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“How reminiscent of elementary school.”
This Red quote basically sums up the little game that he and Lizzie are playing this week. That’s not a criticism. It’s actually adorable. It’s like The Blacklist: Domestic Squabble Edition.
The episode opens to find that Elizabeth is just so done with everything. She’s literally giving Red the silent treatment and gives Director Harold her resignation, knowing full well that it will eliminate Red’s immunity and mean the end of the task force. She also, with Ressler’s help, tells the FBI the truth about Tom, leading to a full search of her apartment and an interrogation. An agent questions whether her hesitance to tell the FBI the truth was part of an attempt to aid Tom’s escape. “That is a really stupid question,” Liz tells him. I love how confident this character has become. She’s truly evolved into a new woman over the course of the season.
Red, meanwhile, is being equally as childish and difficult, responding to his protege’s silent treatment by be generally stubborn and by emotionally manipulating her into joining one final case, which connects directly to the mysterious Berlin and concerns a man recently killed by a non-airborne version of a rare, deadly virus. Liz agrees to the final case, but says she’s out afterwards, and she doesn’t care if he’s arrested. Sure, Liz. We totally believe you.
The man in question was infected with the Cullen virus, which Google says is not a real thing. After watching the guy cough up blood and collapse in a dying heap, I’m very relieved to hear that. In the show’s narrative, the Cullen virus is one of the deadliest of its kind, killing in hours. It’s so deadly, in fact, that even working on it has been declared illegal. It could kill as many people as the Spanish Influenza did, in just one day. Knowing this thing isn’t real makes this idea a bit overdramatic and silly, but it obviously freaks out the FBI.
Red tells the agents that this totally unrelated killing is the first step in Berlin’s attack against him, because clearly everything is about Red. Also, it’s apparently been definitively decided that Berlin is a person. Despite Red’s lack of modesty, he is (as usual) correct. The dead man was a average joe infected by an anonymous party as a blackmail tool. The FBI find there are, in fact, a whole group of sick people being sent scary blackmail videos. Each video instructs the party to do a small task, like open a door that they have a swipe card for. No one person has the whole picture, but when the five tasks are put together, they create a ingenious jailbreak scheme.
I say genius because it works, not because it’s a rational way for anyone to get someone out of jail. It’s one of the Luke Skywalker rescuing Han Solo plans that are exciting to watch but would never make sense in a real person’s mind. Why would you take the time for your associates to synthesize a non-airborne version of an airborne virus that is so dangerous it’s illegal, at great risk to those involved, take the time for your associates to synthesize a treatment for the incurable virus, and infect it in different people. Is that actually the easiest way to blackmail someone?
Still, the scheme does work out perfectly, due much to Malik and Ressler’s cute, but as usual, misguided and poorly executed attempts at stopping it, and a prisoner transport plane containing a now free hooded person, who I assume is Berlin (correct me if I’m wrong; the episode got a bit muddled here), flying off to safety.
Of course, that safety does’t last long, as the mystery person’s plane is shot down, leaving them on a direct path with the East River and an uncertain future.
As the episode is so focused on the mysterious Berlin, whose face we never get to see, and a reveal of some sort next week seems imminent (though not a guarantee), I’d like to throw my personal theory into the mix, one that I’m sure many viewers have come to. We know Liz’s biological father has a criminal background and that, after the fire, she was adopted by Red’s friend Sam. We also have been told the possible lie, possible truth that Red is not her father. So, if we believe this…..than Berlin has got to be Liz’s father. Right? With all the secrecy and the hood and all that good stuff, you know it won’t be just some random person, and who else would have significance like that? It’s further backed up by the reveal that most of Tom’s mission observations that Red finds and decodes are about Liz instead of Red. Her dad is checking in! It’s probably not going to be as cute as it sounds in theory, but still.
Meanwhile, the Kindergarden game rages on with Red and Liz. After he guilts her into not ignoring him, they get on a plane to visit Red’s friend, a virologist, to discuss the Cullen virus. Liz won’t take the mission observations out of spite. “It’s an olive branch, Lizzie!” he snaps. She grabs them and then very deliberately switches seats with Dembe so she can sit some four feet farther away from Red, while Red rolls his eyes cheekily.
At the request of Director Harold, Liz sets up a meeting with Red where the FBI will trap and arrest the unsuspecting (yah, that’s likely) criminal. However, some smarty pants digging on her part leads to the exciting reveal that the people on the blacklist were selected by Red to give him information on Berlin. As she sees it, the FBI deal was so Red could get federal allies against Berlin.
That’s probably true, but as the emotional end to the episode confirms, he’s more there for Liz. She tries to save him from the FBI, regretting her decision, but he refuses to leave. His speech to her, even as she angrily tells him he’s ruined her life, is really to powerful to paraphrase, so I must give it to you in its full glory: “I was once on the island of Ko Ri, free diving in the Andaman sea. I fell terribly ill, stung by a lion fish. I was dehydrated, in excruciating pain. I lost all sense of time, place. I was completey disoriented. But I knew I was dying, so I readied myself for it, and in that moment, at death’s door, I looked up and standing over me in the brightness was this landless Moken sea gypsy, just standing there smiling. She and her tribe nursed me back to health, good as new. When I left the island, she kissed me, like a burst of sunlight on my cheek. It made nearly dying well worth it. That’s how I feel now.” Wow. I could go on again, for another week, about the majesty that is James Spader, but I’ve said all I can be said. This episode ended beautifully, with Red finishing his speech as the FBI swarm in to arrest him and the falling plane containing their mutual enemy flies over head in flames. “Now it begins,” he says.
Other finale predictions:
-Tom will die. He’s both evil and a hipster. It’s like a double wammy of unlikable. Now that his cover is blown and his boss is seemingly coming into the picture, there’s really no purpose for this sketchy middleman anymore.
-Ressler and Liz will kiss and fall in love. Okay, maybe that one won’t happen, but I can hope.
All seriousness aside, The Blacklist has effectively built up to this finale all season, and with this strong episode as a lead-in, I tend to think Red’s parting words will be quite accurate.