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THE BLACKLIST Review: Reputation Issues Spell Trouble For Red and Liz

By on January 22, 2016
The Blacklist

James Spader as Red Reddington -- (Photo by: Will Hart/NBC)

By Kai Greenwell

Last night’s episode of The Blacklist was a gratifying look at where the show is going after the demise of the Director, with just about everyone dealing with the fallout of all those hasty decisions.

Liz struggles to acclimatise to life after the Cabal. No longer an agent, she has officially been reduced to a profiling consultant, unable to join the Team in the field or carry a gun. While she may have been exonerated, people have not forgotten what she was accused of and she struggles to even rent an apartment because of her reputation.

Red too has to deal with reputation problems. A man claiming to be the real Raymond Reddington is arrested and has the information to make his claim believable. This is an unluckily timed problem for the real Red as after helping Liz publicly, his reputation has finally run amok with the criminal community and he works to repair that damage.

Navabi is rehired and with Ressler once again a field agent they resume working together, but things are frosty after Ressler slept with and then fired her.

In the end we learn that the fake Reddington was part of a grand plan by the real Raymond Reddington to rebuild trust in the criminal underworld. The fraud, a conman friend with terminal cancer, admits to being the FBI informant and claims he was hired by one of Red’s competitors. Red leaves the building with his reputation regained, a competitor slain and his friend euthanized.

Meanwhile, Liz is jumped while shopping for being a traitor and is badly hurt, although the hospital visit yields the surprising news that she is pregnant.

Reds and a Bed

The series continues to employ duality well, with both Red and Liz dealing with damaged reputations following their fight with the Cabal. Liz wants to shed the reputation of criminal and traitor while Red seeks to reaffirm these same notions before his criminal associates lose faith in him.

Liz’s story used the comparative boringness of struggling to rent an apartment after being framed and surviving assassination attempts to show that her life really has been ruined down its very foundations. After all those adrenaline filled fights, she faces the depressingly relatable struggle of just finding somewhere to lay her head. After she tells Red of her problem, the realtor realises they made a mistake and offers the apartment to her. Things are looking up it seems, until she is attacked by a passer-by for the crimes she was accused of. So we see that Red can solve specific problems for her, but not the overlying issue.

It’s a testament to the writers that Red’s “endless list of contingencies” does not become tedious or remove the sense of danger from his escapades. Faux Red, or Fred, was a fun concept and it was a treat to briefly have two Reds on screen.

It was a shame to see Harold Cooper return so quickly to being a variable so predictable, he is in fact relied upon by Red’s plans. Similar to Dembe at the start of the season, Harold’s actions and his personal storyline simmering away in the background the last few episodes demand some character development.

Navabi and Ressler, both consummate professionals when they’re not sleeping with colleagues, begin working together once again. Their relationship is strained though, with Ressler strangely oblivious as to why after Navabi shuts him down in front of a room full of colleagues. They remained an effective team in the field this week, but that could quickly dissolve if they don’t remedy the situation soon.

And Baby Makes Three?

After worrying about a Tom, Liz, Ressler – Trizzler? – love triangle, it seems much more apparent that the battle for Liz’s affection will be between Tom and Red, pseudo-stepfather against quasi-reformed psychopath ex-husband. Tom may have respected Red’s command out of fear, but we shall never know as her surprise pregnancy will surely strengthen his resolve to be with Liz.

How the pregnancy was revealed has been done before in other shows, and in those shows surprise pregnancies were usually a method of giving a female lead another someone to have to protect. Liz is now safe of assassination attempts at the hands of the Cabal, but Red warns her of people coming for her to find the whereabouts of her long-missing mother. The beating she received in the street was to highlight that leaving the Cabal’s sights does not guarantee her safety and that it could be anyone seeking to do her harm.

Most recently seen on USA Network’s Graceland, the surprise pregnancy was used to push two characters closer together, only to pull them much further apart when the baby didn’t survive. In that example, the show was too full of twists and turns already and just seemed like an unnecessary method of injecting drama into character relationships. Hopefully The Blacklist doesn’t tread this path too exactly, and like Red, has a few tricks up its sleeve.

The Blacklist continues Thursdays on NBC.