The Blacklist recap: Season 2 midseason finale
“Do you have it?” It’s question Red was faced with twice tonight, by two opposing forces. It’s also the kind of the question The Blacklist itself was facing after a somewhat predictable season, at least compared to the jaw-dropping one that preceded it.
Does The Blacklist still have it? This season’s self-proclaimed “huge reveals” have all been largely foreshadowed in previews and Voice commercial breaks: Tom behind the door, Zoe as Berlin’s daughter, Fitch as Berlin and Red’s common enemy. But, The Blacklist stuck the landing where it counted tonight, when we finally got to see what all of those reveals mean to the world of Red and Lizzie,. After the plethora of reveals in the last 10 minutes—or as NBC marketing would say, “You won’t believe the. LAST. TEN. MINUTES”—my jaw has resumed its formerly gaping position.
Season 1 focused on creating a world in which Red could be the number one criminal in America, hunting down other terrible criminals with the help of his specially chosen Padawan and her slightly more able special task force. Season 2 has focused on filling out those characters in order for them to make sense within Red’s magnetic orbit. Many have agreed that Season 2 hasn’t had quite the “Okay, just one more episode”-on-Netflix appeal that the first season did, and I think that’s mostly due to a shift toward more character-based surprises, rather than shocking glimpses into Red’s network of criminal activity.
And, honestly, Lizzie… it’s had a lot to do with the emphasis on Keen this season. Jon Bokencamp is pretty big on considering audience feedback, so I have to assume that if he’s heard our cries about Lizzie’s incompetence, they’re being mostly ignored with purposeful intent. Often when a series focuses on one particular agent/officer/detective, it’s because that agent is somehow special; they’re highly intuitive, or experienced, or have some sort of super power. By the end of the Fall Finale, it’s certain that there’s nothing extraordinary about Agent Elizabeth Keen, beyond for her mysterious connection Red. She is strictly human.
Though watching Liz transform into Semi-Dark Liz has been interesting—and a great turn for Megan Boone—tonight we realize not only that Lizzie has sacrificed her integrity as an FBI agent to keep Tom captive, but also that she can’t fully commit to that action in any way that could possibly give her significant power. Lizzie has dealt with Raymond Reddington turning her life upside down exactly as any average human would: horribly. She’s trying her best, but as Tom informs her, she’s simply not prepared for the life that’s been thrust upon her. This is both frustrating and understandable to an audience full of average people who prefer their characters to be extraordinary. But that’s why we (and Lizzie) have Red to pick up the pieces.
THE DECEMBRIST, NO. 12
The episode appropriately opens on the beginning of Lizzie’s fall from her once autonomous glory, with a flashback to the day that she was meant to kill Tom and didn’t. We learn through a sprint of a scene that she’s had Tom captive for over four months, taking him the moment after she shot him in last season’s finale, lying to Red, getting her friend to risk her medical license to save his life, and putting in a sweet offer to secure that warehouse on the water where she’s been harboring him ever since. And while I’ve been dying to know the details of Tom’s capture, it turns out the most interesting ones to hear are the questions she’s been asking him. Liz swings wildly from inquiring about Berlin to demanding answers on loose ends (Gina Zanetakos!!!) to personal betrayals—who were the guests at their wedding, Tom?
It all leads up to a repeat of the scene from last episode in which Tom asks Liz to just look him in the eye when she kills him. We find Red in the exact same place, as well, still standing with Zoe and her father after he so helpfully mended their branch of the Berlin family tree. Or rather, that’s the Kirchhoff family tree, as Zoe informs Red that her fathers’ former identity was Milos Kirchhoff. Berlin fills in the rest: In 1991, with the Soviet Union falling, he and a group of remaining Soviet officers had a meeting to discuss how to fight back against the progressives that was interrupted by a big ol’ bomb. It was called the Kirsk Bombing. 15 men were killed, and with them, the Soviet resistance.
With rumors of American involvement, one name rose to the top of the suspect list: Red’s. Shortly after the bombing, Berlin’s daughter was exposed to his former allies as a dissident and thrown into prison, while he was exiled to The Gulag, and as we know, sent her body piece by piece. Or so he thought. Zoe tells them there was a man who helped her escape; she never met him or knew his name, but to the people who got her out of prison, he was known as the Decembrist.
NEXT: The enemy of my enemy is my friend
Red immediately starts trying to track down the man who framed him and started his war with Berlin. As always, he brings Liz right into the fold for some extra FBI assistance (in what is most assuredly is not something under the FBI’s jurisdiction). While Mr. Brimley, last seen interrogating Meera the Mole in “The Cypress Agency,” interrogates someone with loud rock music in a dingy apartment, Red informs Liz that even though Berlin killed her co-worker, gutted Agent Cooper, and made a man betray her in a way that’s ensured she’ll really never trust again, they need to keep him around, because he’s “merely a pawn who’s been tragically manipulated.” Sound familiar, Lizzie?
