The Blacklist (S06E22) “Robert Diaz”

The Season 6 finale of The Blacklist was a face paced, fun adventure. It picked up right where last week’s episode ended, and never let up for a minute.

Anna McMahon (Jennifer Ferrin) had Cooper (Harry Lennix), Ressler (Diego Klattenhoff) and Aram (Amir Arison) in holding cells, and was hunting for Liz (Megan Boone). Still in the building, Liz called Reddington (James Spader) for help. And he gave it in typical Red fashion. In no time at all, they hatched a plan. All it needed was a Star Wars nerd computer hacker dialing in from his High School prom, and a semi-permanently drunk German bomber. Throw in a hilarious team of non-English speaking bank robbers, and you had the team assembled . Team Red is certainly an eclectic bunch.

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If there is one thing The Blacklist excels at, it’s a heist. Liz locked herself in the computer server room and received instructions from Tadashi Ito (Alex Shimizu) on opening the cell doors remotely. As doors unlocked in their paths, Cooper, Ressler and Aram met in the corridor. And all was going great, until McMahon’s men stopped them at gunpoint. An exasperated Anna McMahon said, “Please tell me you have a space in this facility that’s better suited at housing criminals.” Why, yes, we do. Enter the best ever prop in The Blacklist history. The infamous Box.

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But, that’s exactly where Liz and Reddington wanted Cooper, Ressler and Aram. In a homage to the Season 1 episode Anslo Garrick, Red’s team stormed the Post Office. Max Ruddiger’s (Dikran Tulaine) team got right to work, setting explosives right underneath the box. Liz contacted the guys in the box, out of earshot of McMahon, and filled them in.  Some fancy camera loops fooled McMahon, and while her goons ran to stop Max blowing up the place, Red made his move and calmly entered the box room. He made quick work of opening the box, with the password supplied by Aram. The password was ‘Samar’, if you’re keeping notes.

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With the tables turned and McMahon’s men now in the box, Red and the task force made their getaway. And just in time for breakfast, too. Red took them to a safe place, with a fully catered meal. Here, Liz told them she was bringing Agnes home as soon as they’d saved the President. Red had a word with Donald about the Russians, while Ressler assured Red his identity would stay with him. The respect between these two men is great to see. But the team had a President to save during the debate that night. They also needed to clear their names from any wrongful involvement in the Presidential assassination plot.

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They embedded Ressler and Liz in the MPD after Cooper called in a favor. Aram went undercover as a student at the debate location. They needed a diversionary riot, and Red called in Vontae Jones (Coy Stewart) who was more than up to the task. The President took the stage at the debate, while McMahon’s head honcho, Sandquist (Ben Horner) settled into a lighting booth above the stage. And here, we went all Manchurian Candidate. Sandquist retrieved the hidden rifle, and had the president’s head right in his cross hairs.

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As the arranged riot let loose outside, Ressler and Liz, in full riot gear, used the diversion to gain access to the building, while Aram accessed the video feeds. They ran to stop Sandquist firing from the lighting booth. Ressler charged Sandquist just as he fired, and the shot went wide, hitting the First Lady in the shoulder. Chaos ensued, but the President was safe. Things took a bad turn though, when the Secret Service realized Liz and Ressler were in the building. They apprehended both of them, while Sandquist blamed Ressler for firing at the First Lady. No one listened to Ressler and Liz telling them Sandquist was the shooter.

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They handcuffed Liz, Ressler, and the also captured Aram, then transported them away. Ressler knew they’d never stand trial. They’d be ‘taken care of’ before that happened, since they knew who the real perpetrators were. But it wouldn’t be The Blacklist without an explosion, gun fight, and an upturned vehicle. And that’s just what happened when Red intercepted the van carrying the task force. All hell let loose, as secret service fired on the FBI, with Red and his two men joining in. Fuel poured from the upturned van. Spotting it, Sandquist threw a flash grenade, igniting it. In the mayhem, Anna McMahon showed up, and held her gun to Red’s head. But not before Ressler finally took out Sandquist!

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With Red’s life on the line, McMahon told the team they had been trying to save the country. She had her gun on Red, while the FBI had their weapons trained on her. Ressler yelled, “If you kill him, I kill you!” And the shot rang out. But it wasn’t McMahon who fired, nor Ressler. It was Dembe (Hisham Tawfiq)! The prodigal son returned, shooting McMahon in the head, saving Red’s life.

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When Red asked if this meant Dembe was back, Dembe told him that he’d left to follow his own path, but his path led back to Red. Cue the lump in the throat at that line. Why had Dembe come back right now though? He’d been busy and told Red, “The Townsend Directive. Our friend in Miami says it’s in play. He says it’s very important.” Red agreed. It was critical. No more was said on this Townsend Directive, so this is a Season 7 story.

