The Blacklist finale recap: Will the real Katarina Rostova please stand up?
In this season finale of The Blacklist, the entire Task Force manages to escape detainment under the eye of the Justice Department within their own super-secure Post Office facility, including briefly being locked inside their patented titanium-gold alloy box; they stop an assassination on the president that was ordered… by the president; then they find out he was actually planning to assassinate his wife; and in approximately a one-minute transition, they expose said president for said attempted murder and force him to resign…
And those are like, the chilliest things that happen in this episode.
Because, as we could have expected, in the last two minutes, the entire episode got flipped on its head with a tiny nugget of intel on the saga of Fraymond Freddington, resulting in a world-altering reveal that we'll just have to sit and wonder about until season 7. Don't get me wrong, it's insane that we just (probably, maybe) met a very much alive Katarina Rostova, and that she stabbed Raymond Reddington (James Spader) with a syringe, threw him in a car, and went on about her business. It's just that everything else before that was so fun, I was almost a little annoyed to suddenly have to recalibrate my mind to weaving together tiny 30-year-old clues to make sense of what was happening, instead of just, y'know… watching things explode.
Of course, it's not technically fun that a powerful man tried to have his honest wife murdered and got a couple dozen people sworn to protect him killed in the process. But I was not expecting the season 6 finale to be so light on its feet given the wealth of Blacklist mythos we've been called upon to retain over and over again this season. Ultimately though, the season 6 finale turned out to be quite the romp—and everyone was down to risk their lives and careers for the sake of our entertainment (oh, and to protect the super skeevy president of the United States, I guess).
ROBERT DIAZ, NO. 15
The episode opens right where we left off last week, with Anna McMahon (Jennifer Ferrin) taking the entire Task Force into custody for conspiring to assassinate the president of the United States—a conspiracy that she has in fact cooked up with the POTUS himself, and the Post Office has uncovered through a network television season's worth of hard work.
McMahon reports to President Diaz (Benito Martinez) that she has everyone in custody except Reddington and Keen, and pinning the assassination attempt scheduled for later that day should be no problem. "The question is: Do you want this?" McMahon asks him. Diaz says that they've talked about this already, and it's "what has to be done." He tells McMahon that he's ordering a kill shot, as painless as possible. Once they're off the phone, the First Lady approaches Diaz and he tells her, "What you've wanted me to do, I'm going to take care of it tomorrow at the debate." She looks so pleased: "I'm relieved to hear you say that." He tells her it will shock the crowd, and she says that she doesn't care about the crowd: "I know you're conflicted, but this is the right thing to do."
Now, this isn't exactly my first time watching TV—I noticed that they were being quite vague about the topic at hand, and therefore, were most likely not talking about the topic we were supposed to think they were talking about. And yet…
The idea that the president was conspiring to have himself assassinated, and that his wife was not only on board with that plan but proud of him for it was a nut I was so eager to crack, that I just let it slide.
Plus, I was a little distracted by ol' Lizzie McClane darting around the Post Office, not to get the dossier on the Diaz plot back as I had originally assumed, but instead to bust her beloved colleagues out of this popsicle stand. And it will just require two of Reddington's most entertaining associates to do so: little Tadashi Ito, who has to miss half his prom to help Liz override all the locks and security systems in the Post Office, and Maxwell Rudiger (Dikran Tulaine), who brings in a notorious bank-robbing crew to rig some explosives.
And for once, everything goes exactly as planned. It's awesome! While McMahon licks her chops about finally pulling one over on Reddington, Aram, Ressler, and Cooper just waltz right out of their cells and through one locked door after another, as Tadashi coaches Liz on how to unlock them from the server room. Eventually, McMahon's team figures this out and corners the trio, but that's exactly what Liz wanted…
McMahon puts them in the Box, Liz overrides the security feed until just the right moment to reveal Rudiger's men constructing an elaborate bomb, sending all of the guards straight there, and creating a window for Red and Liz to scoot into the Box room, unlock the Box with the code Aram created ("SAMAR," be still my heart), bada-bing, bada-boom—they're all seated to a catered breakfast in no time.
