The Blacklist (S06E01) “Dr Hans Koehler”

After the longest hiatus in the show’s history, The Blacklist returned Thursday night with its first episode of Season 6, Dr. Hans Koehler. It was the first part of a two part premiere. Part two aired Friday, January 4th at 9/8c.

As was the case with the opener of Season 5, this episode started with a fun caper. Last year it was Red (James Spader) stealing a red corvette. This year it was Red robbing a bank. Talk about upping your game. But just to make it interesting, a gang of masked bandits also decided to rob the bank on the same day. How inconsiderate of them, throwing a spanner into Red’s plans and causing him to need to move up his own robbery.

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And what did Red steal? A safe deposit box containing the long lost Van Gogh painting, Poppy Flowers. What is it with Red and stolen paintings? And in true Red fashion, he returned it to the bank the following day. And why did he rob the bank? To see if he still had it in him (and so the Van Gogh could find its way home). Apparently, he needn’t have been concerned on that front.

At the end of last season, Liz discovered that the Red we know is an impostor.  But Liz is keeping that information close to her chest, and not mentioning it to the task force. She’s pretending it’s business as usual around the criminal. Red believes his secret is safe, and has no clue that Liz knows. Let the games begin. Liz, and sister Jennifer Reddington (Fiona Dourif), are out to discover why this Red took the place of their dead father some 30 years previously. A quick road trip to the location of the fire ensues, but the house is long gone, Only a vacant lot remains, but it sparks memories in Liz. A word with the retired sheriff doesn’t shed much light on that night. Everyone had left by the time fire and law enforcement arrived on scene.

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Red, unaware that Liz knows he’s not the real Reddington, gives them a Blacklister case. A surgeon, Hans Koehler (Kenneth Tigar), who has made it his life’s work to change the faces of criminals. When Liz briefs the task force, Ressler (Diego Klattenhoff) isn’t impressed that they’re still doing the criminal’s bidding. Of course, the fact that Red shot an unarmed Sutton Ross inches from Ressler’s head has a huge bearing on that sentiment.  But Reddington is still an FBI asset, and Cooper (Harry Lennix) must act on cases Red gives them. However, he is prepared to shut the task force down if Elizabeth finds the price too high to pay. He also tells her she can call him Harold. I don’t see that happening, somehow.05 NUP 183826 0021 - The Blacklist (S06E01) "Dr Hans Koehler"

Following a lead from Red on finding where Dr Koehler may have operated previously, Ressler and Keen confront a very irate bakery owner. But the lead pays off, when minute traces of blood belonging to one Basil Vladakis (Vasili Bogazianos) show up in the drains. And never one to pass up a lead, Red is on it, ending up at a sports bar, where he confronts Basil. Out of his league, Basil contacts the nurse who assisted on his surgery. On her arrival, Red presses her for the current location of Koehler. The good doctor is apparently in France on urgent business. Smelling a rat, Red takes the phone and sends it to Aram, who discovers Koehler is not in France. The text came from a Washington DC warehouse.

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Liz, concerned that Red is going to kill the doctor to hide the fact Koehler had previously changed Red’s looks, races with the task force to the warehouse location. They are too late, and gunshots ring out as they arrive. Dr Koehler had been held prisoner by his patient, one Bastien Moreau (Christopher Lambert), “The Corsican”, an international hit man. And Moreau, not wanting any witnesses, kills the medical team and Dr Koehler right as Reddington arrives. With his dying breath, Koehler tells Reddington one word – ‘Picasso’. More painting references? The task force are well aware Red has his own agenda, and Liz calls him out on keeping secrets.  Meanwhile, Moreau makes his escape and ends up at Reagan International airport, where he shoots his two helpers dead. Can’t have any witnesses.

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Once free of the warehouse, Red goes straight to Mrs Koehler to look for the Picasso. But it’s not a painting. It’s a stuffed dog and Red finds a thumb drive hidden in the collar. Dr Koehler’s patient list, and the very thing that Red needs. He himself is on that thumb drive, with his old identity. Having disposed of the bones last season, now he must protect his identity even further. No wonder Liz is suspicious of Red’s motives on this case. He may not know that she knows, but he’s still one step ahead.

The task force track down The Corsican’s vehicle, after Samar had shot out one of its tail lights, and get to the airport. Not knowing who they are looking for, they lock the place down and start searching. Ressler spots someone, and is sure it’s their man, but then gets called away. They’ve found the wheelchair and fake leg cast that Moreau used to expedite boarding. But with the task force on the scene, Moreau changes plans and escapes from the airport. So the task force are left empty handed. Moreau is on a mission and they have no idea what it is – or what he looks like.

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Cooper talks with Liz again, asking her if she is still willing to continue. Yes, she is, because she needs to know why the Reddington they could trust has turned into the Reddington they can’t trust. She still does not let on that Red is an impostor. She meets with Red, who gives her the thumb drive of Koehler’s patients. Of course, his name has been deleted off it. Liz knows this, and Red doesn’t hide the fact. She baits him, trying to find out what work he had done. What he had looked like before. Careful, Liz. You may know Red’s secret, but he’s not stupid. Dial it down a notch, girl.

 

Thoughts…
After 8 months, and a change from a Fall premier to mid season, The Blacklist is finally back. It was worth the wait, and took off running with a great opening. The task force are struggling with what Red did in shooting an unarmed man in their custody, and that will be interesting to see play out. They literally do make a deal with the devil every week, in the name of justice. It’s what makes Red so interesting. He’s such an enigma.  There are several things that were hanging. How long will Liz manage to keep her secret from Red?  How long will Liz and Jennifer team up on their quest? What’s up with Samar? She’s obviously hiding something about her physical abilities.

From the looks of this episode, it’s shaping up to be a great season. We know (spoiler alert) that Red will be arrested in the next episode. From there, he will be in prison for most of the first half of the season. That is a game changer indeed. I for one am looking forward to the change of pace, and to see how he still manages to give them Blacklisters from a prison cell.

Next Friday, it changes to its new date and time, Fridays at 9/8c. It’s concerning that it’s been moved to Friday, with ratings being lower on that night. Only time will tell if Season 6 can hold viewership enough to garner it a Season 7. There is still a lot of story to tell, and it would be a shame if Season 6 were the final.

Images courtesy Virginia Sherwood/NBC | 2018 NBCUniversal Media, LLC