( Contains Major Spoilers!)
After last week’s emphatic finale to Liz’s criminal story arch it seemed the Blacklist would revert back into its criminal of the week system. Yet this week seemed to tie in a change in roles and pose a threat that left the outcome unpredictable and even challenged the invincibility of the main characters.
The episode opened with an attack on Red’s operations, with trusted cleanup operator Kate Kaplan left alive in order to warn Red that an enemy was coming for him, which allowed for Red to put the FBI on a hunt to identify the location of a secret meeting of criminals, known as Shell Island. However this hunt led to the arrest of an individual who claimed that he was in fact the real Raymond Reddington and was taken back to the task force base. The base prior to the arrest of ‘Red 2’, had featured Liz having an emotional breakdown, including referring to Agent Ressler as ‘Mr hey I’m just doing my job’ and while referencing tongue in cheek that the character has robot emotions and a black and white personality, I feel it isn’t quite catchy enough for it to become a nickname used by fans.
If you’re a fan of Spader's Marvel villain Ultron then you are in luck, as Red describes Shell Island as "an assembly of affiliated criminal organisations" in an almost mechanical Avenger hating-esk tone. Come to think of it should Ultron have needed a criminal council I’m sure Red would have made the roster. Ah if only a crossover was a possibility.
Liz this week seems like she is struggling to find her role in the team, as it looks like something really must be going wrong in your life if you go from chilling with the US’ most wanted to being offered watching Season 4 of Doctor Who in a matter of weeks. Yet Tom Baker had to wait as she had other places to be like seeing Tom, her assassin stroke on-again off-again husband. What resulted was a marriage proposal rejection and a sex scene, with both seeming to serve the purpose of reminding us that Tom is still a main character and that NBC must be paying Ryan Eggold for the series, so expect to see him appear every week, relevant or not, folks.
As things began to heat up Agents Navabi and Ressler were sent to protect a endangered high ranking FBI employee from being kidnapped and provided the best quote of the episode in doing so with Navabi quipping “You didn’t just fire me we slept together one day and you fired me the next” let’s hope Donald Ressler knows a good employment lawyer. Almost expectedly the FBI employee was taken and was then interrogated to confirm whether or not Red had been working for the FBI the last couple of years. After this task force leader Harold Cooper agreed to allow ‘Red 2’ to leave the compound and attend the Shell Island meeting, which was actually being hosted by Spader's Red. Who could have guessed it? Following some standard undercover agent camera shots with backup agents watching 'Red 2' enter the Shell Island meeting building, both Reds were soon in the same room and Spader introduced the wannabe Red as “Fred”, an amalgamation of ‘fake’ and ‘Red’. It was simple but catchy nonetheless, beating Megan Boon’s ‘Mr. hey I’m just doing my job’ hands down.
The conclusion to the meeting delivered a mix of murder and mystery we have learned to expect with The Blacklist. Spader's Red was unsurprisingly the real Raymond Reddington and his criminal reputation was restored with the deaths of the criminal responsible for the hit on Red's cleanup employees and 'Fred', yet certain things were left ambiguous, such as the whereabouts of the other Shell Island members as they attempted to flee from the FBI.
The first cliff-hanger in the last five minutes felt a little rushed as Red inviting Tom over to discuss about the latter's marriage proposal to Liz ended up as a mix of riddles about Red and Liz's relationship to each other. It however did provide a possible further clue for the theory that Red is Liz's father by Tom responding that he hadn't gotten “Daddy’s permission” to ask Liz to marry him, but would have benefitted more from being at the start of a future episode that was directly focused on Liz's past.
However the final head turner was not finding out that Liz could defend herself against criminals, yet struggled against an angry plant shop customer in the car park, but that she is pregnant! Let’s hope its Tom’s because I don’t know about you but I can’t deal with three years of working out who Red is to Liz, never mind working out who’s baby it is. It almost makes you feel like Star Wars fans have it easily waiting two years to find out about Rey’s family compared to us and Liz. It will be interested to see how this revelation is played out in future episodes as you'd expect the votatile nature of Liz's life to make carrying the baby to term unlikely, but who knows maybe Red has even got a contingency plan in place for this situation.
All in all, the episode provided a shift in usual Blacklist dynamics and provided the occasional comical moment to break up the tension of the drama, yet having defeated the Cabal for now meant that the team didn't this week have a larger enemy to make me feel like anyone was in serious danger. However should the rest of the reason continue like this episode with the development of a new or old enemy then the season should shape up to be the show's best yet.