Liz struggles to stay free in NBC’s Blacklist
By Kai Greenwell
A quick catch up is probably in order, because so much happened in last year’s Blacklist finale.
Last season ended with every major player’s plans crashing together with full force. Lizzie successfully retrieved the Fulcrum, a device containing the names and criminal activities of the members of the Cabal – a worldwide organization with its fingers in the highest levels of government and industry.
The Cabal in turn framed Lizzie for the murder of a US senator and 14 government agents, further smearing her credibility by leaking her working relationship with Reddington and the recently discovered revelation that her mother was a Russian spy. Lizzie is arrested but escapes with the begrudging help of her partner, agent Ressler.
Tom left on his boat. Lizzie almost joined him but found that Harold Cooper’s doctor was in the Cabal and had to follow the lead. The episode came to a boiling point with Cooper finding out that he was never sick, his long-time friend and now Attorney General Tom Connolly deceiving him to gain leverage. Lizzie and Cooper confront Connolly with evidence of his crimes and demand his cooperation. He declines and a strung out Lizzie shoots him dead.
She has no choice but to run, and no one to go to but Red.
The premiere “The Troll Farmer” continues with Lizzie and Red looking to flee the city before they are caught by the FBI. While Lizzie frets about trying to escape a city under lockdown, Red suggests they simply escape this initial pursuit and hide until the city runs out of resources and has to end the lockdown.
They hide out with an accomplice of Red’s but are quickly sold out when the news report that Lizzie and Red are terrorists. They get away again but with no place to hide, Red enlists the help of the Troll Farmer – this week’s blacklist entry – to help them escape the city. Red makes it out but Ressler, now a little psychotic, works out their plan and Lizzie has do some quick thinking to escape him. Ressler almost catches her but is seconds too late as she climbs a set of gates to the Russian Embassy and jumps down, identifying herself as a Russian agent of the FSB seeking diplomatic immunity.
Alongside this, the current leader of the Cabal and the CIA was accosted by Mr Solomon, another representative of the Cabal, who are concerned that he is becoming a liability to the organization. He goads Dembe into a meeting with him by kidnapping his daughter’s child. Dembe storms into the restaurant where he was to meet Mr Solomon, battering and shooting everyone in his way without slowing down. An unfazed Solomon tells Dembe that he has poisoned his Granddaughter and she will only receive an antidote if Dembe follows his instructions, starting with inhaling a sedative. Dembe does just that.
The Plot Thickens
The CIA Director/Fulcrum leader goes into damage control mode following the leaking of Fulcrum details to the press, swiftly turning the attention to Red and Lizzie. He slaps them with the tried and tested “terrorist” label and cites them as the source of the leak, making a decent effort at destroying the credibility of the leaked information and redoubling the country’s efforts to capture them. Labeling the main character as a terrorist is not new territory for television, but it doesn’t feel forced here, instead seeming like a simple yet effective counter-strategy.
Red and Lizzie make contact with the Troll Farmer, who is charge of a team of people who use hundreds of social media accounts to create misinformation en masse. This was an interesting way to showcase the power of social media in a show. Other shows such as NCIS have used it to find things but flipping that dynamic and using it as a weapon just resonated so well with Reddington’s history as an information broker. He understands how powerful information truly is.
Ressler struggles to lead the squad as they chase Lizzie. Resident IT guy Aram believes she is innocent and is struggling to commit to the manhunt and fellow field agent Navabi doesn’t trust Ressler’s increasingly rash decision making. It’s no exaggeration to say Ressler is breaking. His story from the beginning of the show has been one of tragedy and obsession. His mental fortitude was beginning to build again in the latter half of season 2, but with this betrayal (in his eyes) by Lizzie, he clearly feels responsible for the Attorney General’s death and cannot cope.
In this episode we see just how much he is lying to himself when he talks about “just doing his job” and “upholding the law.” In the scene where Agent Navabi is held hostage, the moment a SWAT team member tells him Lizzie and Red aren’t there he almost immediately jumps out and shoots the man holding Navabi at gun point in the head. Here we can see Ressler’s dichotomy, he still thinks he is going by the book and just doing the job – Red and Liz aren’t here, time to move on. To the outside observer though, he essentially just shot a man in the head to save time instead of talking him down. The divide between how Ressler and others perceive his actions looks like it could lead into its own interesting plot this season.
In perhaps a tiny nod to Ressler not being at his best, it is Navabi who works out that Liz is going to flee to the Russian embassy. As said before, framing the main character as a terrorist or fugitive isn’t groundbreaking, but having them steer into the skid and begrudgingly take on the moniker out of desperation most certainly is. Promo shots from future episodes show Red and Liz reunited. Instead of ruining the impact of this last scene, it just creates enticing questions as to what Liz has to do get free or the Russians or if she even is free of them, perhaps liaising with Red for them in the same manner that she did for the American government.