The Blacklist 2.09, 2.10: Luther Braxton Parts 1 and 2

The Blacklist recently returned from its mid-season break with a dramatic two-parter that pitted 'Red' Reddington against Luther Braxton; Old Hellboy himself Ron Perlman. After the first part of series two tied up the war against Berlin, the show has come back stronger than ever with further developments in the Fulcrum mystery and its ties to Elizabeth Keen's past.

The show returned with the very public capture of Red; it was no surprise that he masterminded the whole affair just to get himself within the secret detention facility on an offshore platform. The 'Factory' though like many things on this show was not what it seemed. It turns out the Factory is a prison designed to extract information from high value criminals, which made the jailbreak by Braxton and his men all the more chaotic. Not only was the CIA loosing valuable assets, their entire intelligence network was about to be exposed.
Braxton was more brawn then brains but still served as a strong villain, perhaps better than Red's previous nemesis Berlin. But alas he wasn't to last too long, finding himself captured and hung by Red's right hand man Dembe as they closed in on the real villain of the piece; Alpha's David Strathairn as secret Government official The Director. As it turns out Braxton was working for the Director to learn the secrets of the Fulcrum, something Red was using as leverage to keep himself alive.

Keen found herself a pawn in their game with Red and I for one am thankful for that. She is a solid lead hero, with Megan Boone delivering a consistently strong performance each week, but her character is far more interesting where she is trying to uncover a mystery about herself and those around her. This week, through some brutal regression therapy, she learned that her parents died in the fire as a result of this Fulcrum and Red was there. That last revelation wasn't a complete surprise, given what we have already seen but it will help to make their relationship more antagonistic again after they have rather pally of late. That is always a good thing on this show.
Another interesting character was The West Wing's Janel Maloney as Clandestine Services liaison Cat Goodson. She appears to work for The Director and is certainly a much harder character than her role as Donna but as for her involvement in the war between Red and the Director, I will be interesting to see which side she ends up on. She certainly shook things up back at the Post office, particularly the way she stood up to Cooper.

Amid all the drama and intrigue there was plenty of action too. I was genuinely concerned for the fates of a couple of key characters in these two episodes, particularly Navabi and Ressler, who found themselves hung and tortured by Braxton's croonies during the failed attempt to save the offshore detention facility. I loved Mojtabai's relief at seeing Navabi alive at the end of the second episode and his attempt to hug Ressler just to make sure it was not too obvious.
The prison breakout was a thrilling sequence, resulting in Navabi and Ressler's capture and the missile attack on the factory at the end of part one delivered a suitably epic cliffhanger. Overall, The Blacklist was firing on all cylinders, having wrapped up much of its on-going story line just before Christmas and starting with mark II as the Fulcrum arc kicked into high gear. The show hasn't quite reached the heights of season one, but it is certainly getting there!

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