The Blacklist recap: Reddington narrowly escapes death… again
Shortly after Raymond Reddington has escaped execution by lethal injection with lit’rally 10 seconds to spare, he explains to his almost-executioner, “People make their own luck, some more than others — I make a prodigious amount.” Later, though, he tells returning Blacklister Bastien Moreau that the best cons are something more akin to a magic trick: They create the illusion of luck.
And Red concocting a weeks-long, globe-spanning plan — while in prison, mind you — for the President of the United States to be forced into granting him clemency even though the President of the United States is the very person who stands to lose the most from that clemency? Well, we’ll just have to chalk that up to the magic of Raymond Reddington. And thank goodness this magician revealed his trick….
Because personally, I’ve been operating under a cloud of humbling confusion over the last six episodes or so: knowing that Red was piecing a plan together, but also having trouble keeping up with just how those pieces were fitting together. A little more sense was made of that last week when Ava Ziegler died by way of quite a few of the most recent Backlisters, all working with the assassin Bastien Moreau, who, as it turns out, has been employed by the, uh, top Justice Department official of the United States, Anna McMahan.
But to really understand this entire plot, Friday’s episode called for a bit of unabashed exposition ’round the ol’ Post Office hearth. And you know what? I’m fine with that if it means I don’t feel so dumb anymore. So before we get to Red escaping death and uncovering a plot against the United States seemingly headed up by the United States, let’s go over how we got here. It all started with Bastien Moreau, a.k.a. the Corsican, the assassin the FBI stopped from bombing the U.N. Because Moreau escaped, Red came to understand that if he found Moreau and figured out who he was trying to kill inside the U.N., he might also uncover a conspiracy big enough to earn him clemency.
Red then requested a competency evaluation so he could be transferred to the federal mental institution that contained Atticus Rodrick, one of the few known associates of Moreau. In a brief window of mental clarity, Rodrick whispered “General Shiro” to Red, which eventually led to Dr. Nikola, the guy who was infesting people’s bodies with beetles and ultimately haunting my dreams forever and ever. In Nikola’s files, Dembe discovered that he’d sent his bug toxin to an address in London belonging to Moreau. Inside that apartment, Dembe found files that showed Moreau wired $5 million to the Cryptobanker. And in the last episode, we found out that money was then laundered to Jonas Kruger in exchange for giving Moreau his credentials to gain access to Ava Ziegler’s hotel room, wheeeeeere…
[pause for breath]
He beetle-juiced her (honestly don’t know how I’ve made it this far without using that pun), so that Ziegler died an untraceable death before she could tell Senator Wade about the impending attack on America.
Well, an almost untraceable death. Red figured out — once again, from inside prison — who killed Ziegler and how he did it. The only question left is why.
BASTIEN MOREAU, NO. 20: CONCLUSION
And the why matters! Because in the opening moments of Friday’s episode, Cooper threatens the president with exposing how he failed to prevent the death of Germany’s top intelligence officer until he finally relents and grants Reddington a stay of execution in exchange for finding her assassin. So yes, Reddington does narrowly escape death, but Anna McMahan makes sure Red stands very little chance of actually finding the assassin during his stay. He’s only granted 48 hours, he has to do it in secret because the public believes he’s still in prison, and he has to wear an ankle monitor to track his every move. If he flees or even tampers with the ankle monitor, Cooper gets charged with aiding and abetting a criminal.
No way in hell would Red put Cooper, his stone-cold savior, at risk. But he’s also quite chill about telling the Task Force that he has no idea what this conspiracy against America is, he just knows it exists and basically bluffed his way off death row. He is sure, however, that Moreau is the final piece of the puzzle. So the Task Force sets about figuring out who it was Moreau failed to kill at the U.N., knowing that’s probably the person who uncovered the mystery-conspiracy, and also the person Moreau will still be going after. (Recap continues on the next page)
They quickly narrow down the potential candidates from the pool of people in the room where Moreau planted that U.N. bomb to Christopher Miles, a former MI-6 officer who fits the bill for uncovering an international conspiracy. Indeed, Moreau currently has Miles at gunpoint, demanding that he take him to the dossier which he alone apparently compiled about the plot against America — the one that got Ava Ziegler killed after he showed it to her. If you can believe this, it also gets Christopher Miles killed, but it’s a little more complicated than that…
Red has some contact whose home he invades during a very casual mid-morning game of Head’s Up, who’s able to give him Miles’ address. Cooper deploys Ressler and Samar there; unfortunately, despite Aram’s urgings, Samar hasn’t told Cooper about the symptoms of her aphasia yet, some of which include random blinding lights and reactions to loud noises. So when the FBI invades Miles’ apartment with a flash grenade, Samar’s vision immediately blurs, and though she’s unable to get her bearings, she continues through the apartment…
And she’s the first to spot Moreau, who has the USB dossier in his hand and a gun pointed at Miles. He shoots Miles and jumps out the window, and just as he did at the U.N., Ressler has to take after him on foot while Miles dies in a devastated Samar’s arms. But before he dies, Miles whispers two words: “password… foxgate.”
