Television

The Blacklist: Season 3, Episode 8 - "Kings of the Highway"

Anthony Merino

The producers end the first half of season three with a great episode that promises interesting developments when it returns in January.


The Blacklist

Airtime: Thursdays, 9pm
Cast: James Spader, Diego Klattenhoff, Meagan Boone,Mozhan Marnò, Ryan Eggold, Christine Lahti
Subtitle: Season 3, Episode 8 - "Kings of the Highway"
Network: NBC
Air date: 2015-11-19
Amazon
The garden was blessed by the Gods of me and you

We headed west for to find ourselves some truth, ooh

What you’re waiting for?

What you’re waiting for?

-- “Blame It on Me”, Wanted on Voyage, George Ezra (2014)

This week’s episode ends with FBI agent Donald Ressler (Diego Klattenhoff) tackling fugitive Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone) in a forest and telling her, “Elizabeth Keen, you are under arrest.” This was a tad bit frustrating since the first eight episodes of the season end up being simply the elongated story of Keen getting arrested. In essence, of the first eight episodes of season, three were just an entertaining deck shuffle that, on the plus side, introduced new villains and set up what could be an outstanding re-alliance of characters.

The episode centers on the protagonist, Raymond “Red” Reddington (James Spader) being abducted by the “King of the Highways,” a low-level criminal enterprise that kidnaps people, steals from them, and dumps them off at the side of the road. It does seem kind of strange that the most dangerous man in the world, who’s evaded the CIA, FBI, KGB, and several warlords, would get abducted by a gang of rural highwaymen. Led by Cash (Marcus Hester), who acts like a redneck Charles Manson, the gang is hopelessly outmatched. In less than a day, Cash is dead and two of the gang have been shot.

This twist demonstrates The Blacklist’s better qualities. In order to move the series forward, either Red or Liz need to be captured. They can have either the government or the Cabal, the organization of baddies in the series, outsmart them. In that context, a petty clan of thieves actually makes sense. They would be singularly skilled enough to maybe capture Red, while at the same time, be well off his radar. (Of course, their only purpose is to be a kind of deus ex machina device.) Although they have very few lines of dialogue, there is some character development. Cash comes off as a vain Mansonphile who’s not nearly as smart as he thinks, and the other three display varying degrees of intelligence. While not Red’s equal, they are not bumbling idiots either.

Perhaps the most interesting member of the gang is Jilly (Danielle Burgess), who gives off a creepy Harley Quinn (the Joker’s girlfriend) vibe. While the character’s only reason for existing is to reflect back on Red -- allowing him to be sexy, insightful, and empathetic at different times in the episode -- she came across as more nuanced than the plot actually required.

The episode included some exceptional scenes. One that stood out was the conversation about Solomon (Edi Gathegi) between Deputy Attorney General, Reven Wright (Adriane Lenox) and Lauren Hitchin (Christine Lahti), which ends when Hitchin fires a single shot in Wright’s chest. It worked so well for two reasons. First, it was shockingly quick and quiet. One minute they are chatting like old pals, the next Wright is lying on the ground, gasping in disbelief. Second, after the shooting, Hitchin lovingly strokes Wright’s cheek and apologizes for killing her, saying “I’m so sorry honey, I’m going to miss you. I really am. Any last words or final prayer or anything?” This display of violence followed by gentleness echoes Albert Brooks’s portrayal of Bernie Rose in Director Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive, for which Brooks was nominated for a Golden Globe. One of his most memorable scenes is when he comforts Shannon (Bryan Cranston) just after killing him. Both scenes turn the creepy factor up to an eleven.

The scene was also notable because Reven Wright survived The Blacklist’s six-episode rule (recurring characters do not have an extended shelf life on this series). Tom Connolly (Reed Birney) made it to nine shows. Jolene Parker/Lucy Brooks (Rachel Brosnahan) and Berlin (Peter Stormare) each survived six episodes before being killed. Great characters like— Alan Finch (Alan Alda), Mr. Vargus (Paul Reubens), Diane Fowler (Jane Alexander), Ressler’s fiancée Audry Bidwell (Emily Tremaine), Asher Sutton (Peter Vack), “The Cowboy” (Lance Reddick), and Luther Braxton (Ron Perlman) got bumped off at five or fewer episodes. In contrast, Wright made it 14 episodes before being killed, making her the only other significant minor character to make it past the six episodes besides Red’s body guard Luli Zheng, (Deborah S. Craig). Good guys, bad guys -- it makes no difference. In The Blacklist’s universe, the fifth appearance is toxic.

By the end of the episode, there are some major realignments, perhaps indicating that the second half of the season will start with different groupings. With Lizzie and his personal bodyguard, Dembe (Hisham Tawfiq) in custody, Red is left on his own. Former Mossad operative Samar Navabi (Mozhan Marnò) is now an independent player; she would be an excellent pick-up for Red, as it would make a whole lot of sense for her to end up assisting Red. Additionally, the producers spent a whole episode introducing Marvin Gerard (Fisher Stevens). He may play a pivotal part in the second half of the season, or be killed in the first episode after the hiatus. One never knows with this series.

The episode ends with a great montage: Red escaping, Liz and Dembe being arrested, Samar Navabi being cast out, Lauren Hitchin supervising the removal of Reven Wright’s body, Mr. Solomon going through Agent Harold Cooper’s (Harry Lennix) home, and Harold Cooper, Charlene Cooper (Valarie Pettiford), Tom Keen (Ryan Eggold), and Kerikar (Andrew Divoff) fleeing by a lake. All of this was done to the terrific song “Blame it on Me”. So far, season three has been an excellent rebound for a series that seemed to have lost its mojo.

9

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