The Blacklist stuck with tradition this week by producing a gut-wrenching and disturbing episode, but perhaps taking things a bit too far. Let me explain. I don’t mean that it’s more unbearably upsetting than others, though it is quite bothersome. Women are being kidnapped, impregnated through in vitro fertilization, and left in that state for the purpose of producing babies. The babies are then adopted by very picky parents looking for designer babies.
Just let that sink in.
The Blacklist has had its fair share of psychos, many of whom have killed way more than we see die in the episode (it’s actually somewhat bloodless). Still, the practice here is so dehumanizing and unfathomable that not only is it more upsetting than most of those, it’s somewhat out of place. I’m sure there’s far more realism to this story than any of us want to believe, and I don’t want to discredit that, but something about a large, shiny corporate building secretly housing rows upon rows of comatose, pregnant women seems like a science fiction show. Seriously, I’m, like, 99% sure the aliens did this to Scully on the X-Files…I appreciate the show trying to keep things fresh and subverting procedural expectations, so I’m not totally against this plot, but it was a disconcerting shift from serial killers and terrorists, and was perhaps too coated in melodrama. Did they take it too far to seem down to earth? Yes. Was it still good? Yes.
And, of course, if this plot is what it took to snap Lizzy out of her disastrous adoption plan with Tom, then I’ll embrace and applaud it. I always like the X-Files, anyway.
At the start of the episode, Lizzy is having full baby fever. She can’t wait to adopt her son. This is Elizabeth Keene we’re talking about. This is the woman whose life was recently turned upside down by Red’s arrival, whose enemies went after and stabbed her husband, and whose marriage is probably a sham orchestrated by a professional killer. But yah, hun, this is totally a good time to adopt any infant. Also, the happy-ish couple can’t figure out how to use a stroller, so I think that’s a clear sign they are not ready to be parents. She tells Tom that she’s going to stay home with the baby for a while, even if it means losing her job, because “this is more important.” I don’t like to criticize someone choosing family over career if that’s what they want, but I kind of think work and Red might be more important right now then this ill-conceived plan. Just saying.
Speaking of Red, he has a corporation name for her, which just so happens to be the evil adoption agency. What a coincidence! Except, of course, it isn’t, because Red clearly does not want Lizzy stuck playing house with Mr. Crazypants. Aww, what a good father ambiguous paternal stand-in!
The FBI contacts the parents-to-be of the next child at the agency, the Cyprus Agency, is delivering. The couple was told the child was an orphan, but Red claims that the baby is probably an abduction victim. The couple leads them to a worker at the company, who, in proper ridiculous fashion, panics and runs out in front of a bus. Maybe if the world’s most likable but incompetent FBI pair hadn’t started hollering for his attention from 20 feet away they could have done something to prevent that unfortunate incident.
Meanwhile, Malik is tied up and being interrogated by one of Red’s people, an elderly, overweight man wheeling around an oxygen tank named Teddy who is apparently a master interrogator. The order that Malik received to leak information to Garrick apparently came through Cooper or someone higher up. Even Malik doesn’t know whom the original, powerful mole is. She’s just as upset at the betrayal and offers to help Red track the responsible party down. I’m thrilled that she doesn’t appear to be super evil, as I love her weekly badassery. Is that a word? It should be.
Red suggests that Lizzy compare DNA from children the Cyprus Agency has placed into homes in the past with criminal records, looking for parents who can’t go to the police and report a child missing. He also adds that if she has any doubt about her husband, she can’t go through with her own adoption plan. The man speaks the truth, Liz. The search, now looking at adults and not just missing children, finds 5 women, but there’s a catch. “They’re not in the system ’cause they’re criminals. They’re in the system cause they’re missing”, Ressler explains, and just like that we see the true victims of the agency’s abductions.
Malik sneaks around Cooper’s office, going through his computer, and is able to find where the order came from. She turns the information over to Red, who leaves her alive and declares their business done. I’m not really sure why. I’m happy, but it seems a bit out of character, doesn’t it? Meanwhile, Aram identifies the agency’s next victim on a computer they confiscated during a search and Ressler and Lizzy head out to save her. Alas, as is always the case in television, the kidnapper shows up at the exact same time as the feds, managing to grab the girl and make an escape. In a similarly dreadful turn of events, the body of another Cyprus victim is found in the woods. The morgue explains that the second victim has almost no muscle tone and had been drugged on a specific, rare drug and comatose for years but has given birth multiple times during that period.