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Back in their safe room, Ressler wasn’t convinced of something. Rearranging the tableware, he recreated the presidential debate, and where Sandquist had fired from. And it was obvious. The president had never been the target. The First Lady, Miriam Diaz, was. But why? Enter Cynthia Panabaker (Deirdre Lovejoy), Cooper and two armed SWAT guys escorting Red to Miriam’s hospital bed.

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They confronted her, asking why her husband had organized a hit on her. Stunned, she told them how 4 months before the primaries, they had been on vacation and Robert Diaz had killed a mother and son in a hit and run accident. They’d covered it up, using a fixer. She wanted to go public, which would ruin her husband’s chances at the presidency. He wanted it kept hidden. 4 years later, she needed him to confess to the American public. Diaz and McMahon took care of it by organizing an assassination attempt, in which Miriam would be ‘accidentally’ killed.

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With the plan out in the open, Panabaker and Cooper visited the President. He was about to resign in disgrace, after which, the FBI would open a full investigation into Diaz and McMahon, clearing the task force. Diaz asked them, “How does a wanted fugitive bring down a President?” referring to Reddington. And Cooper replied with the best line of the night – “With pleasure.”

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With Liz convinced it was now safe enough to bring Agnes home, she was reunited with her daughter. Now that she knew who Red was, and that he was no danger to her, she felt safe again. But this is The Blacklist. No one is ever safe for long.

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While all the heists, rescues, and saving Presidents was going on, Red took time to visit a man (Brett Cullen). They obviously knew each other, evidenced by the fact Red said he loved and trusted this man. They mentioned their knowing each other in childhood. Red had asked the man to find someone for him. And it needed to be done to keep Liz and Agnes safe. Who was he looking for? The man handed Red a photo. He’d found the person, and they were in Paris.

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Red traveled to Paris, where he walked behind a middle aged, red headed woman. He called out her name, “Katarina.” Hello, Katarina Rostova (Laila Robins)! Alive and well after almost 30 years. Stunned, she turned to him. “Raymond,” she said, and they kissed. And not a peck on the cheek either. There are obviously deep feelings between these two. She asked if ‘they’ were watching. Red told her, “It’s not safe. You’re not safe.” So his intent was one of protection also. But then in a shocking turn, Katarina injected him with something, and Red dropped to the ground. As Katarina stood there, a van drove up, and two men hoisted an unconscious Red into it and drove off.

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Katarina then picked up Red’s fedora, and walked away, right into Season 7.

FINAL THOUGHTS

This was a great episode and season finale. Fast paced, and gave us a conclusion to the season long conspiracy story. I have to admit though, I was underwhelmed at the plot. Kill the First Lady, just so the President wouldn’t have to spill the beans on a crime he’d committed? Show runner Jon Bokenkamp asked us on Twitter what we thought the plot was, and you know, the fans gave better ideas. So it was a let down that the UN bombing attempt, the missing dossier, Bastien Moreau’s arc, the killing of Ava Ziegler (and all those bugs!!) resulted in this.

But for me, the real story is always the interaction of the task force. The Blacklisters are a means to an end. I love this task force. I love it when they work together, and we got a ton of that in this finale. Liz working with Red, Tadashi (whose mother still hates Red), Max and the German bank robbers was so much fun! Then the entire task force gate crashing the Presidential Debate was great.

And Dembe’s return was the icing on the cake! The band is back together!  I have to admit, I haven’t missed Samar at all. The task force as it is feels perfect. I’m really hoping the powers that be don’t feel we need another task force member. If they do, I think they are eyeing Agent Andrada (Angela Jeanneau) who has made small appearances this past few episodes. I just don’t think it’s necessary, and takes time away from the core cast if/when they add another member.

Kudos to Jennifer Ferrin for giving us someone we loved to hate. Her Anna McMahon was spot on. And great job by the directors on every episode, hiding her advanced pregnancy! I got a real kick out of watching her wearing that big open coat, being shot from the shoulders up, behind props and sporting that oversized bag at times!

And who was the man that Red met with? There are a few possibilities. Could he be a brother? They’ve known each other since childhood. Could he be a former KGB colleague? If Red isn’t Ilya Koslov (another theory), could this man be Ilya? But I’m really not too concerned who he is at this point. The main thing that was of interest is that Red knew this man could find Katarina. Bringing Katarina back is something the show runners have wanted to do for a long time. And now she is back. The only thing I missed was that they didn’t age Lotte Verbeek to play the role.

But why did she incapacitate Red?  Was she really attacking him, or was it a way to get him to safety where they could meet off the street? Where was Dembe during that exchange? What has happened in the previous 30 years where Katarina may now be an enemy of Reds? Could it be to do with Red manipulating Masha’s memories after the fire? We’ll find the answers to these questions, and more, when we return in the Fall for Season 7.

The Blacklist will return in the Fall at 8/7c on Friday on NBC.

Images courtesy NBC Virginia Sherwood | Sony/NBC | 2019 NBC Universal Media, LLC