Things remain tense as the special FBI task force headed up by Elizabeth Keen in previous seasons hosts not one, but two convicted felons: feared underworld mastermind Raymond “Red” Reddington (James Spader) and Agent Keen (Megan Boone). Found guilty of killing Attorney General (and Cabal operative) Thomas Connolly (Reed Birney) last season, she was charged with manslaughter and now serves as a “consultant” to the group she used to run. It is no surprise that her superiors agreed to such an arrangement considering the nature of the forces they are trying to stop, as was made abundantly clear this episode.
The brutal kidnapping, torture and murder of a clown on his way home from a birthday party baffles the task force, until Reddington is brought in and identifies the responsible party, as usual, with ease. He pinpoints a religiously-inspired vigilante group called “The Vehm” as the murderers, with the team concluding the cult views it as their sacred duty to punish a very particular group of sinners: child molesters. Reddington, however, knowing some of the individuals targeted by the Vehm himself, is skeptical, and subsequently leads the team to the biggest sinner of all: Cardinal Richards (Michael Cullen), a money-laundering Catholic official who manipulates the Vehm to take out anyone who challenges his money laundering operation, irregardless of whether they harmed any children as he tells the guilt-ridden former pedophiles.
It is a testament to the show’s level of nuance that, speaking legally, none of the parties present are on the right side of the law. While the murderous Vehm and the conniving Cardinal Richards are clearly in the wrong, their victims, while maybe not pedophiles like the cardinal claimed, were hardly saints themselves. Then there is Agent Keen and the FBI, who, despite her clear-cut assassination of a high-ranking, albeit deeply corrupt, government official, is still allowed to not only walk freely but continue her investigative work on account that it serves the bureau’s purposes.
And then, of course there is Reddington: guilty of God knows how many crimes and indiscretions, the “Concierge of Crime” is practically given free reign to neutralize his enemies and consolidate his power because, for the time being, it benefits the bureau. Thus, after the FBI informs the Vehm of Richard’s duplicity, Reddington is able to turn the hapless cardinal over to the vengeful fanatics and remove a major threat to his own money-laundering schemes without the agency blinking an eye.
This isn’t to imply everything is hunky dory with our anti-heroes and, counting Reddington, anti-villain. Agent Samar Navabi (Mozhan Marno), recently reinstated to the task force after she was briefly and unceremoniously purged from it, struggles to reconcile with old team member and current leader Donald Ressler (Diego Klattenhoff), who remains suspicious of the mysterious Israeli agent. Meanwhile, Agent Keen is trying to recover whatever semblance of a normal life she had with her ex-husband Tom (Ryan Eggold), discussing the possibility of having a baby with him but dreading the fact that Reddington, despite his consistent looking out for her, will be involved in any potential child’s life.
Even Reddington is not unaffected by this sense of brokenness. Confiding to one of his prisoners, the criminal mastermind says he used to fantasize about being a “bad guy” when he was a kid. “That was a long time ago,” he sighs. Shortly afterwards, he shoots the prisoner, blindfolded and tied to a chair, dead. It is a powerful scene that reminds viewers why they tuned into The Blacklist in the first place.
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