After the wild ride at the conclusion of Season 4 of The Blacklist, in which it was finally revealed that Raymond Reddington is indeed Elizabeth Keen’s father (or is he…?) we came into Season 5 with an entirely different feel.
Red’s empire is decimated, following his betrayal by Kate Kaplan. Penniless and living at a motor lodge, spending his days dipping his toes in the pool, this is a Red we’ve never seen before. How many millions he’s lost, we’ll never know, but he’s lost everything – even the fedora and fine Italian suits. But in a refreshing change of pace, Red is having a blast looking at life from the other side and is in no hurry to give the FBI a case. But, bills do need to be paid, and Reddington is not one to flip burgers at the local diner for that weekly pay check. Instead, he steals a very expensive red sports car from right under the owner’s nose, then promptly sells it in order to pay off his back rent and get some pocket change.
Elizabeth has had some changes to deal with of her own. Having now had it confirmed, via a 30-year-old blood sample and DNA test done by Harold Cooper, that Reddington is her father, she’s almost feeling the roles have reversed and she’s the parent to a wayward child. She begs him for a case, but he’s too busy sitting at the pool and providing drinks (now that he’s flush) at the motel’s social hour by the pool. He does give her a case, but only to benefit himself by gaining two new employees, after his former underlings are either dead or have flown the coop in the wake of Kate Kaplan’s actions. Red’s empire building has begun.
However, all of Red’s carefree attitude is hiding a deeper secret. This is Raymond Reddington. When is he not hiding a dozen secrets from everyone? Dear Mr. Kaplan, in her final act to get Liz some truth, dug up a suitcase full of human bones. A suitcase that Red has sent Dembe to find. But the suitcase is now in the possession of Tom Keen, back from his sabbatical with his own mother and father issues, and he’s on his way to get it to Liz, as per Kaplan’s instructions. But once Tom arrives home, greeted by his ecstatic wife, she gives him the news that Reddington is her father. Stunned, and needing time to process this, Tom hides the suitcase, deciding to do his own detective work on the bones, rather than reveal it to Liz just yet. And there, in that one decision, Tom sets his own destiny in motion.
The Task Force haven’t come through the finale of Season 4 unscathed. Donald Ressler, always the by-the-book FBI Agent, has got himself into a fine mess. Having accidentally caused the death of the President’s National Security Adviser, Laurel Hitchin, he then hired Hitchin’s own Cleaner and Fixer, Henry Prescott, to take care of the mess. We open Season 5 to find everyone’s cell phones abuzz with the news that Hitchin is dead. Ressler is sent to investigate the very crime he caused. When Hitchin’s death is declared an accident, Ressler now has an even bigger problem. Henry Prescott isn’t going to let his new contact at the FBI go so easily, resulting in Ressler now being indebted to the Fixer. He spends a lot of time running errands for his new ‘employer’, digging himself into a digger hole.
Samar Navabi and Aram Mojtabai, meanwhile, have got up close and personal in their relationship. Following their long awaited, (not without its own drama, of course) kiss in the Season 4 finale, we first see them smooching in the elevator, stopping only as the yellow doors open to the War Room to a suspicious Ressler. Aram’s biggest problem is how to tell his boss he’s dating his coworker. Navabi, ever the cool one, takes it all in her stride.
Harold Cooper is juggling the upper bureaucracy, with a new FBI Director having been sworn in, and he’s going to have to tell the brass that Reddington is Keen’s father. It’s all about perception, you see.
Having basically been forced back to work, Reddington again starts giving them Blacklisters, and each one sees him regain a little piece of his crumbled empire. One such case involves smuggling guns – and elephants. We can’t forget the elephants that new Team Red employee, Smokey Putnam, borrowed to help pull down trees to mark out a runway for the gun runners to land on. After some swift talking, and a little bird watching, ending in the gun runner’s arrests, Red’s real purpose is revealed. The gun runner’s plane. That’s how you regain your mobility in Reddington’s world.
Tom Keen, still obsessed with the bones in the suitcase, and never one to back down on a mission, realizes he is going to need help. Remember Dr. Nik Korpal? We weren’t sure he’d survived Red’s fury after being part of Liz’s faked death. Turns out he is alive and well, engaged to be married and working at a local hospital, which is where Tom finds him. Not exactly willingly, Nik helps Tom, putting him in touch with a coworker, Pete McGee, who could identify the bones. Because all Tom wants at this point – along with everyone watching – is to know just who is in the suitcase and why Reddington doesn’t want Liz to know.
More Blacklister cases are given to the task force, and most of them are your normal Blacklister – some gross, some evil, and one art dealer whom Reddington robbed blind in a brilliant heist. One Blacklister in particular inspires Liz to seize the day, and rushing home, she tells Tom they need to get married. And in a whirlwind ceremony, they do indeed marry, and for the first time, Liz feels happy.
One Blacklister appears to be more dangerous than most. Ian Garvey, another player in the suitcase arc. Reddington is trying to find it. Tom’s hiding it, trying to discover who is in it, and Ian Garvey comes into play, also interested in the suitcase full of bones. The hunt for answers takes a deadly turn as Nik Korpal is murdered. Pete McGee, after running a search through CODIS (using Liz’s badge that Tom stole) to ascertain the identity of the bones, goes on the run. Tom then turns to Pete’s girlfriend, Lena Mercer, looking for clues. Meanwhile, Ian Garvey is closing in. What has Tom got himself involved in here?