Not really one to relax, Ressler wonders if they shouldn't get back to trying to figure out how to stop the assassination of the president (by the president) happening at tonight's debate. But not only does Red have French toast kebabs, but he also already has a plan: infiltrate the protestors outside the debate, start a riot, pose Liz and Ressler as law enforcement to quell the insurrection, slip inside during the commotion, have Aram hack into the facility's surveillance feeds, and—guys, I'm not kidding you—bada-bing, bada-boom, find the shooter before he kills the president.
Well, it mostly goes like that. Vontae (!!!) gathers a crew to start the riot, Liz and Ressler get inside in SWAT gear, Aram identifies a camera that's offline that must be where the shooter will be stationed, and they race off in that direction. Just as the debate finishes and the First Lady joins Diaz on stage, asking him why he didn't do "the right thing" like he said he would, Sanquist takes position with a sniper rifle aimed right at Diaz. Just then, Liz and Ressler burst in, and Sanquist shoots, hitting the First Lady right in the chest. Other Secret Service agents, some of whom we know are in on the plot, enter the room just as Sanquist has released the gun, and naturally, he's all: It was these guys, these guys did it!
I'm not really sure what the plan here was as far as two of the people who have been accused of conspiring to assassinate the president entering the room where the weapon to assassinate the president resides, when they know the people behind the assassination are the Secret Service and, uh, the president…
But luckily there's a backup plan for the Task Force once again being taken into the federal custody of the Department of Justice under Anna McMahon.
This is, while the Secret Service transports Aram, Ressler, and Liz to a "federal facility" (death in a field, never to be heard from again), Red just stone-cold rams his car into the van carrying them the moment the back door is opened. There is a truly violent shootout where people are grabbing guns and ducking behind cars, and where absolutely everyone works for the government and should not be shooting at each other. Sanquist finally throws a flash grenade at the van pouring out gasoline, and the Task Force team has to run for cover before it explodes.
And the second the fire clears, Ressler shoots the hell out of Sanquist.
Suddenly, Anna McMahon appears out of whatever safety she'd been hiding in and puts a gun to Reddington's head, but she's also got five trained right back on her. Ressler tells her if she shoots him, he'll shoot her. It's not really a great equation if you're Reddington, but then—BOOM! McMahon is shot through the head from behind…
BY DEMBE (Hisham Tawfiq)! He's back, baby. And Red wants to know if this means he's forgiven him. "The Townsend Directive," Dembe replies: "Our friend in Miami says it's in play, he says it's very important." Red agrees that it's critical, "But not as critical as knowing why you're here." Dembe finally answers that he left because he needed to follow his own path: "It led me back to you." You guys.
Oddly, this is not the only man to express his unconditional love for Raymond Reddington in this finale. Red is absent for much of the manual labor of taking down the people trying to take down the president (except the actual president, but we're still getting there) because he's looking into the fact that Ressler was contacted by what appeared to be the KGB when he got too close to Katarina Rostova's trail. Reddinton meets with a man we've never met before, but he's played by Brett Cullen, so he must be important.
He also must be important because he and Red express their mutual adoration and trust in one another. Who is this man??? This man who knows who Red really is, who tells him that Masha was bound to find out he wasn't really who he said he was, who thinks that Dom "shouldn't have told her that story," who was childhood friends with Red (or whoever Red used to be) and has only ever let him down once when he wouldn't share his truck!!!
Either way, he agrees to do something for Red, something that Red wants done before Agnes comes home to Elizabeth's house.
