The Blacklist recap: Reddington has no friends
The question of whether Raymond Reddington is Elizabeth Keen's father has existed for as long as The Blacklist has existed. For a long time, it was the driving mystery of the series, until eventually, that concentrated question became diluted by multiple storylines suggesting maybe he was, maybe he wasn't, or maybe the answer was something more complicated altogether. But whether Raymond Reddington is Elizabeth Keen's father or not — whether he's even Raymond Reddington or not — there's no doubt in episodes like these that he has long treated her like a child.
No, Reddington isn't out here reading bedtime stories, or tucking a cheese stick under his fedora just in case Liz gets hungry while she's running for her life. But when Liz screams at Reddington that he's not going to get a thank you for "saving" her when she's on the run because of him, and Reddington responds, "You're not wrong, and I understand your anger," I could actually hear myself talking veeeeery slowly to my nieces who don't understand why they can't have cake for every meal.
Reddington is taking the classic Magda Gerber approach, where you show your toddler respect and empathy by acknowledging that you understand what they want, even if you can't allow them to have it for their own safety. Because toddlers are hardwired to push limits and explore boundaries, and you only have to spend a few minutes with one to know that "why" is their favorite question. But here's the thing: Liz isn't a toddler. She's a 35-year-old woman that has been stuck in the "why" phase of her relationship with Reddington eight-ish years. Reddington says he keeps Liz in the dark to protect her, but if he just keeps saying "I told you so" without ever telling her why she's in danger, Liz will never understand his secretiveness as protection—she'll just see that he doesn't respect her.
And yet, there's no un-ringing this Reddington bell. As a result of his secrets, and her boundary pushing, Liz is no longer an FBI agent, and prison time is almost a promise at this point. Unless, or course, these two opposing forces can come together again to face the future that has probably been inevitable all along, no matter how many times Reddington has told Liz not to touch the hot stove. Sometimes getting burned is the only way to learn.
BALTHAZAR "BINO" BAKER, NO. 129
I'm frankly shocked that it took the series this long to cast Mike Starr as a titular Blacklister. And though his number is high, Balthazar "Bino" Baker's impact is…also high, surprisingly. Not many Blacklisters turn on Raymond Reddington because they're more scared of someone else, after all.
The episode opens right where the last one left off, with Liz under arrest by the Task Force, and being escorted back to the Post Office by Ressler and an armed convoy. As Reddington is insisting to Cooper that nothing the FBI can do through their legal pipelines will be enough to protect Liz from Townsend, that convoy is, indeed, infiltrated by Townsend's men. They shoot up the car Liz is riding in, killing the driver and — gasp — putting a bullet is Ressler's chest. During the wreckage, Liz and Ressler are able to take off on foot, but it's not looking good for Ressler's lung. When Liz opens Ressler's shirt to tend to his wound in an abandoned building, I briefly thought things might get sexy, but instead, they just got…squishy.
He is bleeding a lot, and yet Ressler is still trying to get Liz to leave him behind in order to save herself from Townsend, but she refuses. She fishes out his phone and tells him to call Cooper for help while she keeps an eye out for Townsend's men. But when Ressler hands the phone over to Liz…it's Reddington on the other end of the line. Earlier in the episode, Liz accused Ressler of "holding onto a reality that doesn't exist" with his hopes that everything could still turn out okay for her, but it looks like he's the one being realistic now. Because Ressler knows that Reddington is the only one who can get them out of this mess — and Liz knows it too.
And they're both sort of right. Reddington has contacted Balthazar "Bino" Baker, a mover of money in the 7th Ward where Townsend's men are playing their analogue game of cat-and-mouse with Liz and Ressler. Reddington says that Bino has eyes on every corner of the neighborhood, and if anyone can get them out of Townsend's crosshairs, it's Bino.
So after speaking with Reddington, Bino arranges for his carriers to take Liz and Ressler from a bar, to a sewer, to a makeshift operating room in the back of a Chinese restaurant once Ressler's breathing is gets too bad to keep moving…
But that's where the pipeline dries up. Because Bino soon finds out that Reddington is running from Neville Townsend, a fact that Reddington failed to disclose in their initial meeting, which Bino is none too happy about. Or as he tells Reddington when he informs him the deal is off: "Bottom line — I'm more scared of him than I am of you." Now that's not something you hear everyday on The Blacklist. This episode definitely wants us to think that Townsend is scary, going out of its way to call him some variant of "a madman" at least 12 times. But to me, the only thing that separates Reddington and Townsend is that Townsend occasionally zips someone into a leather bag and gets his sweat on. It's not great, but it's not enough to make him a Reddington-level threat.
But for right now, at least, they're on the same level because they have the same goal: find Elizabeth Keen, who we know is currently in the back of a Chinese restaurant, staring down at a stable but unconscious Ressler, telling him that she loves him. Earlier, he told her the same in the back of a hearse, but he also told her that he feels like so many of the irreparable things she's done are partially his fault. She tells him now that aside from being "sort of chauvinistic," thinking that he's had any sort of negative influence on her is crazy. "I live in a world where people aren't who they seem to be, and it's hard to know what who to believe," Liz tells him. "But you've always been there — the real you, telling me the truth. And I love you for that."
I really hope that somewhere in his subconscious mind, Ressler heard her. Because at that exact moment, Bino shows up and informs Liz that they're no longer playing for the same side. And even though Liz offers to team up to kill Reddington in order to really prove Bino's allegiance to Townsend, Bino says he'll be taking her directly to him instead, as his personal apology for briefly helping Reddington.
But at least some people are still afraid of Raymond Reddington and that gun he's always discreetly pulling out of a trench coat, so he is able to trace Bino's pipeline all the way to the Chinese restaurant/hospital. He sends Aram and Park to retrieve Ressler, who's able to report with the little breath he has where Bino took Liz.
Just as it seems like Townsend is about to arrive to claim his prize, Reddington busts through the doors instead, shooting Bino and his men without hesitation. But as he turns to grab Liz so they can escape before Townsend arrives, he finds a gun pointed at him. "Elizabeth, I'm certainly not looking for a thank you, but this does seem uncalled for," he deadpans. So Liz reminds him that it's not exactly saving her when he's the reason someone wants her dead. "They're all dead because of you," Liz cries: "Tom, Esi, Jennifer, my mother — I can't take it anymore!"
That's when Red tells her that he understands her anger. He tells her that everything he's been afraid of, everything he's tried to prevent from happening to her and Agnes is happening because the secrets he's been keeping have come out. And then finally he tells her the thing that grown-up kids just need to hear from their maybe-parents sometimes: "I'm sorry, I've tried so hard for so long to protect you from all of this, and I've failed."
As Liz lowers her gun, Townsend and his men begin surrounding the building.
A FEW LOOSE ENDS
- I always prefer my Liz and Reddington working together, even when it’s toxic and codependent, so I’m hoping the lowering of Liz’s gun represents a new chapter. Also hoping they make it out of this alive!
- Also hoping Ressler regains the use of his poor lung!
- I don’t like the guy, but Townsend handing out cash to children from his armored car was pretty hilarious.
- “I’m out of time Walter, and it’s not your fault, but I’m making it your problem,” is a great line.
- There’s an ongoing chess metaphor in this episode that I simply couldn't take on; The Queen’s Gambit met my chess quota for the calendar year.
- Is the restaurantspital the new warehouspital? That name is still in workshop…open to suggestions.
(Video courtesy of NBC)