Oh, those poor, well-meaning fools at the FBI -- they can't do anything right, can they? This time, they kick off the evening's proceedings by lying to Red in order to bring him back to HQ. The poor simpletons do this because they pick up intel threatening Red's life, but as he says, if it were intel worth having he'd be the first to know -- haven't they noticed that he's basically a wizard? Their incompetence results in an bafflingly bloody episode.
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That intelligence proves to be a ruse, leaked directly to the FBI so that Red can be traced back. Its originator, a supercriminal named Anslo Garrick (Ritchie Coster), follows Red and launches a full-scale assault on the facility. His goons make short work of the bureau's clownishly incapable guards, wounding Donald in the process. Red absconds with him to a sealed chamber, and Anslo sets up just outside, swearing some sort of vengeance up and down -- the chamber's fictional FBI glass is utterly impervious to bullets and explosions, but sound seems to carry through it quite well.
Anslo monologues about how he was once Red's partner -- they had a falling out, and Red brutally scarred him. While Anslo keeps talking, Red performs a bunch of gnarly medical procedures on the badly wounded Agent Donald. While giving him a blood transfusion, Red pontificates that while he might be giving him a needle in the arm this time, it might still be in the neck next time -- shout out to those early neck stabbings.
Some perfunctory gestures toward Agent Keen's grief for her father aside, she's in full-on Rambo mode this week -- and I don't mean that pansy First Blood Rambo who only killed one person, I mean third sequel Rambo who leaves a new corpse every 30 seconds of screen time. She catches up with the FBI tech guy, and joins his mission to regain control of the base's communications. She smirks her way through endless thugs, until one randomly gets the drop on her and knocks her out.
The rest of the FBI, meanwhile, is taken hostage. When nobody is willing to give Anslo a code to open Red's container, he begins parading FBI associates in front of the glass for execution. First, he splatters a random woman's head all over the place, and then Red's driver Dembe is given the more dignified farewell-my-friend plus off-camera gunshot combo. Will he kill a bunch more people? Tune in next week.
I'm pretty conflicted on this first half of The Blacklist's fall finale. The evening began with an uncharacteristic warning about the episode's graphic content, and "Anslo Garrick Part 1" delivers in turn with one of the bloodier hours I've seen on primetime network television in a while. I'm willing to acknowledge that some segments of the audience likely reveled in this detour through '80s R-rated action territory, but I suspect that as many of us saw all that bright red corn syrup coating the walls and thought, "Really?"
For one, this is entirely out of character with the rest of the show visually -- if this had been a splatterfest from day one, then I'd simply accept that as the show's tone, but at this point it feels like a cheap, artificial way to raise the stakes for their big two-part fall finale. And the irony is that the stakes are really quite low, because the blood upstages anything in the way of character or story in a major way.
The boringly grumpy Donald remains boringly grumpy in spite of his fleshed-out backstory, and Red's two big moments -- a comically long speech about things he wants to do with his life and the death of his friend Dembe -- fall flat. That whole big list of rich people activities he has to live through this for? A) That only works if we think Red's actually in peril, and nothing in the series so far has suggested that he is. B) Trim it down, buddy. C) Donald cries when he hears it? What, because Red's hobbies are so beautiful? I don't get it, and I certainly don't feel it. Agent Keen, meanwhile, has all the personality of your average Call of Duty protagonist.
In essence, it feels like NBC is simply trying to match pay cable's gore quotient without paying any attention to its subtleties. I really hope The Blacklist team has some awesome story pay-off planned to accompany the blood spurts for next week's fall finale conclusion, because if this is all just leading up to a "Red's her father!" reveal, then they're going to lose me.
airs Mondays at 10pm on NBC. (Image courtesy of NBC)