Aram discovers that the leader of the agency, Owen Mallory, went to Harvard under a different name, so Lizzy and Ressler track down that other identity’s parents. They were, it turns out, truthfully once the man’s parents, when he was a foster child, but after months of his troubled and erratic behavior, they returned him, realizing that their marriage was too fragile and that they weren’t ready for a child. Sounds familiar….
To track the rare drug, Red takes Lizzy to some sort of rave on a well-manicured cul de sac. If you’re at all interested in the origin of the cul de sac in history, by the way, this episode will clear that up for you. There’s a whole monologue about it. “Now be polite”, Red tells Lizzy as they enter the house. “You’re about to meet one of the nicest narcotics dealers this side of Cleveland.” It’s the only funny scene in an otherwise pretty depressing episode, but reminiscing about his old drug-using days and the ridiculous dubstep almost makes up for it. “Last time I played around with that, I wound up naked in the desert trying to hitch a ride to Tuba City. Those Navaho tacos, oh, heaven!” he recalls about a particular drug in easily my favorite quote of the night. “When was this?” Lizzy asks, to which he responds “About two years ago.” Wow, that’s a mental image for you. The nicest narcotics dealer this side of Cleveland explains that the rare drug Lizzy is tracing, which I will not try to spell here, thank you very much, is a sleep aid too powerful for practical use and barely prescribed. Having apparently hacked the state’s pharmacy inventory database, he tells them that of the eight doctors to prescribe the drug that year, only one was a fertility doctor.
Ressler and Lizzy, using this information for tracking, go to arrest said doctor and Mallory (without any back-up, of course), leading to an appalling but heart-pounding fight between Lizzy and Mallory in the secret patient room where he actually pushes a drugged pregnant woman onto her as a weapon. Luckily, Ressler steps up and saves her from the bullets and falling women.
Perhaps this is a good time to bring up the relationship between these two. This week sees another big step change in the rapidly collapsing nightmare that is Tomizabeth. Lim? Tizzy! Okay, I officially dub this couple Tizzy. Not that anyone needs a shipper name for them, since, you know, no one is shipping them. Regardless, Tizzy is falling apart to the extent that I seriously hope they can’t expect us to like Tom again and want him to stay with his wife. Honestly, I thought he was going to die in the Pilot and have never liked him. Maybe it’s Red’s warnings about him. Maybe it’s his stupid glasses that are straight out of a hipster Disney Princess meme. Maybe it’s his one note, flawless good guy characterization. Whatever it is, I didn’t like him before his thing with this new lady and my increased belief that he’s an assassin.
So any attempt to continue their relationship and make the audience like it seems like a bad idea. However, since this is a broadcast network and Lizzy is a woman, we know she can’t not have a love interest. The horror! So, if any of you show runners or executives are reading this (as I’m sure you are), let it be known that you should consider Ressler and Elizabeth over Tizzy. He’s a much more complex character, having grown from unpleasant and gruff to sympathetic and somewhat adorable believably, and given their chemistry as partners that we see in this scene and others like it, I think they could have decent romantic chemistry, too. That being said, I’m not sure they would have named him Donald if they saw him as a viable love interest. K, shipper rant over.
Mallory confesses his anger at his adoptive parents for returning him, claiming that “the Lassiters didn’t want a child. They wanted an accessory to pose for their Christmas cards” and reveals, calmly, his plan and legacy: he is the father of every single child the women have given birth to. The supposedly troubled, damaged man has created perfect children all across the country. It’s his twisted way of sticking it to the establishment. It’s gruesome, but it hits home with Lizzy, and she tells Tom that they aren’t ready for a baby and that they can’t go through with the adoption. Predictable, but necessary.
While Lizzy cries and Tom slinks off to meet his other lady friend, Red plays a surprise visit to….Diane, the mean white haired lady who always bosses Cooper around. I supposed it should have been obvious that she was the mole, considering she’s the only prominent and high ranking character we know, but it’s still shocking. It’s even more shocking when he shoots her in the stomach, mid-sentence. “You can’t shoot me”, she says indignantly, looking down at the bullet hole. Oh, but apparently he can, seeing as he proceeds to riddle her with bullets, despite her dangling “what happened to your family” in front of him. He says he wants to know that “more than anything in the world”, but gambles that others know too. The scene ends with a creepy and yet weirdly artistic moment as Red listens to Gordon Lightfoot’s “Sundown” while blood stains Diane’s white night robe.
The mythology on this show is seemingly somewhat simple but deliberately paced, making even basic mysteries like Red’s family’s fate tantalizing. The plot line in this episode was decent, but the only part that I’ll remember in a month is the ending. Still, what a shocker those last five minutes were!