The Blacklist premiere recap: Raymond Reddington's still got it
Keeping up with the mythology of The Blacklist has always been a big task—we’ve been doing it together right here on EW for the last five years. I’ll allow you some time to un-bug your eyes at that fact…
Right, so the story of how and when and why Raymond Reddington met Elizabeth Keen has always been a difficult puzzle to piece together. There are loose ends, and questions answered with more questions, and things that seem all-important during a season could become completely obsolete with the transition from spring finale to winter premiere. Remember the Fulcrum? Remember the Warrior Gene? Remember Lizzie and Red’s road trip while she was briefly a fugitive on the FBI’s Most Wanted List? Remember when Lizzie was on the FBI’s Most Wanted List because she, ahem, murdered the Attorney General of the United States? Remember the Cabal??? Remember SPY BABY AGNES?!
All those rabbits chased were of huge importance at one point or another, and then they kind of disappeared into the ether to make room for other, more urgent storylines. But it was important that we paid attention to all of it because eventually, some of it might be relevant again, no matter how deeply in our memories it was buried. And now it’s time to pay the piper.
Where previous seasons may have asked us to bring something back from the long and winding serialization of Red-and-Lizzie, say, every couple of episodes, the premiere of season 6—the season that officially makes The Blacklist “long-running,” I’d say—is working on more of a minute-by-minute recall time. We’re talking burned bunnies pulled out of storage boxes; memories that have been blocked by Red, and then unblocked by Lizzie coming out to play again; random hotel stays revisited. Everything from the past is back on the table because with the knowledge that the man she’s known for the last five years is not actually the Real Raymond Reddington (henceforth to be known as RRR), Lizzie is having to rewrite a history that’s already been rewritten for her several times.
But even if Liz Keen is dealing with Revisionist History Raymond Reddington (henceforth known as RHRR, just kidding, we won’t need that one again), the Raymond Reddington we’ve been hanging out with for a half-decade? Oh, he is as steady as a fedora-wearing freight train, as evidenced by the premiere’s rollicking cold open featuring Fraymond Freddington (henceforth known as just regular Raymond Reddington) somehow pulling a bank heist on an in-progress bank heist.
Reader, I grinned throughout the entire thing. I’m still not sure what to expect from season 6, a.k.a., Lizzie vs. Red Remix Part Deux: The Sequel, Too Father Too Furious…but, this was certainly a fun way to start.
The episode opens on masked gunmen swarming a bank, only to find one of their should-be hostages refusing to get on the ground. One of them recognizes the man: “Raymond Reddington?” Indeed! It seems Red and Dembe were at this very bank on their “sixth and final scout to rob the place this Tuesday,” but these dummies decided to cut in line. And Red is not at all impressed with their gun-jumping, which includes terrifying a little girl. He asks the bank manager to retrieve safe deposit box 604 post-haste, then he tells the other bank robbers why they’re going to let him do it: “If I were you, I’d forget about the box and worry about the bank’s new metal detection system, because it was specifically designed to detect the larger kind of weaponry that marauders such as yourself tend to be enamored with.”
As a result, Red tells them, they have much less time than they planned on before the police arrive, but he can help them get out undetected…for 50 percent of the cash they’ve already collected. In the time they take to register the police sirens outside, it goes up to 55 percent.
With that deal made, they head through a tunnel in the wall, through a pub, and into a waiting garbage truck. The safe deposit box goes up front with Red and Dembe, and the cash goes in back with the bank robbers. And when a bump releases the back hatch, dumping cash into the wind, Red goes ahead and hits a lever to dump the robbers out, as well. No one has ever called Raymond Reddington a team player…
And yet, somehow, he’s still a class act. The next thing we know, he’s back in the bank, returning box 604 to a very nervous bank manager, still holding the twice-stolen—well, now thrice-stolen—and once-returned Poppy Flowers by Vincent van Gogh. Red tells the manager it’s time the painting be returned to the museum from which it was stolen, and when the manager asks him why on earth he’d rob the bank just to return what he stole, Raymond Reddington proves himself to be precisely the only Raymond Reddington we’ve ever known: “That was sort of a gift to myself. I’m turning 60 this year, and I wanted to see if I’ve still got it. Turns out—I do!”
