Reviews

The Blacklist: Season 3, Episode 11 - "Mr. Gregory Devry (No. 95)"

Anthony Merino

After two and a half seasons, will The Blacklist finally get around to answering one of its central mysteries?


The Blacklist

Airtime: Thursdays, 9pm
Cast: James Spader, Megan Boone,Jake Weber, Susan Blommaert
Subtitle: Season 3, Episode 11 - "Mr. Gregory Devry (No. 95)"
Network: NBC
Airdate: 2016-01-21
Amazon
It's alright and it's coming on

We gotta get right back to where we started from

Love is good, love can be strong

We gotta get right back to where we started from.

-- Right Back Where We Started From, Maxine Nightingale (1975)

One of the better reality shows currently in syndication is Penn & Teller: Fool Us a magic show where talented magicians go on stage to confound the audience, and try to confound legendary magicians Penn Jillette and Raymond Teller. Only a small percentage of acts are able to stump the two men. While the acts vary in skill, most are engaging. What makes the show a guilty pleasure is the lack of pretense. The show is based on the assertion that there’s no such thing as real magic, just trickery. NBC’s The Blacklist shares this quality. At its best, it stacks up the illusions and the deceits, and only at the very end does the viewer catch what is really going on.

This episode’s Blacklister is a drifter named Gregory Devry (Jake Weber). He spends the entire episode claiming to be the real Raymond Reddington. Whether he is or isn't is not revealed toward the end, but what makes this episode so fascinating is that there is a doubt. From the very beginning, when James Spader offers himself up as Raymond "Red" Reddington, he states he’s a criminal and a confidence man. For two-and-a-half seasons, the only thing that can be certain about Red is that he has and always will have an agenda. So, even though the show is manipulative, it would be insane for the "Red" we know to be an imposter, but the thought is there.

Who is the real Red isn’t the only reveal in the episode. It’s another trick that the producers may be appropriating from magicians: misdirection. In the end, they pop reveal one after another; but hints may have led to the key of the entire series.

One of the series' most enigmatic characters has been Raymond’s cleanup expert Mr. Kaplan (Susan Blommaert). Highly androgynous, the character has stolen almost every episode that she’s appeared in. Just the way in which Blommaert has the character walk into a room establishes Mr. Kaplan as obsessive, highly focused, and uncompromising. Consequently, Mr. Kaplan's always been one of the few people in the series whom Red treats as equal. Despite his clear affection and devotion to Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone), he’s constantly explaining the world to her in an oh-so-loving and lecturing manner. In this episode, the producers may have included several Easter eggs on Mr Kaplan’s real identity.

After the highlights from the previous weeks are shown, Kaplan's seen walking into a crime scene with three women. She gives them their orders, and gets to work. As she starts to clean, she takes out a Walkman and begins listening to Maxine Nightingale’s song, "Get Right Back Where We Started From", which includes the lyrics "A love like ours (a love like ours) can never fade away, you know it’s only just begun". The episode ends with Red sitting next to Mr. Kaplan with his arm over her shoulder. She reaches out and puts her hand on his knee, suggesting an unparalleled level of intimacy between the two.

She states, "Thank you for everything. You won’t lose her, no matter what happens", which seems like a simple statement of reassurance. In the context of the rest of the episode, however, it could mean so much more. Their body language suggests a broken intimacy. There’s also a dropped line near the end where Red states that Katrina Rostova "disappeared", suggesting that the Elizabeth’s mother may still be alive. Katrina Rostova is Elizabeth Keen’s biological mother, whom Red often refers to in glowing terms. The potential for Mr. Kaplan to turn out to be Katrina Rostova is breathtaking. If Mr. Kaplan was Rostova, and she and Reddington were lovers? That would be great. Their split, but continued closeness, could be due to issues of gender identification. If navigated with sensitivity and depth, this avenue could lead to great and groundbreaking television.

There was one troubling element to the episode that had only a minor impact on this episode, but could create problems for the series: the producers pressed the reset on two main characters. We see Elizabeth hook up with Tom Keen (Ryan Eggold). His confession that he was not the best husband in the world was idiotic. Keen should have fallen over in convolutions of laughter at this understatement. Additionally, Samar Navabi (Mozhan Marnò) gets added back on the team.

The creators have a good thing going. They have an ensemble of wonderful characters to surround Red and Keen, but they need to embrace change. Additionally, the problem with suspense is you have to believe in a real threat. One or two more existential crises, where everything pops back to normal, and the series will be significantly damaged.

One of the endearing qualities of the show is the producer’s exquisite and eclectic taste in music. This week’s episode ended with a montage featuring Half Moon Run’s "It Works Itself Out". The last line of the song is, "You can sell me out again; sell me out again". Hopefully, the producers don’t believe the same holds true for their audience.

9
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