Liz, meanwhile, has no idea there is a suitcase full of bones and that all these men are after it. All she knows is Nik is dead, and now Tom has gone missing too, and isn’t returning her phone calls. Turning to the task force for help, her and Ressler turn up at a gruesome scene. Lena Mercer, in the wrong place at the wrong time, all thanks to a suitcase full of bones, has ended up being run through a wood chipper. Pete McGee is saved that same fate, but is just as dead. With blood everywhere, Liz fears the worst, but Tom is not there. Because he’s taken the suitcase and is now on the run himself from Ian Garvey’s men, and who should turn up to ‘save’ him, but Reddington.
Now together, with the suitcase almost as big an elephant in the room as the ones Smokey had, the two must work together. Reddington implores Tom to stop what he’s doing. Too many people have already died over a secret that needs to remain dead and buried, literally. As Liz and Ressler track Tom’s movements, Liz becomes convinced Tom is trying to find out who killed Nik. Yeah, not exactly, Liz.
Outsmarting Reddington, Tom makes his move and swipes the bones, now in a duffel bag, and finally gets a look at the CODIS report on just who those bones belong to. We’re not privy to what he reads, but by the look on his face, this secret is huge. He calls Liz to meet him at their apartment. And that is where everything goes horribly wrong. Liz walks in on Garvey’s men holding Tom. A fight ensues, Tom is stabbed, reminiscent of Ranko Zamani stabbing him in the pilot episode, and Liz is thrown to the floor, suffering a traumatic head wound. Ian Garvey finds the bones, and leaves his men to finish off Liz and Tom.
Still on the heels of Tom, Reddington and Dembe burst in, shooting most of Garvey’s men in the process. But Tom is mortally wounded, and despite a heart breaking ride to the hospital, complete with one of the best choices of music this show has ever utilized (Disturbed’s “Sounds of Silence”) Tom succumbs to his injuries and dies, and Liz slips into a coma as the Task Force watch on in horror.
And at this point, the entire show gets a reboot. Liz has been in a coma for 10 months while life has continued around her. Tom Keen is no more. Reddington has spent the better part of a year regaining what he’s lost and is back on his feet again, living life in style. Liz, after recovering physically and returning home decides she cannot give her daughter, Agnes, a good home, and gives her to Scottie Hargrave, Tom’s mother, to raise. Scottie promises to give Agnes back when Liz is ready to take her. Somehow, I’m not sure I trust Scottie to keep that promise.
Liz, unable to continue in the life she had, with a future that was torn away from her, escapes to Alaska, where we find her living alone in a cabin for the past few months. But, this is The Blacklist, and trouble is never far behind. It finds Liz during a winter storm, and when her life is on the line, she finds out that she’s still got what it takes. She dispatches the four men who are trying to kill the federal witness who sought shelter from her. And with him safe from harm, she delivers him to the hospital and leaves town. No one knew who she was or where she went. She was a ghost.
The task force has been working in her absence, and Ressler is struggling with the evidence he’s hidden and lies he’s told, all to satisfy his debt to his fixer, Henry Prescott. When a case threatens to expose what he’s been doing, he’s inches away from being caught when Reddington steps in. Together they find Prescott, and with Ressler willing to go to prison to also see Prescott behind bars, his fate seems sealed. Until Prescott meets with an unfortunate ‘accident’ on the way to prison, courtesy of Red, saving Ressler. Harold Cooper refuses to take Ressler’s confession, and in turn, gives Ressler his own sealed confession (of what, we can only imagine) in an envelope. Each man holds the others darkest secrets, to be dealt with when the time comes and their job in the task force with Reddington comes to a close.
Liz hasn’t been idle since she’s returned from Alaska. Determined to find who killed Tom, she does not return to the FBI. Her apartment has become a crime scene, complete with a crime board on the living room wall. Photos of Garvey’s men, and the pieces of information she can remember from that night adorn the wall. With some help from a Detective Singleton, who is investigating what happened to her and Tom, she finds the leader of Garvey’s men, Navarro. In the course of her meeting, he tells her that Tom wasn’t trying to find Nik’s killer. Nik was helping Tom. News to Liz. Her and Navarro get into a struggle, that ends when Navarro smashes into the glass coffee table. As he bleeds out in front of her, Liz is faced with the fact she’s just killed a man in her pursuit of who killed Tom.
And in another homage to Season 1, Liz gets information on The Stewmaker, and concocts her own acid bath formula. Complete with gas mask, and plastic taped to the walls, she stews Navarro’s body. When he’s dissolved, all that is left of the man is sitting at the bottom of the heart shaped bath. A mechanical eye, that appears to have a camera and circuit board in it. What has Navarro seen that Liz may now be able to access? At this point, she turns to Reddington for help. He knows she’s just killed a man in her quest, but still agrees to help.
Ian Garvey is not out of the picture. He’s still biding his time. He has eyes on Liz, and reports on her movements. He is waiting for the right time. But for what? The suitcase gives him some sort of leverage over Reddington. Why then has he not put that in play?
Season 5 has been a roller coaster to date. Starting with the lighthearted episodes with Red basking at the pool, Mr. Kaplan’s legacy has held its grip over the first half of the season. The show also celebrated its 100th episode, with guest star Nathan Lane in a very fast paced, humorous episode regarding lost treasure. It was a welcome change of pace in the midst of the usual drama that unfolds each week. But the suitcase of bones is still out there and as yet, we still do not know whose bones they are. Tom took that secret to the grave with him. Whatever that secret is, it’s going to be a big one. I have a feeling we still have a wild ride to go in the second half of Season 5.