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THE BLACKLIST Fall Finale Review: Death and Betrayal in “Kings of the Highway”

By on November 21, 2015

Pictured: (l-r) Megan Boone as Liz Keen, James Spader as Red Reddington -- (Photo by: David Giesbrecht/NBC)

By Kai Greenwell

The Blacklist’s Fall Finale sees Reddington’s counter strike against the Cabal finally at the ready stage.

Red tasks Dembe with picking up a care package while he and Lizzie hit the road. However when Liz goes to the bathroom while Reddington fills the gas tank, she returns to find him gone, kidnapped by this week’s blacklisters – The Kings of the Highway.

Liz asks Navabi for help and for her to keep it from Ressler, but things backfire massively as Aram and Ressler discover her personal and professional betrayals respectively. Navabi is fired by Ressler, who then pressures his boss to chase up a lead on Solomon, unfortunately leading  to her death.

Meanwhile, Tom, Karakurt, Harold and his wife are forced to flee Solomon and his hitmen. Karakurt seems compliant after finally grasping that the Cabal are trying to kill him, not rescue him.

In the end, Liz and Dembe are forced to trade the care package for Reddington’s life, and Reddington flees as Ressler ambushes the exchange and secures Dembe, the care package and after an arduous chase, Liz.

All For Naught

After a slow build throughout the first half of this season, Tom and Harold got the explosive series of scenes that they deserved. With both of them dragging an unwilling partner along, Harold’s bewildered wife and Tom’s belligerent prisoner, their chapter was imbued with a Bizarro-buddy cop vibe. This season their small sections have acted as little reprieves from the main story and it worked. Their arc shifted rapidly from the cool Ocean’s Eleven opening to something more reminiscent of The Following’s vigilantism by the end, but always remained fresh and complimentary to the main narrative.

Dembe however remains underutilized. There hasn’t been much need for him this season as most of the blacklisters have been vehicles for Reddington to showboat his arsenal of plans, associates and silver-tongued quips. If he had remained a less developed background character, such as Mr. Kaplan, it wouldn’t be an issue, but his strong start this season leaves us wanting more and the show has yet to deliver.

While it may not have been to everyone’s taste I loved that it was some random gang, in way over their head, that scuppered Reddington’s plans. It reminded me of that final scene of Layer Cake, with some angry junkie getting the drop on the main character by simply being so unimportant he wasn’t on their radar. Instead of dying on the pavement we get to see Red be Red and sow the seeds of mistrust among his captors.

Ressler’s team are in tatters by the end of the episode too. Ressler shifted his bipolar gears again back to “Mr By-the-book,” immediately after sleeping with a work colleague whom it is obvious has some form of relationship with his other colleague Aram. It was shown at the start of the season that his mental stability was being supported by confiding in his old boss Harold Cooper, and since the revelation that Cooper misused information given to him Ressler has flitted back and forth from following to disobeying the rules, all the while becoming more unhinged in the process. While Aram was hurt by Ressler and Navabi’s tryst, it was Navabi who did the most damage and so Aram reverted his allegiance back to his work instead of his heart, selling out Navabi in the process.

The next episode of The Blacklist is titled “The Director” and it airs January 7. Red originally planned to leave him to the (lack of) mercy of the Cabal, but given how fantastically his plan fell flat, the Director’s diminishing safety and the heavy spotlight on Red’s improvisation this season, perhaps the Director’s execution might be postponed.

NEXT: I’d Love It if a Plan Came Together

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