It must, because she agrees and ropes the Post Office gang into investigating the Kirsk Bombing—even though Ressler is majorly hesitant to help the guy who’s been after them and Reddington achieve their personal vengeance goals. Alas, Cooper says yes, and Aram digs into the old files from the bombing. He discovers that Russian officials found DNA on a coffee tin that they weren’t able to trace at the time; Aram can now identify it as Kiryl Morozkov’s, a former low level operative turned Putin’s Minister of Finance.
Even though the Deputy Attorney General tells their task force explicitly not to, Cooper lets Liz hand the name over to Red. And while she’s busy misappropriating FBI time and funds, there is some stuff going down at Lizzie’s Torture Chamber by the Sea. You see, the harbor master got a call about someone trespassing. He came around once while Liz was there; she flashed around her badge and said she was already looking into it. But then he goes back and discovers Tom while Ramone is on a smoke break, only to have Ramone come back and capture the harbor master as well, for fear of being found out and arrested.
Lizzie arrives back at the boat to find an innocent man bleeding on the ground, her spy ex-husband with a beard that’s all her fault, and her bodyguard terrified that he’s about to go to prison for the rest of his life. Finally, she realizes that she is totally out of control of this situation. Tom tells her she has to kill the witness, and while she’s distracted by the harbor master saying that he can pretend this never happened, Tom loops his arms over a beam and begins strangling the harbor master with his ankle chains.
In agreement that they have to get rid of the man, Ramone grabs Lizzie so she can’t stop Tom. But she shoots him in the foot and turns her gun on Tom… who doesn’t stop strangling the man… and Lizzie doesn’t shoot him. Because Lizzie is simply incapable of stopping people from doing the thing that they are doing while her gun is pointed at them. After he’s murdered the man, Tom tells her, “I think you need to call Mr. Kaplan.” Tom is such an ass.
In Moscow, Red and Berlin hastily corner Morozkov. When Berlin gets him against the wall, Morozkov asks him who he is. In response, Berlin utters maybe the best line ever on The Blacklist from a non-Red character: “I am retribution.” Indeed, he is, but Morozkov is not the Decembrist. He was just taking orders from the Decembrist, one Alan Fitch. Red tells Berlin that Fitch is his to deal with, but Belin tells him even more simply, “Fitch is dead.” They part ways.
The Decembrist could really only ever have been Fitch, but I did not know that Red would call a meeting with him by delivering a huge arrangement of white lilies to an official government meeting. It’s a lot to ask the audience to remember Assistant Director of National Intelligence Alan Fitch, last seen in Season 1 and not really mentioned since. But his absence has been a heavy one, considering his delicate agreement with Red: He protects Red from his colleagues wanting to lock him up, and Red protects a big secret that Fitch has with his Alliance.
Red reminds Fitch of that treaty: “I don’t go after you, you don’t go after me.” But Red is just a young buck, and Fitch tells him that Berlin far predates their agreement. So Red takes him to Red’s Story Corner: A long time ago, someone left a picture of a girl on the body of an associate of his. Red it traced back to the Stewmaker (whom you may remember from your nightmares). The Stewmaker told him that the girl was sent to him by a man he’d never met. She was told she needed to disappear—so he took a picture of her appearing to be dead, and sent it to her father in prison.
That mystery man was Fitch, and Red tells him that because of his actions as the Decembrist, Berlin is coming for him. Fitch reminds Red that he’s been protecting the criminal all these years; without Fitch, Red’s associates will likely pounce him: “This is as much your problem as it is mine.”
Word has spread that Fitch is in danger, so Homeland Security picks him up from his meeting. Then Homeland Security promptly turns around and shoots the guard that came with Fitch, because, well, it’s not Homeland Security. Those are Berlin’s men, and it looks like he didn’t get to Fitch first—but he’ll probably get at him last.
NEXT: Uh oh, Dad knows Lizzie had a boy in her room…
With every plan gone to hell, Red shows up at the Post Office to tell Lizzie she’s been pretty obvious about this whole Tom-on-a-boat thing. And, you guys, he’s not mad… he’s just disappointed. Lizzie tries to explain, but Red already knows why she kept this from him: because she doesn’t want to admit that she’s still in love with her fake husband.
So, strung out on love and an emotional wreck, Liz heads to the boat because she can only make this right by using Tom to find Fitch. Unfortunately for Liz, Tom seems pretty confident that even though he’s chained up, he’s in control of the situation—probably because of how much she’s crying during the interrogation. He tells her he’s given her all the information he possibly could have from inside a boat, and points out the obvious problem of keeping him there: There’s a dead body of an innocent man lying nearby, and another witness wandering around with a shot foot, probably ready to come back and finish things off.
Liz tells Tom that she needs “information, not advice,” which is not entirely true. But Tom still more or less manipulates her into letting him out with the promise of locating Berlin. Once out, he does at least track down Fitch’s location. He calls into Berlin with his old tracking information, and Berlin gives him an address. Then Lizzie just lets him walk into the sunset, in his hoodie with no t-shirt under it and prisoner beard.
