“The Blacklist” – Anslo Garrick Part 2 (1.10) midseason finale review 0

★★★★☆

The Blacklist concluded the front half of its first season with an episode that didn’t quite reach the level of excellence its counterpart did last week, but was still an exciting conclusion to the Anslo Garrick arc. We got an answer (maybe?) to a season long mystery and, of course, got a few more questions to drive us crazy going forward.

The episode’s weakness (when compared to last week) was located in its attempt to keep a gritty and heart-pounding tone at all times. And it succeeded, for the record. There was plenty of action, violence, and danger to keep things dark and fast-paced. What was therefore missing were the beautiful quiet moments present in “Anslo Garrick, Part 1” like Red’s speech to Ressler about the things he wants to live for. We didn’t get philosophical Red this time around. However, we did get total badass Red, which was almost as fun.

The episode opens to reveal that Garrick did not, in fact, shoot Dembe, which is a pleasant surprise. We hardly know the guy and I wouldn’t have been all that torn up if he had died, but his emotional bromancing with Red last week made me intrigued by the character’s possibilities.

Despite Aram’s cute and brave attempt to rescue Elizabeth, they’re both taken by Garrick’s men to the box area, where Garrick inexplicably decides to stop threatening Red’s lifelong friend and start threatening the random FBI agent with an ambiguous connection to Red that he’s likely not heard about. It’s fine. It’s not like he’s the brilliant mastermind who infiltrated a secure FBI black site and successfully took all the agents inside hostage or anything. He can be a total idiot, right? Oh wait…

As all the viewrs predicted, but realistically Garrick really shouldn’t have, Red gets very concerned very quickly, sticking his fingers in Ressler’s wound to wake him up and pointing a gun at his head to get him to give up the code. However, I like to think it’s his concern for Elizabeth that motivates him to tell Red and save her. It’s so strange how quickly I’ve grown to like Ressler. I’m fairly certain the phrase “I hate Ressler” popped up in one of my earlier reviews, but after this two parter I’m thoroughly attached. Tom calls Elizabeth’s phone at the most inopportune time and Garrick picks up. They have a less-then-pleasant conversation where Garrick tells him he’s going to kill his wife. With the newly-acquired code, Garrick is able to get into the box. “Anslo, what you doing here?” Red asks causally like nothing has happened as the men bring him out. If we learn one thing about Red in this episode it’s how hard it is to break the man away from his sass, even in the darkest of times.

An FBI team breaks into the facility and rescues the agents, but only after Anslo and his men have escaped in an ambulance with Red and Elizabeth. As Garrick’s people cut Red’s neck and pull out his tracker chip with their fingers (so many levels of ewwww), Red gives Elizabeth the name of a man to track down, Mr. Kaplan. Elizabeth is able to use the defibrillator pads in the back to get the upper hand and escape, but the chip is left in the middle of the road and Red is seemingly lost to the FBI.

While Garrick takes Red to a creepy warehouse, that woman named Diane from the pilot who is in some position of authority (sorry, sometimes I zone out) is bitching Harold out about the situation. I approve of this, because, frankly, Harold’s been a total jerk for the past two episodes. Then again, Diane is a total jerk, too. However, you don’t get to see a lot of sassy and powerful older women on TV, so I think I’ll side with her. She proceeds to decommission the blacklist task force and explain that covering the incident up is more important then finding Red. Okay, maybe I’m not siding with her entirely.

Luckily, Elizabeth and Aram had all that fun bonding time playing Die Hard last week, so she is able to break through his resolve and get a favor with merely a pouty look. Seriously, that’s actually what happens. He agrees to make a copy of some closed-circuit camera videos that may help them save Red. She swears him to secrecy because it’s clear that the bureau must have a mole that tipped off and helped Garrick’s men. That’s good thinking, Lizzy. Assuming, or course, that it isn’t Aram, this guy you only became friends with an hour ago and you know nothing about. But no, that’s totally impossible, right? Afterwards, Elizabeth calls Mr. Kaplan, but is told he’s busy.

Meanwhile, in the creepy torture warehouse of doom, Garrick is questioning a tied-up Red about Elizabeth. “I want to know who she is,” he snaps. Hey, me too! Me too! “You came out of the box for her, traded your life for hers. Red Reddington, placing someone else’s life ahead of his own. What makes her so special?” Red is disappointingly uncooperative.

Elizabeth returns home to find Tom wigging out because she apparently didn’t bother to, you know, call her husband and tell him that the scary man on the phone didn’t wind up killing her. Not even a quick text message? Really? He’s terrified and begs her to leave this job and move to…Nebraska. Okay, that’s really random. I’m guessing that’s where she grew up? Anyway, it’s heartbreaking (or at least it would be if I weren’t mostly convinced that he’s a lying bastard). A call comes in from Mr. Kaplan, which she ignores in favor of gazing into Tom’s eyes lovingly. Ah, there’s that questionable judgment that was missing in last week’s episode. I knew you still had it in you, Lizzy.

However, she can’t ignore Aram’s call. He explains that the video footage is a dead end, but that he thinks he has a lead with the mole. There’s a series of burner cell numbers that placed calls in and around the black site area at suspicious times. The calls were all made to a phone Aram traces to 8123 12th street, aka the apartment across the street from the Keens. Hello, creepy security people! Also, it’s very important to note that Aram spends this whole conversation chilling right next to the broken box glass covered in Luli’s blood and brain matter. That’s not even remotely relevant to the story, but I think it’s super weird and gross.