Moreau has the dossier, but since he doesn’t have the password, he has no way to access it. He does have one more thing, though: explicit instructions from Anna McMahan to kill Raymond Reddington. Oh, and one more thing: Red’s exact coordinates via his ankle monitor, provided by McMahan, that snake.
It’s unusual to see Red and Dembe taken by surprise, but indeed they are when Moreau shows up at the restaurant where they’re celebrating what they assumed would be his successful capture by the FBI. But Red recovers quickly, because Moreau’s sheer presence tells him one thing: that it must be McMahan who sent him there, and so it must be McMahan who’s been trying to cover up the plot against the United States (still very unclear on that “WHY” though).
In case you’ve forgotten from the very beginning of the season, Bastien Moreau is a nationalist, and he hires out his assassin skills for one reason and one reason only: to further nationalist agendas. Reddington knows this, and therefore knows that McMahan must have misled him about the reason he needed to obtain Christopher Miles’ dossier. If you can believe it, the very simple connection I just outlined involves a story about magic tricks and “those guys with the tigers” using, ahem, masturbation to train their tiger cubs when Red tells it to Moreau. He says that Moreau is “the wild creature someone is trying to stroke.” And further, that Moreau must already know that, otherwise he would have just killed Reddington when he was on the toilet or something, rather than approaching him in this public place.
And he’s right. Moreau has begun to question if McMahan really had him assassinate Ziegler because she was trying to take down a resurgence of German nationalism (altogether now: yikes). Reddington gives Moreau the dossier password to prove that he’s been had; all the killing he’s been doing has been in the name of covering up a plot against the United States by the United States. (Recap continues on the next page)
And when McMahan arrives back at her house that night, while assuring the president that the dossier has been obtained and Reddington is on his way to being taken care of, who should she find in her living room but a very perturbed Bastien Moreau? Truly — he is angry, showing basically the only ounce of emotion we’ve seen from him yet. “Why does this dossier outline a plot against the Americans?” he seethes. And speaking in my stead: “What do you do for the American government? Why are you plotting against your own country?”
But we still get no answers about McMahan’s motives because the FBI busts in on Red’s tip that Moreau would be gunning for her. Moreau, because he is apparently the fastest 60-year-old assassin in the world, escapes while McMahan announces she has no idea who that man was. This time, Ressler quickly catches up to Moreau because his main mission in escaping the house seems to have been ditching the dossier, which he drops in a passing boy’s backpack, most likely never to be seen again. Ressler puts him in handcuffs, and Moreau tells him, “I’m gonna be a great asset for you, I know the secret…”
And then he gets shot right through the head by an unseen rooftop sniper.
Moreau’s death and the disappearance of the dossier mean the likelihood of the Task Force finding out what plot McMahan is trying to cover up just got a lot more difficult. But it also means Red found the sniper just like he said he would, and so his immunity agreement has been reinstated. It’s exactly the same as the one signed in 2013, except for two small changes: McMahan will now directly oversee the Task Force for Main Justice… and if any of the members of the Task Force have knowledge that Red commits a crime without turning him in, they’ll be considered co-conspirators.
And once they’ve staged an elaborate breakout from prison to explain why Red wasn’t executed to the public, it all done: Raymond Reddington is back on the top of the FBI’s Most Wanted list, the assistant attorney general of the United States is plotting against her own country, and we have a new big bad. It’s all very old-school Blacklist — and I like it.
That is, except for one thing. Samar has been missing for most of this, staked out on a rooftop smoking cigarettes, grappling with her complicity in Christopher Miles’ death. When Aram finds her up there, she tells him about what happened, and that she’s going to do the right thing now: She’s going to tell Cooper about her aphasia. Aram assures her that Cooper will understand…
But when she goes into Cooper’s office at the end of the episode, she just tells him something else: She’s leaving the Task Force. She doesn’t tell him why or ask about out-of-field options. “I’ve loved work here,” Samar tells Cooper: “the cases, everyone’s dedication. And I met Aram.” Cooper asks, then why leave? “Because it’s time,” she tells him.
A FEW LOOSE ENDS
There are lovely performances all around Samar’s exit from the Task Force that I truly enjoyed watching, but also — I don’t understand! I haven’t heard that Mozhan Marnò is leaving the show, so why does this feel like goodbye???
Beyond that, Cooper sums up where the Task Force is headed in the furture nicely when he says: “We have our work cut out for us. We know there are people plotting against our country. As is all too often the case, we’re looking straight down the barrel of what’s wrong with the world. But tonight, we’re also witness to something pretty great: The man we hate to love lives to fight another day.”
And Red’s response to that loving tribute: He’s got wheels up in 45. He’d forgotten how much the Post Office “reeks of stress and anxiety, coffee and deodorized body odor.” (Don’t worry, Aram, he’s not talking about you.)
Yes, Red lived, and yes, Liz is at peace with not knowing his real identity, but truly the best news of the entire episode: VONTAE JONES IS PAROLED AS PART OF RED’S IMMUNITY AGREEMENT!
James Spader is Raymond "Red" Reddington, a mastermind criminal who teams up with the FBI.