The Blacklist – Midseason Finale – Recap: Running Red
Recap and review of The Blacklist – Episode 10 – Midseason Finale – Anslo Garrick, Part 2:
I’ve come to really enjoy The Blacklist in the short few months it’s been on, even admitting that there are occasional issues with its procedural format. The ensemble performances remain largely strong, anchored as they are by the work of James Spader, and while the writing often indulges in the cliches of serialized thrillers, I find the pacing to be taut and propulsive, so that no misstep is allowed to linger before we’re off to our next setpiece. And there are fitting character moments interspersed throughout, helping us to know these people at a deeper level — and earlier — than many first year crime thrillers would allow. This is all a pretty roundabout way of saying that while “Anslo Garrick, Part 2″ isn’t perfect, it’s a hell of a midseason finale for the show.
One of the big things I liked about the episode is that the entire narrative could be broken down into an exhaustive series of pros and cons. Last week gave us the cliffhanger of Luli (Deborah S. Craig) and Dembe (Hisham Tawfiq) being killed off, with Red (James Spader) having little choice but to watch in horror from his containment cell. Meanwhile, Ressler (Diego Klattenhoff) remains on death’s door, slipping in and out of consciousness when he isn’t in severe shock from all the blood loss to his leg. And all the while, Anslo Garrick (Ritchie Coster) keeps Assistant Director Cooper (Harry Lennix) and Malik (Parminder Nagra) hostage along with a host of other operatives while Liz (Megan Boone) and Aram (Amir Arison) attempt to restore communications to central command. And so, when “Anslo Garrick, Part 2″ kicks off, the pieces have already been set on the proverbial chess board, and we can simply get to shifting them around. Yet for every moment of triumph comes a moment of defeat, so let’s look at the episode in terms of those halves:
Pro: Dembe isn’t dead after all! Turns out the gunshot we heard as we went to black last week was Aram shooting the mercenary who’d captured Liz at the end of the episode. So Dembe, thankfully, lives to see another day.
Con: Except now Liz is in harm’s way. Garrick’s men quickly capture her and place her in Dembe’s place, commanding Red to open the cell or watch Lizzie die. Red comes pretty close to losing his mind, as he shocks Ressler awake and then puts a gun to his head, ordering the Agent to give him the code to open the cell, declaring that although he may have just saved his life, circumstances have now changed. Cooper orders Ressler not to give up the code, and a horrified Tom (Ryan Eggold) flips out when Liz’s phone rings and Garrick answers with the threat that he intends to put a bullet in her brain. It all seems fairly hopeless until Ressler reveals the passcode for the cell: R-O-M-E-O. Red, relieved, is back to being smug with Garrick, but that smugness quickly turns to bitterness when Garrick decides to take Liz with them to whatever secret destination they’re headed.
Pro: But Liz escapes from captivity, shocking her captors with defibrillator paddles while in the back of an ambulance with Red (Garrick’s henchmen were busy surgically extracting Red’s FBI tracking chip). Liz commandeers a vehicle and gives chase, and this segment isn’t exactly high octane, but I found it to be pretty exciting just the same, as Liz and the FBI follow the tracking chip, unaware that it’s no longer in Red’s body, but in a surgical glove being held by a cyclist under Garrick’s employ. Liz gains ground, but…
Con: …it’s too late. Garrick has gotten away with Red, having taken him to a secure, unknown location. And it’s there where the gruesome business truly begins, as Garrick has Red injected with drugs that will heighten his nerve responses. In essence, a strong gust of wind would be so keenly felt that he would beg for death. However, as much as he might want to, Garrick can’t actually kill Red just yet. It turns out that Garrick isn’t actually doing this for his own revenge. He’s actually working for someone, a person who has ordered Red captured and brought to him for interrogation. The shadowy, mysterious man (Alan Alda) who is apparently a former associate of Red’s who represents the interests of a faction with which Red has been loosely affiliated over the past twenty years. It’s a very ambiguous conversation, as the mystery man makes reference to something Red has (information?) that will presumably be lost if he turns up dead. He also makes reference to an “arrangement” they’ve had for Red to keep “our secrets secret” — an arrangement that has now been compromised by Red’s decision to turn himself in to the FBI. But Red insists that nothing has changed, and tells the mystery man that his reasons for joining up with the FBI have nothing to do with him, or with the shadowy organization behind this all. The mystery man states he hopes so, since there’s nowhere for Red to run where they can’t find him.