But when the FBI shows up, there’s no Berlin in sight: just Alan Fitch with a clunky infinity-scarf-bomb circled around his neck. They send in a bomb-bot to scope it out. The bomb squad leader says they have to get their controlled detonation vehicle to transport Fitch, which could take a while—unless they happen to have “another RF-resistant armored box that fits two.” Ha. Ha. It just so happens they have a pretty explosive pal they used to keep a closer eye on, and their box fits four.
All of our FBI agents watch a surveillance feed from the Post Office as Fitch is put in the plastic Magneto box with multiple bomb squad officers, who quickly find that it’s going to be just about impossible to disarm the bomb. With one officer left in the box, Fitch reminisces about all the people who have died on his orders: 763 men and women with families, and he doesn’t want it to be one more. He dismisses the man and asks for Red. It’s a pretty sympathetic moment that I was not expecting, from man I understand very little about.
Red comes to the box, and Fitch has about three minutes’ worth of extremely important information tell him (and us). He’s been holding everyone in his mystery Alliance off of Red, convincing them that letting him live is the best thing. But most of them aren’t so sure. They’re not so sure he even has… it.
“Do you have it, Ray? Do you have the Fulcrum?”
Fitch says that his death will trigger a series of events: “The moderates are already outnumbered. The closer we get to 2017, the more radicalized they’ll become. Talk to Mitchell and Hobbs—they might be persuaded. Jasper sides with the Chinese.” He tells Red about a safe, and gives him the combination: 8-30-44, his wife’s birthday. The safe is in St. Petersberg, in a wall on the second floor. But before he can tell Red any more, well… his entire body explodes, coating the wall Red’s been staring through. The entire conversation comes off not exactly as the parting of two friends, but at least of two men who understand each other.
Now it’s time to deal with the other man who’s been plaguing Red for years. Red uses Zoe one last time to get to Berlin, giving her a new identity and money to get away in return. He has Berlin, two chairs, two crystal shot glasses, and a bottle of vodka waiting for them to celebrate the death of their common enemy. Red unties Berlin, and they pour shot after shot—and then Red shoots him three times.
With two long-open ends tied up, there’s just one left for the time being. Lizzie arrives at her boat to clean up after the dead body with a really sad little bucket of cleaning products. Red is already there waiting for her. He’s always there waiting for her. When he starts in on his disappointment talk again, Lizzie says they found Fitch because of Tom. But surely she knows she’s just a pawn in a game much bigger than she is. She breaks down about not being able to kill Tom; she told herself by not killing him she was using him, that it meant she was finally in control. Red tells her, “When you love someone, you have no control. That’s what love is—being powerless.”
They share a comforting embrace that should probably imply that Red loves Lizzie in such a way—yet his complete control, his power over every situation, suggests the opposite. Liz is living in a world she’s not equipped for, surrounded by people who are equipped for it—none more than Red.
Tom walks into a restaurant and sits down with Red, to the tune of Great Sky’s “Other Lives” (“Are you a dead man or a fake?”. Because where else was this headed?
“Do you have it?”
In response, Red gives Tom an envelope much like the one he gave Zoe, but we don’t actually see its contents. He tells Tom he’s never to see Lizzie again. Never. To. See. Her. Again.
“For what it’s worth, I spent four months on that ship chained up, and I never told her about us. Not one word.”
A few loose ends
–The lingering question at the end, although it’s probably not the most important, is what was Tom’s involvement with Red, and when did they have time to team up? There were certainly points in the series where they truly did not know each other.
–So, what is this “fulcrum”? Webster’s describes the word as “the support on which a lever moves when it is used to lift something,” or something that plays a central role in movement. That is both vague and exciting
–I didn’t really mention Ressler’s showdown with Tom, because I’m not sure what to say about it. Liz brings Ressler with her to handle Tom once she’s turned him loose. He’s very upset with her, and basically says he’ll have to turn her in. But then he doesn’t. He says, “Hey pal, I’m coming for you,” as Tom walks away, shortly following their shoving match. So, where is that relationship headed?
–What was harder to stomach: Watching an Alan Fitch smoothie hit that wall, or watching Red and Berlin take down 10 shots of vodka in a row?
–Any theories on how Zoe (played by 32-year-old Scottie Thompson) was going to prison in 1991—or that timeline in general—are welcome.
–WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN IN 2017???
I was pleased that the typical mid-season cliffhangers were absent, but there was still enough suspense to bring us into the latter half of Season 2. With the series’ two main villains dead, there is still a sense that there’s plenty more story to tell, and that’s a good place to be. What did you think of the Fall Finale? Did you feel like the more predictable reveals made sense once it was clear how Tom, Zoe and Fitch all linked together? Finally, what are you most excited to learn more about come February?
James Spader is Raymond "Red" Reddington, a mastermind criminal who teams up with the FBI.