DR. HANS KOEHLER, NO. 33
We find Liz and her newly embraced half-sister, Jennifer, pacing around Liz’s apartment, exposition-spewing everything they’ve figured out since we left them: Raymond Reddington as they know him is an imposter who took their father’s place over 30 years ago. RRR cheated on Jennifer’s mother with Liz’s mother, Katarina Rostova. RRR stole Liz from Russia, and when Katarina found him in the States, they got into a fight, and a fire broke out. Liz got out; her father didn’t. And the only person who knew RRR died “was either there that night, or got the idea to take his place from someone who did.”
That’s when Liz shows Jennifer everything she’s collected over five years that’s connected to the fire that killed anywhere from one-to-three of her known parents. But before they can dig in, Liz’s phone rings: she has a new assignment from Reddington. When Jennifer asks how she can go on pretending, she responds, “I’ve spent the last five years learning to act at the feet of a master—it’s my turn to outperform him.” And it seems dramatic one-liners come down through the paternal line because Jennifer adds that payback is bitch… “especially when there’s two of them.”
(Recap continued on next page…)
So, to recap the recap, Liz knows that this Raymond Reddington is not her father, but she doesn’t know if this Raymond Reddington knows she knows, and before this turns into a Friends episode, let’s just up the confusion ante a little bit more: the week’s Blacklister, per Red’s assignment, is a plastic surgeon who serves the criminal underworld by sculpting their faces into brand new identities. Sound familiar?
There’s been a rare siting of Dr. Hans Koehler, so the Post Office sets about trying to track him down from Red’s tip. Ressler, always good for this kind of thing, is all, Uhhhh, did everyone just forget that Reddington shot an unarmed man in FBI custody so that he could keep his bag-of-bones a secret? At the time Cooper tells him making a deal with the devil comes at a price, he reminds Liz later that the deal is still breakable if the devil is being too devil-y to her. It’s actually very sweet how Cooper doesn’t want to protect Liz from Red, but our girl is in more of a “take this dupe-daddy down at all costs” mood these days. And as she tells Jennifer when they meet back up, time is of the essence, because it seems like Red might be onto them; y’know, on account of trying to find a doctor who changes criminal faces and identities.
But the sisters end up sidetracked when Jennifer tells Liz that she’s made a connection from their pasts: Liz knows she was taken to a hotel in Dover, Delaware, after the fire that killed their father, and Jennifer remembers going to a beach house with her parents less than an hour away from there. Jennifer thinks that’s where RRR might have taken Liz all those years ago when Katarina found them, and she’s got an old newspaper printout proclaiming “Rehobeth Beach Blaze Destroys House” to prove it. “You know what that means?” Liz asks. “Hell yeah—road trip,” Jennifer answers. Now we’re having fun!
The Post Office has identified who Dr. Koehler was operating on when he was spotted in D.C., and Red knows just the gambling establishment in which to find his old criminal acquaintance, Basil Vladokis, new face or no. He recognizes Basil’s voice, and after a few rounds of Orange Whips, informs the man that he’ll need to put him in touch with Dr. Koehler in whatever way he knows how. That turns out to be a nurse who is available for emergencies, who begrudgingly tells Red that Koehler texted her just the other day from France where he’s been on an extended vacation.
Dark vacations are a theme here as Jennifer and Liz pull up to their family’s former beach home, burned to the foundation, much of their past with it. “This is where it happened, the fire,” Liz says, looking on with rising recognition. “This is where I killed our father.”
Well, that’s news to Jennifer, and the look on her face is pretty priceless, but after a little more explanation, Jennifer tells her sister she has nothing to be sorry about. Then Liz drops the fact that Red, uh, removed her memories of the fire: “He said he did it to protect me when what he was really doing was protecting himself so that I would never question who he really was.” To be fair, Liz questioned who Red was pretty constantly until one season ago, but I get where she’s coming from…
The longtime owner of the lot where the house burned pulls up, asking if they’re the ones claiming to be Raymond Reddington’s kids. They tell him they haven’t seen their father in 30 years, and that they barely knew him, but they do know that before the night of the fire, “he was a fine man, and then after, he changed.” They think whoever was in the house the night it burned down knows why, and they want this man’s help finding them. But before they can get any answers, Aram calls, saying someone else has been found: Dr. Koehler, and oops, he already told Reddington where he is because Liz didn’t tell him they’re in the middle of a secret mission to take Reddington down. Have you learned nothing about secrets, Elizabeth?! (Put a pin in that thought.)
