of this conspiracy, but the man in Cairo sent the money to someone else via an account at a Luxembourg bank. Now they have to find out who that account belongs to.
Or rather, Liz says she and Dembe have to find out; what they’ll be doing is illegal, and she won’t risk getting everyone else in trouble. But when she boards Red’s jet to head to Luxembourg… there everyone else is, waiting to help her, no matter the cost. This declaration of familial love, coupled with the fact that Aram has just found out about Samar’s aphasia and issued his unending support, and you can go ahead and count me in as, uh, a bit of a mess. Luckily, there was plenty of upcoming action to dry my tears… (Recap continues on the next page)
Since this Luxemburg bank specializes in accounts for criminals, its safeguards are unlike any other. Their system is unhackable without the master fob, which is only carried by the president of the bank himself. One might think he would keep such an important device under further protections, but no: he’s got that sucker on his key ring. All the better to be lifted by Undercover Liz while Undercover Samar (switching between French and English flawlessly) distracts the bank president, and passed off to Aram, who sets up shop in the bathroom.
Of course, once Aram hacked the system, he promptly drops the keys in the toilet, presenting an opportunity for Liz to have to go full-rude-American to keep the bank president distracted, but they eventually get the keys back in his pocket, and themselves back on the jet…
Where they find that the account belongs to Jonas Kruger, a German intelligence officer who works with the German embassy in D.C. While the rest of the team is figuring out how Kruger could possibly be key to saving Red’s life, Cooper is trying to do the very same with even less information. Panabaker has gotten him a meeting with POTUS and…the woman from the phone call with Moreau, who’s introduced as “Anna McMahan from DoJ.”
So, that’s a yikes. As you can imagine, McMahan is not very open to Cooper’s suggestion that Raymond Reddington has uncovered a conspiracy that’s a matter of national security, but he simply needs more time to solve it — y’know, before he gets executed. McMahan tells the President that if he lets Reddington “draw even a single extra breath, your opponents will make you look softer on crime than the Pillsbury Dough Boy.”
And if you thought she was hard on Red then just wait until Cooper, Panabaker, and McMahan get on a video call where Raymond Reddington himself tells them what the rest of the Task Force has uncovered: Jonas Kruger is on the advanced team for Ava Ziegler, the president of Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service, and if they don’t figure out why he was paid $5 million, Ziegler will be assassinated on U.S. soil within 24 hours. Reddington says he alone possesses the knowledge to prevent that assassination, but McMahan won’t budge. She assures Reddington that the president will never grant him clemency.
Cooper is put in the unfortunate position of still needing to do everything in his power to prevent Ziegler’s assassination, but knowing that in doing so, he’s sentencing Red to death. “If you want absolution, you have it,” Red tells Cooper. Then he repeats what he told McMahan on the call: “You are the best, Harold — as an agent, and a person, and a friend.” (Please excuse this recapper while she gets herself together…)
(H’okay) It finally seems like Reddington, who has never met a task he wouldn’t take on with omniscient confidence, is resigning himself to his fate. And with good reason. Night is falling, and at this very moment in the White House, McMahan is telling the president that even though Reddington knows everything and Ziegler has been warned about the attempt, there’s nothing the Task Force can do to stop it…
But they’ll sure try, and they won’t stop trying until the clock strikes midnight. The FBI find Kruger just as he’s trying to skip town, and he tells them that his job was to sweep the hotel and set up security protocols for when Ziegler arrived — the only thing he did was give a man (Moreau, as we already know) his credentials and Ziegler’s schedule. Kruger doesn’t know what the man was going to do with them, but when they met, Kruger saw what looked like a bomb.
The FBI rushes to the hotel where Ziegler is taking a meeting with a Senator Wade. She’s telling the Senator that German intelligence has been working cooperatively with a former MI6 agent who showed her a dossier earlier today outlining a plot against America. And at this exact moment, we see Moreau arriving at the MI6 agent’s hotel room, putting a gun in his face and demanding the dossier. The agent insists he doesn’t have it, so Moreau tells him he has to take him to wherever it is. (Recap continues on the next page)
Meanwhile, Cooper takes one more meeting with the President of the United States to try to convince him that Reddington is the only one with the knowledge to stop the plot against Ziegler. Of course, what he doesn’t know is that McMahan has orchestrated that plot with the cooperation of the president. But the simple fact that people know about the plot, even without knowing his specific involvement, puts the president in a precarious situation, I’d say. As Cooper tells him, “You can listen to Ms. McMahan and a prominent German official will die. Or you can listen to me, and she’ll survive.” But about that time, Cooper gets a call that Ziegler has been taken to a secure location, and McMahan tells him smugly, “Well what do you know, looks like you didn’t need Reddington’s help after all.”