Also before that can happen, the Task Force still has to take care of the one single person they haven't killed that's involved in this plot against the president: the president. I'll skip the part where they can't figure out—I mean, it takes them some serious time—that the shot fired at the First Lady was intended for the First Lady all along. Because it is quite fun to watch Donald Ressler set up a little salt-and-pepper-shaker recreation of the debate layout and have his eureka moment. But once they do figure out that there's no way Sanquist missed, there's only one thing left to do…
Ask the First Lady why her husband would have tried to have her killed and framed it as a failed attempt on his own life. And they can because, though it's explained in great detail that Sanquist is a master marksman, he does not manage to kill the First Lady with his shot to her chest. Indeed, she looks rather spritely when Panabaker begrudgingly escorts Cooper and Reddington into her hospital room, and though she's upset about recently almost being murdered by her husband, she's more than willing to give up the deets on the jerk. Apparently, a few months before the primaries that eventually saw Diaz elected president, they were on vacation, Diaz got behind the wheel after drinking too much and hit a woman and her son. Instead of going to the police, they paid a fixer to cover it up.
The money Diaz took from Constantin Rostov, that Red blackmailed him with years ago, wasn't to swing his election but to save his reputation. But covering up murder never sat well with the First Lady, and she began begging her husband to do the right thing and come forward with the truth. Apparently, that's what he was promising her he'd do at the debate where he was, in fact, planning to have her killed in a plot he had long been arranging with Anna McMahon and his own Secret Service agents.
And, apparently, once you have some dirt on the president, it's not too hard to get him out of office. Uh, in The Blacklist world, that is. This storyline gets all wrapped up with Panabaker (Deidre Lovejoy) and Cooper (Harry Lennix) standing in the White House looking disapprovingly at Diaz as news stories play about the president resigning in the wake of reports that he made an attempt on the First Lady's life in order to cover up his own homicide. Cooper informs him that the FBI will be opening up a criminal investigation, and Diaz—a murderer—whines, "Reddington dis this. "You did this to yourself," Panabaker, my forever fav, spits back.
"How does a fugitive bring down a president?" Diaz asks, presumably rhetorically. Buckle up for the comeback of the century from Coops: "With pleasure."
And what of that president-slaying fugitive? Well, his best friend we never knew about who meets up with him solely on waterfront benches brings him to a waterfront bench to tell Red he has the info he was looking for: "I found her—Paris." Red asks if he's sure, and he shows him a photo that we don't get to see. "It's her, I'm telling you, Raymond," the man says, asking if Red is sure about this. He's sure…
On a street in Paris, Red walks behind an elegant woman and calls out, "Katarina." The woman stops in her tracks, turns around, and says, "Raymond." And then she KISSES HIM. "Are they watching?" she asks. Red tells her it's not safe and she kisses him again… and then stabs him with a syringe. Red keels over and a car zooms over, two men hop out, load him up, and drive away. Katarina picks up Raymond Reddington's fedora and keeps walking.
A FEW LOOSE ENDS
Do you mean to tell me that was Katarina Rostova (Laila Robins), famous Russian spy, former lover of Raymond Reddington, former something to Fraymond Freddington, and she is alive? And she incapacitated Red the moment she saw him, with a car just ready and waiting to whisk him away???
So was that an example of the malice Liz has long feared in her mother? The potential danger that made her keep Agnes away—Agnes, who she just brought back home because Red assured her Katarina was no threat.
And who is this childhood friend of Freddington's who he loves and trusts completely that we're just now meeting??? It must be said that Brett Cullen doesn't look like he could be an older Ilya/Gabriel Mann. But that theory held a little more water in my head before the reveal that Katarina is 100 percent (probably, maybe) not the imposter who assumed Raymond Reddington's identity. So, do we finally put that theory to rest now? This ending clearly raises more questions than it answers.
So what did you think of the season 6 finale?! Is Katarina Rostova really still alive? Is she a good spy or a bad spy? Who are these people that drive bodies for her at the drop of a hat (literally) in the middle of the night? Who is Raymond's friend? Did Ilya ever exist at all, or was he only a figment of Dom's imagination? Sound off in the comments!
James Spader is Raymond "Red" Reddington, a mastermind criminal who teams up with the FBI.