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THE BLACKLIST Review: “Zal Bin Hassan”

By on November 13, 2015

Pictured: James Spader as Red Reddington -- (Photo by: Virginia Sherwood/NBC)

By Kai Greenwell

When Reddington pressures an associate into setting up for a meeting for him and is denied, he decides to offer up this week’s blacklister “Zal Bin Hassan” as an incentive, contacting agent Navabi for help in the matter as she has a personal history with Hassan.

Together, Red and Liz set out to track down a smuggler Hassan is using to move around freely.

Meanwhile, the Director talks his way past all the damning the evidence Ressler collected last week and the pair continue to be forced to work together. Ressler comes across Mr Solomon during his investigation and brings him in for questioning. While The Director brutally interrogates Solomon to prove they are not working together, he is ejected from the FBI black site for hiding key information on Liz’s whereabouts.

This week we also see Navabi struggling to locate a mysterious villain from her past, and during a raid on one of Hassan’s safe houses finds her brother and several other prisoners held captive there. They take the group to a Mossad complex, but before she can wrap her head around her brother’s reappearance the rescued prisoners show their true colors and take over the facility.

Her brother, now revealed to be Zal Bin Hassan himself, kidnaps her to interrogate later but is ambushed by Reddington’s team. Red takes Hassan as his bargaining chip and secures his mystery meeting.

We also see Tom and Harold attempting to interrogate Karakurt with varying degrees of success. When they  make contact with Ressler to turn him into the authorities safely, Ressler is furious about the situation.

The Mid Season Finale is Nigh

The Director’s days are surely numbered after this episode. He managed to weasel his way out from under the evidence Ressler presented against him but in doing so had to perform quite the gruesome pantomime with Solomon, who, while still blasé, promised retribution. While he dodged one bullet, he walked right into another after being caught leaving the FBI out of the loop when they found Liz and Tom.

The blacklister this week seemed to be more of a plot device rather than an interesting character, being a bargaining chip for Red and way to beat the audience over the head with masses of character background and development for Navabi.

Reddington was used well this episode, spending little time on screen but pulling strings behind the scenes to find information for Navabi and save her life twice. Hopefully we will see more of Dembe when Red returns to center stage, as since his escape he has slipped back down to a small supporting role.

Tom and Liz’s reunion was sweet but it’s still a very bizarre relationship, with her tilted head of happy disbelief summing them up perfectly.

Echoing Red’s sentiment last week was the closing monologue about the present trumping the future. While the capture of Karakurt and the Director’s weakening position seem promising, the approaching mid-season finale and this seemingly foreshadowing shift in focus suggest otherwise.

Saram Navabi

The spotlight spun around this week and shone on Agent Navabi, who has taken an unfortunate backseat so far this season as the Ressler/Liz and Reddington/Liz relationships took center stage. While it was good see her get more screen time, the writers may have crammed in a bit too much development for one episode. Tragic upbringing, partner and brother killed by the villain, ex-lover/partner introduced, brother is alive, brother is evil, ex-lover/partner gets shot, kidnapped by brother, rescued by Reddington and a workplace hook-up (poor Aram) is an awful lot of story to fit into 45 minutes. A lot happened elsewhere in the episode too and at points it seemed as if the episode was originally penned as a two-parter.

Regardless, we still got hit with an explosion of information about Agent Navabi. Her stern pragmatism, which already made sense given that she was ex-Mossad, is further reinforced when we learn of her childhood and the loss of her brother to a bombing. Especially after her brother is revealed the be Zal Bin Hassan, their upbringing seems to mirror that of child soldiers, forced into war from an early age and never having the chance to look back or escape the path they were set on.

The dalliance with Ressler throws an interesting spanner into the works of the team’s cohesion, given that Aram has only recently come to accept Ressler again and is involved to some extent with Navabi.

The Blacklist continues Thursdays on NBC.

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