WRONG, LADY! (Of course, she already knew that, but still.)
Ziegler might be in an offsite location now, but the hotel has been swept, and no bomb was found. As Senator Wade tries to ask about the dossier she mentioned earlier, Ziegler begins complaining that she can’t breathe. She collapses to the floor…
Where BEETLES start crawling out of her mouth. Damn you, General Shiro!!!!
When Cooper gets word in the car with Panabaker that Ziegler has died, he tells the driver to turn around and go back to the White House. It’s 11:50 p.m. and he needs to tell the president he has 10 minutes to change his mind about Reddington, “Or I’m going to tell The New York Times that he could have saved the life of Germany’s top intelligence officer, but chose not to.” Panabaker tells him that would be career suicide. “Yes,” Cooper agrees — “for the president.”
That sound you hear is a mic dropping. Cooper really is The Best.
Oh, and that other sound you hear? That would be my sobs! Liz decided earlier in the episode that if there was a possibility these would be Reddington’s last moments on earth, she had to finally ask him the questions that have been eating away at her about his true identity.
But when Liz arrives, telling Red there’s something she needs to ask him, she finds something she wasn’t expecting. Reddington — or whoever he is — explains that he’s chosen cabbage soup and herring as his last meal because that’s what his mother made him as a child. “I was a difficult child; people saw me one way, I saw myself another,” Red tells Liz, minutes away from death, and sounding very unlike the man we’ve listened to for the last six seasons. “I felt…misunderstood; acted out. My father fancied himself a disciplinarian, very moralistic. Instead of trying to understand me, he excommunicated me.”
Red says that his mother “understood the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself,” and so she understood “everything.” He tells Liz that he’s taught her to think like a criminal, but he should have been teaching her to think like his mother. “All those years spent worrying about you, fancying myself your guardian angel — she would have taken one look at you and known you’d be fine.” Oh, and this is where he really gets me…
“Because you have in your life the only thing that matters: people who love you” — flash cut to Cooper — “people you can depend on” — cut to Ressler and Aram — “people who will always tell you the truth” — cut to Samar. “Six years ago, I turned myself over because of you. Now, here at the end, I’m at peace because of them.”
Gulp. If The Blacklist hadn’t been renewed for a seventh season (it was!), this would not be the worst way to end it: with a message of growth and found family. But given what comes next, this can’t be the end. Because Liz decides not to ask Red for answers in their final moments together. She decides to give him something instead: “I love you,” Lizzie tells Red. “That’s what I wanted to say. That’s what I wanted you to hear.”
Red is nothing short of shocked, but there’s no time left to say anything else. He’s taken to a room, strapped down to a chair, and told how the injection will work. The curtain to the viewing room is opened, and in one of many beautiful shots from director Andrew McCarthy this episode, we see Liz and Dembe sitting side-by-side, with Red’s face reflected in the glass between them. The administrator asks Reddington if he has any last words.
Red looks at Liz…
A FEW LOOSE ENDS
Oof, guys, I know it’s somewhat intentional, but I’m still pretty confused about this conspiracy! Is the President of the United States…plotting against the United States???
What exactly is contained in the dossier that got Ziegler killed, and at the end of this episode, who is in possession of it?
Also, Red just…let that lady die, right?
Oh, and one more question: Exactly how long is that drive back to the White House, and just how concise is Cooper’s final presidential argument on behalf of Reddington going to be? Because I can barely decide what I want to order on a menu in 10 minutes, let alone save someone’s life…
See ya next week, by which time I super, super hope Red will not be dead!
- NBC renews The Blacklist for seventh season
- The Blacklist recap: Reddington attempts his great escape