Sunday’s episode of “The Blacklist”, aired right after the Super Bowl. The show’s much awaited mid-season return was given the much coveted post-Super Bowl timeslot in an attempt to bolster already strong ratings for NBC’s highest rated drama. The episode, the first in a two-part episode that concludes on the show’s new regular timeslot on Thursday nights, is clearly set up to do just that.
The episode, clearly lays out new antagonists and characters. However, before we enter our usual summary and evaluation of Jon Bokenkamp’s amazing crime-thriller-drama, we must begin where we left of last November.
Before the hiatus, Fitch (Alan Alda) had been blown up by a plan orchestrated by Berlin (Peter Stormare), but not before mentioning a secret box in Russia. In response to Fitch’s death, our protagonist Raymond ‘Red’ Reddington (James Spader), kills Berlin, leaving a gaping hole in the antagonist department since season one. We also learn that Elizabeth Keen’s (Megan Boone) spy/pseudo-husband Tom (Ryan Eggold), has been working for Red all along, and was ordered never to see Liz again.
With that out of the way, we can now focus on last night’s episode. The episode begins with news broadcasts Red’s arrest in Hong Kong, where he is quickly transferred into US custody and taken to a clandestine prison somewhere in the Bering Sea. Meanwhile, Red’s FBI handlers at the post office are clueless as to where Red is or what Red is up to.
At the prison, Red warns that a certain inmate named Luther Braxton (our titular blacklister played by Ron Pearlman), will escape in the next 12 hours and steal vital intelligence from the prison. The warden unconvinced, confidently declares that “Luther Braxton is in Solitary”.
In solitary, we see Braxton strapped to a metal chair being shocked, he isn’t breaking. Braxton is then taken back to his cell where the guard hands him a wire to swallow, clearly a piece of his escape plan.
FBI Director Cooper finds the Director of Clandestine Services, known henceforth as The Director (David Strathairn), and his number two, Kat Goodson (Janel Moloney, “The West Wing”), in his office. The CIA wants to know Red’s connection to Braxton. It is then revealed that Braxton is a super thief, a man who steals very valuable assets and information in the midst of chaotic circumstances. He’s brutal and often leaves a trail of blood behind his heists. The CIA wants the FBI team to dig into Braxton and Red’s history.
At the prison, now known as “The Factory”, Braxton uses the wire and other hidden supplies to electrocute a guard and start a panic. He gets a gun and shoots several more guards. Meanwhile, there is a chopper on the way to evac Red, even though Red does not want to go. Liz, Ressler, and Samar are all on the chopper.
Braxton then gains control of the facility and releases several prisoners, who are actually part of his team, whose sole objective is to steal the intelligence from “The Factory”. The FBI team lands in their chopper, only to be captured by some of Braxton’s men. Liz, however, manages to escape. Samar gets shot in the foot during the skirmish. She and Ressler are taken to a room where they are put into metal hangman’s nooses and forced to stand on small platforms. If they lose their footing, they will choke to death. Samar’s shot foot is not making it easy for her to stand.
Braxton calls the CIA, reaching a negotiator named Rosenberg, who follows protocol and asks to speak to the warden. Braxton sighs, allows the warden to say a couple things, and immediately proceeds to shoot the warden through the head. Braxton then says that he isn’t in the mood to negotiate and wants to speak with someone with authority. Cooper takes the phone. Once Cooper is on the line, Braxton explains that from now on, he gets what he needs, or somebody dies. Braxton then declares that he is “the warden now”.
Liz, having eluded capture, is sneaking around the prison, when she is apprehended by Red. Red tells her that Braxton is after “The Fulcrum”. Aaah, “The Fulcrum”, the mysterious object that has been referred to with increasing frequency in season two, most notably by Fitch before he died. Red now explains that “The Fulcrum” is a file containing information which would reveal the existence of secret organization that runs the world. This cabal contains some of the most powerful people in the world, including the deceased Fitch. Liz proceeds to ask if “The Fulcrum” is here, but Red says it isn’t. Liz wants to know why Red didn’t mention any of this before, but he merely says that information critical to finding “The Fulcrum” can be found here. Red urges Liz to get back to the chopper and escape, but she refuses to do so without Ressler and Samar.
