The Blacklist took the prize for the most incredible episode opening of the season.
It went from a loving, peaceful scene of a father and son tossing a football to a smoking shoe, a scorched body buckled into a seat, and then pieces of a plane falling on them from the sky. The desperate look on the father's face as he carried his son and tried to outrun the crush of an airliner was heartbreaking to watch.
That was just the beginning of the deaths and destruction caused by the radical political group, General Ludd, in The Blacklist Season 1 Episode 8.
There is no shortage of television shows about law enforcement investigating and tracking down criminals. For the most part The Blacklist has been able to differentiate itself from the others by approaching the criminal from a different angle or with a unique crime or motive.
The case of General Ludd felt fresh though grounded in political extremist beliefs that hold true in our society. Bradley Holland, a.k.a. Nathaniel Wolff, a.k.a. Arthur Denning, used death, terror, and theft not for the purpose of creating fear in the society, but to hurt corporations and ultimately cause financial ruin.
Justin Kirk was superb as the crazy radical. It was a pleasant surprise to see him in a role so opposite that of Andy Botwin from Weeds. Even when the hedge fund manager was poking at General Ludd and the principles that the group believed in, Holland kept his cool and carried out his destructive plan. The man would die in time.
The FBI wouldn't have been able to capture and stop General Ludd's activities nearly as fast without Red's help, though it came at a cost.
I love The Blacklist and it's definitely one of my favorite shows on television right now, but it does call for some suspension of disbelief while watching. Raymond "Red" Reddington has been an effective asset for the FBI. He's helped solved cases and saved lives, but it comes at a great cost.
Red has killed people under the FBI's purview and he continues his criminal activities without any oversight. The FBI allows him complete freedom of movement and crime, while helping them out as he wants. The FBI is not in control of the arrangement, Red is and that became a problem in this case.
Red wouldn't provide any information on the case unless he got something in return. And, what he wanted was access to a classified FBI database, ViCAP, Violent Criminal Apprehension Program. The FBI should be in control of their arrangement. If Red wants his freedom, he should comply with requests to help with cases. If he won't assist them as requested, they should lock him up.
Mini-rant over. Of course, if that was the set-up the show wouldn't be nearly as compelling. Though, I wish the control in the relationship between Red and the FBI wasn't nearly as lopsided. The FBI should maintain some sort of leverage over Red. And, perhaps, as Liz learns more about him, she will be able to start wielding some control of her own.
The General Ludd case was adequately interesting, but the real platinum of the episode came in the clues about the overarching mysteries regarding Red and Liz. Several previous clues were partially paid off and combined they are beginning to form a clearer picture.
What did we learn? Liz was adopted when she was four by a single man, Sam. He loved her dearly and raised her to be the strong woman that she's become. Sam and Red have known each other for years. Liz knows that she's adopted, but there's more to her past. and Sam wanted to reveal that "truth" to Liz. Red was adamant that she never know and ended Sam's life prematurely to protect the secret.
The connection between Sam and Red wasn't revealed, but they clearly cared about each other. When Red killed Sam, he showed a sadness that he hasn't previously demonstrated. If Sam wasn't already sick and hadn't commented how he wished he had only hours instead of weeks left to live, I'm not sure if Red could have killed his friend. Or, it wouldn't have been as easy a decision.
In The Blacklist season 1 episode 3, Red told Liz that he picked her "Because of your father." And, now that makes a bit more sense at least to viewers. Liz remains completely in the dark that Red knew her father, visited or killed him. And, she will probably never find out. Or, at least not for a long time.
The trip to the hospital also revealed that Tom doesn't know Red. Or, at least, if we are supposed to take their meeting at face value they don't know each other. That's definitely questionable. Red's comments like, "He will always be there," were creepy. And, even more so if Red was a stranger to Tom.
While finding out more about Liz's family history was informative, I was more intrigued by Red's search in ViCAP. There's been speculation by some that the girl in the picture he took from the Stewmaker and the vision of the girl in the yard could have been Liz. I don't see how that's possible though.
Since the picture was in the Stewmaker's book, that girl is most likely dead, unless she was rescued at the last moment. If she's alive, why would she be in his trophy book. But, the girl playing in the yard is someone dear to him. She could be the Stewmaker's victim. Or, she could be the girl he looked up in the system. Or, maybe that girl was Liz.
When Red helped the FBI bring down Wujing, Red received six digits as his payment, 042983. Those were the same digits that he entered to gain access to the girl's file. He was biding his time until the perfect moment to force the FBI to give him access to that system. It's just another move in his big plan.
Back in The Blacklist season 1 episode 5, Red said, "I'm betting on the long plan. The future." This was just another example of how much that is true. Does he care about Liz? I believe he does. Is he using her as a pawn in a grander plan? Absolutely. And, each week I'm riveted by the small little morsels that are doled out.
Is the 30-year old woman, 042983, Red's daughter? Is the truth behind Red and Liz's relationship that destructive that it should be kept a secret? And did Tom know who Red was when they chatted at the hospital?