The Blacklist: Season Two Finale Round Up
Over the course of season two, The Digital Fix has been periodically reviewing episodes of The Blacklist; this finale review covers 2.19 Leonard Caul, 2,20 Quon Zhang, 2.21 Karakurt and 2.22 Tom Connolly.
Despite a somewhat convoluted and overly-complex season at times, the final run of episodes this season really came together, delivering some big answers on Liz Keen's past, the Fulcrum and the reason for Red's conflict with the Director before ending on a dramatic cliffhanger that looked set to take season three of The Blacklist in an interesting new direction.
So Leonard Caul first and the fallout of the dramatic shooting that left Red fighting for his life. There was a hilarious moment where Mr Kaplan (Susan Blommaert) set up an emergency triage centre by calling in medical personal from various medical facilities. Doctors, nurses, they all dropped their posts at a moment's notice just to save Red's life in a ready made operating theatre in an old warehouse. It is these moments, and characters like Mr Kaplan that make the show so much fun to watch; Red has filled his world with eccentric characters all willing to break the law in their own twisted way.
With Red out of it for much of the episode, it was up to Elizabeth Keen to take centre stage and it is in these later episodes that Megan Boone has really shown her worth. Here she did whatever it took, calling in her ex-fiance, a doctor, to save Red when the previous surgeon is killed by the Director's men and then going head to head with the chief villain himself by busting his meeting, revealing the Fulcrum to prove that Red wasn't bluffing and forcing him to call off an armed siege that would leave everyone dead. Unfortunately for her, these actions would put her in the firing line come the season finale but here it was thrilling stuff.
Tom also began to take huge steps in becoming a key player here again, as it was finally revealed that he betrayed his original mission to observe Liz when he fell in love with her. It was this episode where he finally emerged from shady villain to one of Liz's closest allies, a path that would only deepen. And there was more too to this episode, besides a number of thrilling action sequences as Tom helped defend Red from armed intruders. Dembe, a quiet, supporting ally of Red's since the beginning gave Liz some big clues to her mysterious past by leading her to the apartment of Red's, which contained pictures of Liz growing up, including a picture of her mother.
I wondered if the remaining episodes whether the show would do an 'Irina Derveko' and have Liz's mother return from the dead. That might happen in season three. For now, just like it begam with Alias's Sidney Bristow, Liz's mother has emerged as a powerful, deadly KGB assassin - the stuff of legend - in memory only.
Before we started to get those answers, Quon Zhang delivered another rather horrific, tale that the show does so well; chinese women being murdered and shipped back to China to bury with recently deal males in an archaic ritual. But in truth, the individual nature of this Blacklist villain, like Leonard Caul, became more a side note as Liz continued to search for answers about her mother and started to use Tim as her CI.
I will admit, I loved the whole elaborate plan to draw Japser out by blowing up his yacht, and making the world thing he was dead to drive down stock prices and call him out, even if I struggled at times to understand the purpose. At this stage, Red's war against the Cabal, of which Jasper was involved, seemed so complex that I found myself grasping at the premise without necessarily understanding everything that was going on. Thankfully it all became clear with the final two episodes.
Starting with a bio-weapon attack on a student in a college campus, Karakurt delivered a worthy Blacklist villain in the titular character, another Russian assassin for hire who, like Liz's mother, has become the stuff of legend. After learning that the killer was on US soil, she and Ressler contacted their allies in a fellow CIA black ops facility to uncover his mission, where she began to get some clues to her own mother's identity and the promise of answers from a CIA operative. Unfortunately that promise was short lived in a dramatic turn of events as Karakurt parked a van outside the CIA station and blew it up. It did indeed make him a legend; the unit that had hunted him for years wasn't even aware he was in the country and found themselves murdered by their very target.
Things continued to get interesting as the Cabal's real operation was revealed; use Karakurt to assassinate an anti-Russian US senator in Washington, igniting a second cold war. I was glad to see the pieces of the puzzle finally fall in place after numerous layers of intrigue this season; by keeping too much of the story back from the audience there was the danger of them becoming lost, so thankfully The Blacklist was able to pull it back at the last minute.
Of course, being The Blacklist, there were plenty of twists and turns, even with the threat finally realised. Tom Connolly finally cast off his smiling facade, threatening Cooper with his wife's imprisonment for espionage and pulling him from the drug trial, if he didn't divert Liz and Ressler from closing in on Karakurt. There was a moment, when Liz was attacked by a fake 'Karakurt' that left the audience confused, only for that action to pay off beautifully in the closing moments of the episode.
We should have known things were going to get pretty dark for Liz after she finally reconnected with her husband Tom. Forty minutes after they shared breakfast, we saw her framed for murder of a US senator by the Cabal, the consequences for confronting the Director with the Fulcrum becoming all too clear. Still, that final scene was brilliantly executed. Liz rushed in at the last minute to save the senator from Karakurt, disguised as a reporter, only to infect him with the specialised genetic weapon herself - passed on to her by the fake Karakurt.
The stakes going into the finale was higher than ever; the US on the verge of another cold war and everyone at the Post Office at the mercy of the titular Tom Conolly. The newly appointed Attorney General and high ranking member of the Cabal quickly stepped in to take action against Liz, while suspending the one man who could save her - Cooper. We saw that father / daughter bond between them stronger than ever as the former head of the Post Office turned to Red to help break her out. The sequence where the power was switched off and she escaped her cell was thrilling and I nearly cheered when Cooper arrived in the getaway car to ferry her to safety.
Ressler found himself in a position of power as the Deputy Attorney General Wright, made him interim director, presumably realising just how corrupt her boss really was. Ressler allowed Liz to escape the first time but ended the season hunting down his friend and colleague. In fact, everyone seemed under threat - Ressler included - as Connolly threatened to destroy Cooper and the entire Post Office unit if they dared oppose him. Keen would be sent to jail; Ressler kicked out of the FBI for his Oxy addiction, Navabi would be extradited to Iran for killing the scientist several weeks back; he even says he has something planned for Aram. If there was any doubt about him before, Conolly emerged as a true villain come the season's end, not least when Copper discovered he was never sick in the first place; he had been poisoned and given a fake drug trial just to manipulate him into doing Conolly's bidding.
Ever working in the shadows, Red took an interesting approach to his war against the Cabal by kidnapping the world's top 11 investigative journalists and revealing the Fulcrum to them, believing that they can uncover the truth behind the sinister organisation and reveal its secrets to the world. Indeed, we saw the Director pick up a paper at the end of the episode with the first secrets already published.
But even then, Red could not stop Liz from joining him on the FBI's most wanted list. Her decision to shoot Conolly in cold blood, showed just how damaged she had become. In the end she lost everything, including Tom who had pleased for her to leave with him and then sailed off into the sunset alone by the time the credits rolled. Red and Dembe may have gotten her out of Washington, but the damage had already been done; her picture sitting next to Red's on the most wanted list showed just how far the Cabal had already come.
Season two of The Blacklist ended in an explosive fashion, making the lead heroine a villain, Cooper removed from power and Ressler charged with hunting Liz down. While I admit to being surprised that the good guys survived year two, the consequences of what happened in Tom Conolly are sure to have huge ramifications come season three. All in all, a successful end to a season that didn't match the heights of the first but still delivered one of the most daring thrillers currently on television.
Oh and my money is on the big reveal of Liz's mother Katerina by the end of the season three opener.