The Blacklist: 2.03 Dr. James Covington, 2.04 Dr Linus Creel
Season two is in full swing and the third and fourth episodes really stepped it up a gear as Liz and Ressler took on a couple of cases that challenged their thinking - and the audience's - with some moral dilemmas that the show plays on so well.
First up we had Dr. James Covington, a renowned surgeon turned black-market organ trafficker. What was really interesting about this villain was that he started off as a classic Blacklist villain but developed into something more. People rent organs from Covington when conventional waiting lists means they might die waiting for a life saving donor. Naturally he offers up his services to the criminal underground the very rich and those who don't pay the annual 'rental fee find themselves having their organs forcibly removed.
But just when Liz and Ressler close in on his operational, the episode throws a massive moral spanner in the works; Covington is using the money to finance a far more noble enterprise - saving the lives of children by implanting them with adult organs. It's a procedure that saves lives even if conventional medicine doesn't hold with it and Liz and Ressler arrive just in time to see him operate on a small boy. Ressler argues they should arrest Covingtion now. Liz wonders whether she should let the bad doctor complete his operational first.
It's that moment that makes this episode great; let a boy die to close the case or let Covington complete an illegal operation that might save him? As a parent I was there with Liz - as illegal as the operational might be, a child's life is worth more than swift justice.
The episode also had a couple of killer moments, starting with Liz's dream in the opening of the episode. For a moment Tom was back, ready to reveal Red's deepest, darkest secrets. But then in came Red, shooting Tom and killing him. I was shocked. Was that the brief and dramatic return for Tom? Or - as it turns out - a tease? I chose to think that Tom is very much alive.
Secondly we had the double crossing at the heart of Red's war with Berlin. The flamboyant Mr. Vargas was a great addition, first as Berlin's mysterious middle man and later as the -surprise! - ally of Red, helping him to uncover the schemes of the double-crossing Niko.
But it was the ending - Red's eventual reunion with his ex-wife Naomi that left us wanting more and that relationship was explored with plenty of tease and mystery in the next episode Dr Linus Creel. Naomi, it appears knows something of Liz's past too. But in true The Blacklist fashion Liz failed to get the answers when Red interrupted her conversation with his ex wife. What I loved most of all about the reunion was the sense that Red and Naomi still cared for each other.
It's interesting that when he has been so ruthless in the past he chose to let Naomi's cheating husband Frank live because he knew Frank could offer the love and care he couldn't himself. Despite having only one full episode together I totally believed the chemistry James Spader and Mary-Louise Parker as two partners reunited after twenty years. Let's hope there are opportunities for more screen time between them to come.
But it was the villain Dr Linus Creel and his devious scheme that made this another great episode; using the warrior gene he identified in his patients and turning them into killers. It was cruel, masterful and thanks to David Costabile's always-great ability to play a strong villain, made him one of the more interesting Blacklist villains the show has presented.
The ideas of a therapist abusing power and government completing secret testing on the US population was very effective here, making Creel an insidious figure. And a martyr too. His death would mean his life's work would be realised, though it did raise the question how far do you go in the name of science? In Creel's case he went too far.
Overall, these two episodes were a stronger pair to the season openers, leaving us with many, many questions. But piecing together the clues is half the fun of the show. That an every single scene that includes Red Reddington. James Spader is a mesmerising villain. I'm expecting great things in his role as Ultron in the next Avenger's movie!