It’s a brief but chilling scene for Alan Alda, a TV legend whose gravitas alone can make up for any vagueries in character. He plays well off of Spader, who looks utterly defeated as Red wears a face of grim resignation. For whatever reason, Red is resolutely committed to seeing things through with the FBI (or, more pointedly, with Liz), but outside forces are working to make that more and more difficult with each passing week. It’s the best scene in an episode that takes a more methodical approach to character development, eschewing the high-wire thriller sensibility of last week’s episode. And this isn’t the only good thing, as…
Pro: …Liz is able to track down Red’s location through a protracted series of sequences. In the first, Liz discovers that the house across the street has been the home to the shadowy organization monitoring her over the course of the series so far, and she makes short work of one of the henchmen tasked with surveillance. Panicked, she uses the information Red gave her earlier and calls “Mr. Kaplan,” a fixer for Red who has only two directives: 1) Keep Lizzie safe, and 2) Locate Red. And so Kaplan and Liz use the henchman’s GPS to discover a warehouse from which Garrick’s men have been surveilling the entire FBI, allowing Cooper to get approval from Director Fowler (Jane Alexander) to continue with the investigation in order to clean up an even bigger potential mess than Garrick breaching an FBI black site. Back at HQ, Liz teams with Malik to track down a decomissioned black site where Red is likely being holed up, but…
Con: …by the time they get there, Red has disappeared, having murdered Garrick with the split end of a pair of scissors before undoing his cuffs and making his hasty exit. Liz is dejected, but…
Pro: …she does get a call from Red later. She explains the gravity of the situation, that he’s essentially a wanted man whom Fowler has declared the one and only target of the Blacklist, but Red apparently has pressing matters to attend to, though we don’t know what they are. We just know he’s blending into the crowd in (what appears to be) New York City, avoiding all FBI detection now that his tracking chip is out. However, before the call is through, we do get two big bombshells: Liz asks Red, point-blank, if he’s her father…and Red confesses that he is not. Liz has hardly had the chance to recover from her disappointment (or relief?) before Red lays another one on her: she still needs to be wary of her husband. He tells Liz that if she ever needs his aid, he’ll be there for her, but he doesn’t offer any clues as to his location, or any reasons as to why he’s on the run, or what it is he has to do that requires him to go on the lam. As for Liz, it’s looking like her FBI career might be over, as Tom is desperate for her to move to Nebraska with him after the close call with Garrick. Most of the boxes in her house have been packed, except for the burned, stuffed animal from the fire she witness as a little girl. (Oh, symbols) But don’t be sad! Ressler is going to make it! He even gets to pal around with his ex-fiance. Sure, she’s about to get married to a new guy, but they seem to be getting along famously at the end there.
Con: And that’s it for the Blacklist until January.
“Anslo Garrick, Part 2″ isn’t hallmark television, but it advances the season-long narrative in substantial fashion, completing last week’s arc to make for one hell of a two-parter. Really, I could easily imagine both episodes being screened together as a movie, of sorts. And I would guess it would totally work as one, to boot. But beyond how the episodes worked together, they worked individually. Among other things, we learn that there’s a mole in the FBI, and though I kind of rolled my eyes at the prospect of another cliche “espionage mole” twist in a TV thriller, we actually have more candidates here than most. My money’s on Aram, just because the show made no effort to introduce us to this guy before the two-parter began. But I really hope I’m wrong, because Aram seems like such an uninspired choice. I guess we’ll see when the show returns at midseason. As for now, The Blacklist has done a fine job remaining consistently compelling throughout its first season so far.
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