The next scene once again finds Garrick harassing Red in the creepy torture warehouse of doom, but this time it’s a game changer. A series-wide game changer, in fact. Garrick explains that he wants to go through with all those death threats he made last week, but he’s not the one pulling the strings. He has hired help. There is someone far worse out there, and they want to know a few things from Red. They give Red the opposite of anesthesia, a drug that makes even tiny sensation horrifyingly painful. Wow, I hope that doesn’t exist. I’m sure it does.

Elizabeth breaks into the neighboring house to find computer monitors covered in live footage of the inside of her house. I image that that screws with the nerves. Still, she’s together enough to beat up and eventually kill the surveillance man who thought it was a good idea to sneak up behind her. Our little rookie is growing up. She begins to call Harold, but, in a telling moment, hangs up the phone and calls Mr. Kaplan instead.

Mr. Kaplan, it turns out, is not a mister, and probably not even a Kaplan. She’s another sassy older woman, but significantly less on the side of the law then Diane is. As she begins to remove the bullets for surveillance guy to prevent a ballistics match, Elizabeth freaks, exclaiming; “I can’t do this, I’m a federal agent!” All this does is get her sassed by Mr. Kaplan-who-is-not-a-Mister-or-a-Kaplan, who then proceeds to pull out the bullets anyway.

They then find the surveillance man’s car, where they look through the GPS history and find six addresses, one of which is in an industrial area. Really? Really? Okay, I don’t know a great deal about how GPS’ work, but surely a shady professional who, we learn, has gone to the trouble of keeping his identity out of any databases, wouldn’t leave the directions to an illegal site on his GPS in a car that is permanently parked outside of Elizabeth’s house. Apparently they did, however, because Mr. Kaplan-who-is-not-a-Mister-or-a-Kaplan declares that “it’s time for a road trip” and they head out to meet a team of mercenaries/back-up and Dembe at the warehouse. There are men there to intercept them, but after a massive shootout, they discover that Red is not, in fact, in the building.

Over in the real creepy torture warehouse of doom, a suave white-haired man enters, greeting Red as old friends. He’s perfect manicured and cordial, a villain straight out of The X-Files. We never learn much about him, and he doesn’t appear to be the man in charge either, but he alludes to the group that he is. He calmly explains that they could have killed Red any day in the past 20 years, but they didn’t, because of an unspecified something Red has. “We know what would happen to it if you turned up dead,” the man acknowledges. Still, it appears that Red’s surrender to the bureau raised enough flags that they felt they needed to act. Red assures them that he has no plans to expose them and that the FBI situation has nothing to do with them, and for the first time in maybe the whole series, he is neither cocky nor brave. He is clearly scared of the group, which makes me scared of the group.

The man leaves with one final message: “You were walking in the park this morning. We could have taken you then. Instead we dragged you from the safety and security of the bed you’re now sharing with new friends. Why would we do a thing like that? To make it abundantly clear: there’s nowhere you can go, there’s no one you can trust to keep you from us.” Dun dun dun. The man leaves and Garrick comes back in to taunt Red with the knowledge that he plans to torture and kill Elizabeth. Not the best move, buddy. Red stabs him through the neck with a pair of stolen scissors. Moral of the story: you don’t mess with Lizzy.

Meera and Elizabeth chat at the black site about who the mole could be. “The only one beyond suspicion is Ressler, unless he used Garrick to shoot him in the leg to cover his tracks,” Meera theorizes. Dammit, Meera! What did you have to go and say a thing like that for? Now it’s totally going to be Ressler, isn’t it? Elizabeth finds a decommissioned black site mentioned in a CIA file and realizes it’s a perfect and unexpected site to hold Red. They rush over, but by the time they get there all they find is Garrick’s body and an empty warehouse.

Harold, meanwhile, confronts Diane with some disturbing information: it’s not just the Keens that have been watched. It’s all of them, including Diane herself. Aram found surveillance footage at the second warehouse, and it’s enough to get the taskforce re-commissioned. However, when they find that Red, likely the only man who can explain what is happening, has run off, Diane makes their new objective clear: “As of this moment, the only target on the blacklist is Raymond Reddington.”

In the aftermath, Ressler reunites with his ex-fiancé, who is now engaged to another man. Harold begins the hunt for Red, and Elizabeth and Tom pack their belongings. I guess they are actually moving to Nebraska. Red calls Elizabeth from a payphone, and it’s clear from her voice that the affection between the two has become two-sided. He explains that he’ll be gone for a short while, but that wherever he is, if she’s in need, he will be there. Awwww. And finally, after half a season of waiting, Lizzy finally asks the question that any normal person probably would have asked him several months ago: “Are you my father?” Red hesitates for a long, long moment, but then tells her that no, he is not.

It’s not as exciting an ending as it should be because honestly, is that actually the answer that anyone wanted to hear? At least the guessing is over. Except no, not at all, because I don’t believe him even a little bit. He ends the call with an ominous “Be careful of your husband.” Here’s hoping she’ll finally listen now that he’s gone and has no reason for an ulterior motive. She’s been showing more intelligence in the later episodes and I would like to keep it that way, please. On that note, Red turns and walks off into the city night and out of our lives for two months.

“Anslo Garrick, Part 2” was at a disadvantage because last week’s episode was so strong. Honestly, nothing could have realistically measured up. Part 2 was bound to be a bit of a let-down. Still, it served as strong finale and I imagine it will entice most viewers to continue with the show when it returns. I know I can’t wait until January!