(Recap continued on next page…)
As usual, Red gets to the location minutes before the FBI, and as it turns out, Red considers Koehler an old friend. That makes it all the worse then to find that Koehler has been shot by the man who he just gave a new identity to. It seems Koehler and his team were forced to perform surgery on this man—in chains and at gunpoint—for the last few weeks, and then he killed them all to ensure that no one alive could recognize his face.
When Red finds Koehler, he uses his last few breaths to whisper something in Red’s ear. Liz witnesses the exchange upon her arrival on the scene, and tells Red she thought they were past their “alternate agendas.” Red tells her their professional relationship is symbiotic—”I help you, you help me.” Lis wishes their personal relationship involved a little more honesty, bur Red responds that “being honest means one doesn’t lie, deceive, or cheat—where you are concerned, I don’t.”
I think I speak for all of us when I say: Fraymond Freddington, how very dare you!!!
Red heads to Dr. Koehler’s widow’s house, introduces himself as a friend of her husband, and says, “I’m here for the Picasso.” Apparently, that’s the word Koehler whispered to Red when he died, but Red’s interpretation is a little off; Picasso is not a painting, but a pug. Excuse me, an extremely rotund pug. Double-excuse me, and extremely rotund, taxidermied pug. And behind his collar is a thumb drive that—you guessed it, contains a dossier of Koehler’s former clients, including Raymond Reddington (“after”-edition). I think that brings the dossier count up to 5 million on this series, which is exactly how many dollars Red gives Mrs. Koehler to go into hiding from all the criminals who will surely be coming after this dossier soon.
The man who killed Koehler precisely to avoid making it on that list has been identified by the Post Office anyway as Bastien Moreau, but he possesses Reddington-like improvisational skills and managed to evade capture. But it wasn’t all for nothing…
Red and Liz sit down on a bench at the end of the episode, and he hands over the dossier thumb drive. “I meant what I said before about our relationship being symbiotic,” he tells her. “I help you; you help me; we help each other.” But Liz says she knows that one name will have been removed from this valuable list: his. “I prefer to keep my nips and tucks to myself—forgive an old man his vanity,” the man pretending to be Liz Keen’s father tells her. And the woman pretending not to know this Raymond Reddington is an imposter takes his hand in comfort…
And they sit there in silence, surely both thinking about how there are many kinds of symbiotic relationships, and this one has rarely, if ever, been a mutualistic one.
A Few Loose Ends:
- Warrior Gene, Alexander Kirk, recovered memories, Katarina Rostova, that key in that bottle that time—I would honestly love to see every loose end come back this season. Let’s just do it, man!
- Samar is alive (yay!!!), but perhaps not well, given the shifty eyes she does when the doctor asks if she’s noticed any signs that should keep her out of the field like, oh say, abnormal loss of memory (boo!!!).
- Am I remembering correctly that, in The Blacklist universe, Greyson Blaise was credited with being the last known thief of Poppy Flowers?
- I would like a loop of Red and Dembe doing Tai Chi in the park running in my brain forever. “Who are you and what have you done with Raymond Reddington,” Lizzie asks, flying a little too close to the sun.
- Just one of many decadent double-meaning lines in the season 6 premiere, my personal favorite perhaps being Red threatening Basil: “Can you imagine, all that nipping and tucking, the sucking and plucking, all that goes into changing a man’s face, creating a new identity, a new life, to then be outed by some old pal at the same old race track?” Well, sure ya can, Fred!
- That article Jennifer printed said firefighters found no human remains at the Rehobeth Beach house, and last we left the RRR sisters, they were planning on scouring burn victim records at the local hospitals…
- See you back here tomorrow, just to see if we still got it. (We do!)