The Blacklist S02E16
For an episode that sees Reddington and the gang tracking down Tom Keen in attempt to save Elizabeth from being charged with murder, the latest instalment of The Blacklist is surprisingly full of awwww moments.
As you might’ve guessed, the Blacklister of the week is Tom Keen – not in an attempt for Reddington to overtake his empire, or to lock him up and throw away the key, but rather to save Liz’s neck from the chopping block. While Liz is busy off deflecting government-hating Judges and dogged cops, Red enlists Ressler, Navabi and Amar on their own little mission to track down Tom. When Reddington explains the situation to those three, Navabi quips that Tom killing the harbour master to save Liz is “extremely romantic”, which effectively sets up the rest of the episode – people doing immoral and stupid things for the ones they love.
Red’s definitely wearing his ‘Team Keen’ hat this episode – Keen as in Elizabeth, not you Tom who ruined all this carefully laid plans and then threw his manipulation of Liz back in his face. He refuses to give up on the possibility of saving Liz from the fate of her own making (all together now, 1…2….3….Awww!), and goes as far to ruin Tom’s carefully crafted and tattooed cover. Well done to all the actors involved in that particular scene, because the push and shove between Red/Ressler and Tom and the rest of the drug dealing gang was intense.
Tom, for his part, talks a strong game – he’s probably one of the only people, bar Liz, to actually throw Red’s faults back in his face without fear, which I commend him for. He points out that Reddington has manipulated Liz just as much as Not!Tom (seriously, what is this dude’s real name?) has, which seems to have a lasting effect on Reddington. But for all his big talk, he manages to show up, in Washington, in the nick of time just before the judge delivers his ruling and saves Keen’s skin.
Meanwhile, while Liz’s Not-Father and Not-Husband are running circles around each other, Cooper descends on Keen with all the wrath he possesses and reads her the riot act for making him perjure himself. He’s less than impressed with what Keen has been turning into, and he’s not afraid to let her know it. His lecture, however, is somewhat interrupted when he collapses in front of her and needs to be rushed to the hospital – which leads us to more awwww moments, as Liz discovers the truth of Cooper’s condition – brain tumour – and they bond once more over his hospital bed.
The rest of the episode wraps up fairly quickly – Tom is taken into custody, and then promptly released because reasons; Connolly, who helped control the judge, tells Cooper he has leverage over him now, in a manner that makes you think that he’s not joking; the task force gets a bogus reason for Cooper’s collapse. It is the last few minutes, however, that are spectacular moments of television: Reddington finds Keen as she sets up a scholarship fund for the dead cop’s daughter and lays his heart out. She can give as much as she can, but it won’t assuage the guilt she feels. It’s pretty obvious that Red is talking about Keen here, and kudos to James Spader for his teary-eyed deliverance in his scene. I could take or leave Megan Boone’s acting, but Spader is a god amongst mere mortals in this show and continues to prove it whenever the writers give him the chance. Speech delivered, Reddington wanders off to god knows where before Keen gets a phone call from Tom, who just wants to make sure that the woman he spent years deceiving, and tried to kill once or twice, and who held him prisoner and tortured him, was doing okay.
(P.S. I’m pretty sure that, between Red and Tom, men have been ruined for Liz. She is never, ever, going to be able to have a functional relationship again. Like ever.)
This is definitely the sort of episode I wish we got more of from The Blacklist. No doubt, the premise of the show limits how many heart-tugging, emotional episodes like this you can pack into a season, but its very refreshing to see The Blacklist go in for the heartstrings without resorting to a ‘never again’ speech from Keen. The episode balances story progression, James Spader worshipping, action elements and the emotional heart of the episode brilliantly, and is likely to be remembered as one of the greats.
Review by Hannah Fitzpatrick.
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