The Blacklist: 2.07 The Scimitar, 2.08 The Decembrist
Truth be told, the second season of the Blacklist hasn't been quite so thrilling as it was in its first. Part of that might be because it was the surprise hit of the 2013/14 TV season and this year we knew what we were getting. Part of it might be because - as brilliant as Red has been - Agent Elizabeth Keen wasn't as engaging when she didn't have her 'is her husband evil' story line running through the show. At the same time, we've seen the war against Berlin heat up, some intriguing new villains and a more global feel to the show then we had last year. Even if it hasn't been quite amazing this time round, it's still been pretty great week on week.
Any doubts about the show were quickly washed away by the final two episodes leading up to what has now offically been designated 'the winter break' - when did the idea of the winter finale become a thing? Are we now getting two seasons a year? I don't know.
What I do know however is that these eight episodes have brought closure to many of the plot threads from season one. In the last two weeks, the show shifted its direction and by the time The Decembrist came to an end, The Blacklist looked set to go in an exciting new direction.
Let's start with the Scimitar. We began with Mossad agent Navabi - one of this season's best additions - seducing a man in a bar in Dubai and seemingly throwing him off a balcony to his death. I think we were all meant to assume this was a flashback to her pre-Blacklist days; turns out rather surprisingly she did this last week. It's all part of a joint US - Israeli operation to kill an Iranian nuclear scientist and the result is the arrival of the titular Scimitar, an assassin hired by Iran to take out one of the US's top nuclear scientists in retaliation.
The twists kept coming as Keen and Ressler tracked down and 'rescued' the government agent with the knowledge of the US scientist and found themselves hospitalised after a dramatic car chase. I suspected it wasn't a real hospital and that Keen and Ressler were prisoners fairly quickly but it was still thrilling to see the truth dawn on Keen and her frantic escape attempt. The double bluff of her phone call to Cooper was particularly inspired, making me doubt my doubts as to whether it was a trap or not.
Ultimately this was Navabi's story. She has a connection to the Scimitar and the criminal mastermind behind him - Hassan - who was behind her brother's death. It was great to see Red mentor another agent, though this went down a darker path when he left her with the choice over whether to kill Hassan in revenge for her brother's death. In another show - or even Keen's shoes - Navabi might have left him live. So it was bold of her to commit the murder when the opportunity presented itself.
Even with all the double crossing and secret identities - the final fight with the Scimitar at the conference was just as thrilling - the story continued to press on with the personal agendas of Keen and Red. We saw just how twisted her imprisonment of her ex-husband Tom was and the dark path it was taking her. Better still was the 'relationship' between Red and Zoey; I was intrigued to see what direction the episode was taking when he drugged her during their impromptu lunch but no one could have seen the twist coming; she was Berlin's daughter, the very one whose death Berlin blamed Red for.
The episode ended with plenty of questions and thankfully The Decembrist answered them. The war between Red and Berlin took an surprising twist as they allied together to take down the Russian finance minister who set Red up and faked Zoey's death. But the twists kept coming as the true titular villain of the episode was revealed to be Alan Alda's Fitch, the shadowy government official who was behind season one' sensational 'winter finale' assault on the FBI facility and now the true enemy behind the war between Red and Berlin.
Fitch has been a thorn in Red's side for a while so it was shocking when he met a rather bloody end, rigged with a bomb and blown up inside the very glass cage that Red found himself in, during the early days of season one. Of course his death also left us with many more questions, particularly the nature of shadowy organisation to which Fitch was aligned. Red is no longer protected and I'm intrigued to see what the safe he alluded to holds.
Even more shocking was the end of the war with Berlin as they went from enemies to allies to enemies in the space of one episode. I've mentioned before that Peter Stormare has not quite been the match James Spader but I am going to miss the interplay between them. The final shared bottle of vodka was a very bittersweet moment before Red pulled out his gun and ruthlessly shot his adversary in the chest.
Of course half the fun was seeing the 'conflict' between Tom and Elizabeth Keen back on the show; the episode begun with a blow by blow account of her interrogation of Tom since season one ended and then spiraled out of control as the episode progressed. The poor harbour guard was doomed the moment he encountered Keen on the boat but I was still shocked when Tom ruthless throttled him with his legs while still in chains.
Finally confiding in Ressler about what had really happened to Tom allowed her ex-husband to rejoin the fray. Through him they were able to track down Berlin; enabling to enact his revenge. I was rather happy to see him free at the end and I am far from convinced he will follow through on his promise not to see his wife again.
Which takes me to the final couple of revelations; Tom has been working with Red and Red has something called the Fulcrum. I'm excited to see where season two takes us next. Berlin may be gone and Fitch too, but he is no longer able to protect Red from his organisation. Plus we still have that little question over where Red's daughter really is.
The Decembrist ended the first part of season two on a high, bringing The Blacklist back to its season one roots. Roll on 2015 for the next installment!