Red, being the high profile criminal he is, then heads off to see if any of his “acquaintances” are among The Factory’s prisoners. Before long, Red, Liz, Khan, Quintano and Gernert are sitting in the warden’s office, drinking his scotch and hatching a plan. They know Braxton needs to get to the server to retrieve the information from the facility’s computers. Gernet, suggests blowing up the boiler, which is next to the server room, destroying the sever if they are lucky. Khan then says he is going guide Liz through some small air ducts so she can get to the boiler room and let Red and the German in.
Before the plan gets underway, the phone in the warden’s office rings phone rings. Braxton knows they’re there, and he quickly falls into chatting with Red about old times in Belgrade, when besting Red made him a criminal to be reckoned with. Clearly, there’s no love lost here. Red promises Braxton he won’t get The Fulcrum, but Braxton doubts Red has the chops to stop him. Red hangs up on him, dismissively. The stage is set!
Braxton calls Dir Cooper from the room he has Ressler and Samar in and explains that since the prison went into lockdown, all the codes that once ran it are no longer valid. The mainframe has generated a master code granting the CIA all access, and this is what Braxton wants. Cooper says he will get to work on getting it. Braxton immediately shoots one of his prisoners and says, he either gets the code in ten minutes or Samar will be hung to death.
Cooper talks to CIA agent Goodson who tells him he cannot give Braxton the code. The computer at The Factory is directly linked to the computers at CIA headquarters and the Pentagon. If Braxton gets onto it, he would have access to every secret the US has. Time is up and Braxton starts to hang Samar. Cooper gives in and gives up the code.
Liz gets to the boiler and lets Red and Gernet in.
Members of the aforementioned cabal, including The Director, who seems to have taken Fitch’s place in the cabal, are now discussing Braxton’s effort to get “The Fulcrum”. The Director points out that this could mean that Red never actually had “The Fulcrum”, which means the cabal could take him out whenever they wanted to. It is suggested that the best solution is simply to blow up The Factory, killing both Red, Braxton, and the intelligence. The Director talks to Goodson and orders her to blow the prison up by air strike.
Meanwhile, Red’s plan to blow up the boiler has hit a setback. Apparently, special safety features will prevent it from blowing up unless 2 people constantly reset the safety mechanisms, and Gernet says it isn’t going to be him. Red and Liz are going to do it, even though they run the risk of being blown up themselves. Setting the scene for the next big reveal.
Liz asks Red why he is so desperate to keep Braxton from the Fulcrum. Red admits that the cabal is under the impression that he has it and if Braxton gets it, it would mean that Red does not and the cabal may try to kill him. Red then reveals the bombshell by telling Liz, “I didn’t want you to come here because Braxton may find out that he can’t get The Fulcrum without you.” Liz seems shocked and does not understand. But, before she can get any more out of Red, the boiler needs tending again and some of Braxton’s men come in and begin shooting. Red and Liz fire back and try to get out of the room just as the boiler blows.
Liz manages to survive scot-free but Red is on the floor and does not appear to be breathing. Liz tries to resuscitate Red, but some of Braxton’s men show up and grab her. They don’t even notice the nearly dead Red on the floor.
At the post office, Cooper is now begging Goodson to call of the airstrike. She shrugs him off and says it must be done. The jets are just ten minutes away.
One of Red’s allies finds him, revives him, and tells him that Liz is with Braxton. Red loads a high-powered shotgun and in an almost amusing rambo-esque manner, begins blasting his way past prisoners to get to Braxton and Liz. Braxton puts a gun to Liz’s head just as Red bursts into the room, shooting Braxton in the leg and says, “You didn’t even know what you were looking for.” Braxton scoffs and says he knows all about “The Fulcrum”, how it disappeared 20 years ago. He adds, “I know about the house, the first, and the girl.” He pauses and looks at Liz, realizing that what he has been looking for is right there in the room with him. We briefly see an image of the strangely shaped scar on Liz’s wrist that has been there since she was in a fire 20 years ago.
“She’s the one,” says Braxton. “Shoot him,“ Red says to Liz. She looks confused and does not know what to do, right when the missiles from the fighter jets hit “The Factory”, ending the episode on a cliff-hanger.