The Blacklist recap: Take care, dummy
If being an international crime lord with a heart of gold is Raymond Reddington's first life on The Blacklist, and being a top-secret informant for a top-secret FBI task force is his second life, then being a small-town Lothario who sucks at bridge is his third life. As it turns out, three simultaneously lived lives is just one too many. Because wherever Raymond Reddington goes, there he still is — including when that place is the tiny hometown of a woman he fell in love with in Central Park, who he's since been happily using to escape the reality of lives 1 and 2.
Season 8 has seen a lot of change for Reddington. He made a friend in Harold Cooper, lost a confidante in Elizabeth Keen, and apparently fell in love with Anne — sweet, beautiful, lovely, and now completely endangered Anne. Because no matter how much he changes or grows, Red cannot outrun his past. "It may not be who you want to be," Dembe tells Reddington, speaking about his life that's filled with crazy-eyed Townsend, invisible Liz, and duties to the FBI instead of Anne. "But it's always who you are."
Dembe is right — we know it, and Reddington knows it too. So I especially appreciated the parallel, 165 episodes into The Blacklist's run, of watching Red once again walk into a law enforcement agency, put his hands above his head, declare himself a wanted fugitive, and turn himself over to the authorities in order to protect a woman he loves. Some things never change…
And so the question must be raised, especially given the parallel of those two very women coming face to face by episode's end: Are Reddington's intentions to protect Anne just as doomed by secrets as his intentions to protect Liz have been? And if so, how can Reddington protect both when one stands as a direct threat to the other?
This episode opens somewhere between a sitcom and a rom-com. Reddington's eyes are glazed over with hearts as his accountant rambles on about Bitcoin, and later, as Dembe rambles on about the grave danger Townsend poses to Red, and how Red was the one who taught him that the only way to stay ahead of your enemies was to never create patterns for them to notice —
Yada, yada, yada, Reddington only wants to get to Anne, who he has apparently visited in Cottonwood Falls, Kan., five times since we last saw him regretfully stand her up for what should have been their final date in New York City. But now here he is, letting himself into Anne's home with the key she gave him for that very purpose, halfway-charming and halfway-annoying her friends with how bad he is at bridge. Her very best friend is Lois, a police officer who's weary of how little Anne knows about her new boyfriend, Ray.
Anne insists that she knows enough. She knows that Raymond is kind, and cultured, and he falls asleep during movies, no matter how much he swears he won't. She knows that his business is going through a difficult time because, as Red tells her, "Something that I have worked for many years to build and protect is at risk."
She just doesn't know he's Raymond Reddington. And so, she also doesn't know the kind of risk that his high-risk life poses to her. But it doesn't take long to find out, because Dembe was right: Two visits to Cottonwood Falls could be a coincidence, but five visits to Cottonwood Falls is a pattern noticeable enough to land Raymond and Anne's relationship on Townsend's radar. Red starts spotting nondescript vans around town during his weekend visit, and when he sees one near Anne's house, he sends her out for sandwiches. Then he marches across the street, confirms the man pretending to work for an electric company who actually works for Townsend, and promptly slits his throat right there on the sidewalk.
Honeymoon period = over.
Red rushes to town, dumps the sandwiches Anne bought, and starts gently forcing her off the street and into a store. Anne is scared and confused, two feelings that intensify when Red hands her a gun, pushes her inside a closet, and tells her to shoot if anyone opens the door.
Luckily, she doesn't have to do that…
But only because she winds up watching through the slatted door as her new boyfriend smothers the person who was about to shoot her. "I'm not who you think I am," Red tells Anne as he pulls her back out of the closet. "I have another life, and that life has found us here today — we are in danger, and I need to keep you safe." It's at this point that I have to assume Anne started wishing she'd just met someone the old-fashioned way (Tinder), instead of a romantic birdwatching meet-cute in Central Park.
At some point between the time that Red handed Anne a gun and the time they arrive at the police station, he must have told her a few details, because when Red marches into the station with his hands raised, Anne begs Lois to listen to what he has to say. Red tells Lois and the rest of the officers that he's the wanted fugitive Raymond Reddington, and he's turning himself over in order to protect Anne from the very bad men headed their way. In fact, they've already arrived. Townsend and his fleet of armed lackeys are surrounding the station as Reddington begs the chief to go into full lockdown mode. Ultimately, the chief complies, but when he refuses to send Reddington out to his death as Townsend demands, he gets shot clear through the head. The presumably bulletproof glass doesn't even slow the slug down.
The remaining officers get on the ground, and Lois takes over. She uncuffs Red and does as he says, commanding another officer to unlock their weapons cache, but she tells Reddington that the second this is over, she's arresting him. And if he tries to escape, she'll shoot him.
But there are quite a few second between now and then, during which one officer is killed and Lois is shot while getting the keys they need in order to barricade themselves inside the holding cell until the FBI gets there. Townsend and his men make it inside, and they're about to get through the holding cell door when everyone hears the sirens. Reddington tells Townsend to take his guns and go: "Then come find me when you're ready — I'll show you the proper way to exact revenge."
Now, if you're wondering if Anne and Lois have been upset by the reveal that Anne's new boyfriend is the most wanted criminal in the country, they are. Anne calls Red selfish for ignoring the fact that escaping into her life would inexorably draw her into his life as well. And of course, I've already mentioned Lois' promise to shoot Reddington if he tried to escape. And yet when the FBI agents show up at the holding cell, only Anne is left keeping pressure on Lois' wound. The head agent seems suspicious of Anne's claim that she didn't know anything about Reddington's true identity, but she assures him her life isn't so boring that she was willing to spice it up with an international fugitive.
But as it turns out, that's not entirely true! When Anne gets home, she pops her trunk, and out crawls Raymond Reddington. They hug, they kiss, she tells him which route Lois said would help him avoid the fleet of officers currently searching for him. Reddington says Anne was right about him being selfish, but she counters, "If I'm in trouble either way, why can't we be together?" He tells her she shouldn't be a part of what he's about to have to do, they make a plan for her to stay at her friend's cabin, and someday soon he'll signal her with a postcard when the coast is clear. "Thank you for all of it, every bit of it — except the bridge," Red says just before kissing Anne and departing…
Only to then pull a U-turn and speed back to Anne's house just moments after assuring Dembe that he was on his way to safety. I assume Red was going back to tell Anne that he changed his mind, and if she wants to come with him, he wants her to, because he wants to share all of his lives with her…
But we'll never know. Because when Red busts through the door with a goofy grin on his face, ready to declare his love, he finds Anne with a gun pointed at her head. Reddington chokes out one word, with nine letters instead of four: "Elizabeth."
A FEW LOOSE ENDS
- They really had me thinking we were about to get a Lizzie close-up in that final moment! I really thought Megan Boone was back! Who's the (bridge) dummy now?
- That "Angel of the Morning" music callback… absolute chef's kiss. There'll be no strings to bind your hands / Not if my love can't bind your heeeeeeart!
- The scenes where Red was soundly sleeping with Anne made me want to weep — a heretofore unseen level of vulnerability!
- I have always found Red's fedoras goofy, but it turns out that his small-town baseball cap is even goofier.
- "Take care, Anne." "Take care, dummy." I'm not crying, you're crying!
James Spader is Raymond "Red" Reddington, a mastermind criminal who teams up with the FBI.