The Blacklist Recap: Now It Begins

Photo: Eric Liebowitz/NBC
The Blacklist
Episode Title
Berlin, Part 1
Editor’s Rating

Red Reddington has a huge ego. This isn’t a unique observation, of course. I’m sure you’ve thought the same thing. The confidence, the swagger, the love of the fine food and wine and music, and the laughing, and the smiles. But he also has a big enough ego to actually think that a seemingly random accident or death was planned just to get to him. At one point tonight, even Liz questions his thinking by saying, “It sounds like an elaborate plan just to get to you.” I mean, who thinks that way all the time, that everything that happens is happening because of them?

The funny thing is … he’s always right. That’s why the FBI has to listen to him. Like tonight’s opening death, an armored-car guard coughing and bleeding and eventually collapsing and dying inside of a bank. Another random death? Hardly. This is just the start of the epic plan that the series has hinted at all along.

A doctor is infecting people with the most deadly virus in the world, making them do his bidding while promising to cure them (he’s the only one with the antidote, of course). But he’s not an ordinary extortionist. This is all part of the plan to get to Red. He’s working for the big bad, the one who is finally coming to get Red. We haven’t seen him yet (at least we don’t think we have, but really, who knows), though we now know his name: Berlin. All this time the FBI thought it was a place, but it actually refers to a person. Unless it’s the ’80s band. That would be an interesting twist (and the pop-song-heavy The Blacklist could play “Take My Breath Away” during a montage).

Red takes Liz to see one of his old cohorts (Red always has an old cohort), Dr. Sanders, who is now a doctor at a mental institution. And by doctor I mean he’s a patient there. But he knows what’s going on, because he worked on the virus. He’s crazy, but he’s not stupid, and he might not even be that crazy, even with all of the “space alien” and “UD4126” talk. He eventually leads Liz to the doctor because she remembers something after seeing the I.D. badge of the people at the institution.

It’s a Dr. Vogel who is infecting people, and he has infected five people (the Five Horsemen) to carry out his plan. Dr. Vogel is crazy too, and might be stupid, because he actually drinks the water that Liz gives him during his interrogation. Note to all scientists dealing with deadly viruses: Never drink liquids or eat food given to you by your enemies who happen to now be in control of that deadly virus. She wants the names of the five people he infected, who are going to infiltrate an airport.

The FBI gets to the airport in time to stop the plane from landing. A jet is sent to shoot the plane down. Which it does. It crashes in flames.

This was actually one of the better episodes of the series, because not only did it show people doing things and figuring things out that weren’t quick and/or aggressively stupid, we also finally see that every episode of the show has had a purpose. Every blacklist case has been connected to Berlin — a person, it turns out, and not a place — the person who is trying to get to Red. It’s always great when a TV show fills in the blanks for us and shows us a bit of what was going on in those episodes where we were all in the dark. It was actually pretty cool to see Liz explaining to the rest of the team how the cases were connected, showing them files and pictures of people we’ve seen earlier in the season (General Ludd, Wujing, Jolene Parker, the Alchemist, even Gina Zanetakos, whom we find out has escaped during a work furlough).

So we know that all of this is connected somehow, but we don’t know exactly how. Infecting a bunch of people to get to Red? Yes, that’s elaborate, but there has to be a more logical, smaller reason than that (albeit one that is going to turn into an epic plot). There’s also the matter of how exactly Red is connected to Liz, who wants to resign because she’s sick of working with the man who killed her father. But after finding out how everything is connected, she goes to the park to warn him (even if she hasn’t forgiven him for killing her father or ruining her life), but he just tells Dembe to leave while he sits there talking to her. He wants to know about her change of heart about him, and he isn’t concerned about the FBI arresting him or someone killing him. He says, “None of it is worse than losing you.” He pulls a gun on her so the FBI doesn’t think they’re working together.

The episode ends with the plane crashing near the park and Red on his knees ready to be arrested, his deal with the FBI revoked. He says to Liz: “Now it begins …”

Random Notes:

— So Berlin was on the plane that crashed? They showed someone in a hooded jacket pick up a key, and earlier they showed Berlin with a hooded jacket. If he doesn’t survive the crash, that’s going to be one big anticlimax.

— One quick exchange I thought was intriguing: Liz tells Red that she needs him because she needs a lot of questions answered. He says he needs her for the same reason.

— I was stunned that the FBI actually brought en entire team to Dr. Vogel’s house instead of just Liz and Ressler. This is something they should do more often!

— It was also good to see tough, smart Liz back like in the pilot episode, instead of the confused/lame Liz we’ve had for many episodes.

— Vogel says he’s going to cure these people if they do what he says, but he ends up having his men just shoot the people. He’s not only a bad doctor, he’s also a jerk.

— Okay, why was Zanetakos on a work furlough? Wasn’t she sort of, you know, dangerous?

— Having the dying guard call 911 to not only report his illness but also record a message to his wife because they record their calls was a nice touch.

— I’m glad Liz finally told Ressler and the team what was going on with her marriage to Tom, even showing him that the house was still messy from their fight. At some point she should call Red’s cleaner lady.

— Nice of the FBI to let Red finish his “I was once on an island” story to Liz before apprehending him.

Quote of the Week:

“That’s a great band name.” —Aram, on the Five Horsemen