That escalated quickly.
In part one of The Blacklist premiere, Liz (Megan Boone) vowed to outsmart her bogus begetter to learn more about their shared past. In part two, she put that plan into action by dropping a dime on Red (James Spader) with the NYPD. To add insult to injury, after years of working every police and federal agency, Red was arrested by a loud-mouthed uniform officer for possession of a handgun in front of a pretzel cart.
Red’s arrest saved an otherwise middling hour — the success of a dramatic episode is inversely related to the amount of time spent on characters defusing a bomb — but also suggests that the show’s creative team is committed to Liz’s newfound tenacity. It’s easy, particularly in a season premiere, for characters to make grand declarations about changing or new behavior. But here was Liz Keen, perpetual doormat to her fake father, making a big move and getting Red out of the way.
The sequencing of scenes underlined the impact of Liz’s choice. Early moments saw Liz gently urge Red to escape the locked-down UN building to avoid police detection. Once Red was picked up in embarrassing fashion, Liz hustled to sell her surprise and low-key distrust of Ressler for his potential role in the arrest. And then once it was clear Liz and Jennifer (Fiona Dourif) made the decision to protect their investigation, Liz was legitimately affected by her choice.
For all its issues, The Blacklist has regularly illustrated the impact of Liz’s tough decisions. It can be frustrating when the character doesn’t actually change her behavior in the aftermath of a traumatic event, but in the moment those events often feel meaningful. That’s a testament to Megan Boone’s performance. She was quite good throughout this episode, particularly once Liz unveiled her choice.
What worked best was the internal conflict visible with Liz. Despite everything Red has done to her and her family, Liz remains emotionally tethered to the man. Putting him in jail, where he’d theoretically be on his way to super-max and eventually death, is a bold move that she’d have to live with for a long time. That demonstrates the complexities of the Liz-Red pairing. They may not be legitimate daughter and father, but their connection is legitimate.
Of course Red will not spend the rest of the season in prison. However, it’s a good development both for Liz’s character and for the novelty of upcoming episodes. There’s a lot of potential with Red facing off with fellow inmates, his hunt for who burned him and the inevitable breakout sequence. And now that his capture is out in the open, the task force must navigate in a new way as well. For once, The Blacklist won’t just be about criminals scamming and killing one another in FBI-approved shadows.
For a sixth season of a broadcast procedural, that level of potential transformation — however temporary — is admirable.
The Blacklist airs Fridays at 9/8c on NBC.