One of the biggest things last season in this show was the whole mystery of the relationship between Red and Liz, something that showrunner Jon Bokenkamp teased often, but never really committed to. It was really fascinating to watch regardless, and going into the new season, it was also something that I was quite looking forward to, especially when it turned out that Red did have a wife, Naomi Hyland, who was still living, and that she was going to play sort of a major role this season. Not much has been done with her to date, but I think that’s changing now.
“Dr. Linus Creel” is this week’s episode and it deals with an old US government black budget program that investigated the possibilities of mind control. Where the Reddington Task Force is concerned, someone of late has been causing people to go total violent psycho and commit some horrible murders, and this is what Red has to offer to them, even providing some crucial leads. It was a good episode, partly because of how well-performed the role of Dr. Linus Creel was, but also because we got a serious peek at what Red and Naomi’s life was before it was all upended several years back, and that was the true strength of the episode, the villain himself being somewhat lackluster.
Despite being such a great crime drama, The Blacklist has often suffered from some really random villains, many of whom are drawn out of what seems to be a checklist of “how to create crime drama villains”. The first season suffered from it, and it seems that the wriers on the show aren’t above using the same old style of backstories o create new villains in the second season. Dr. Linus Creel is the subject of this week’s interference from the Reddington Task Force and though I liked how good a job actor David Costabile did in the role. The acting was great, the concept of the villain himself, less so, since it was the same (tired) style of many previous villains, geniuses turned renegades. What’s the fun in that. Just last week we had a similar situation, and what I need is some variety in the villains, and for them to not be just the background dressing or something.
Aside from the lackluster villain though, the episode was rather good when it was dealing with the broken relationship between Red and Naomi, and then Red’s insistence for her to relocate from her home in Philadelphia with her current husband. In the previous three episodes, we’ve seen that Naomi was abducted from her home by agents working for Berlin, and then tortured by him in retaliation for the supposed wrongs he did to Berlin’s daughter, many years back. Red got her back, but their already tenuous relationship is breaking under the strain since Naomi wants nothing to do with him.
And that’s what I loved so much about this episode. We finally get to see behind the scenes on Red’s relationship with his ex-wife and it is utterly fascinating. It exposes the man underneath. Naomi, sorry, Carla Reddington might have cut herself off from her former husband, but she knows that he still cares for her, otherwise he wouldn’t have saved her from Berlin in the first place. But still, she has a good life right now, and the dynamics of that “good life” are what writer Mike Ostrowski and director Michael Watkins explore in this episode.
Plus there’s the fact that Elizabeth has been searching for Naomi since the end of episode 2 and she does find her in this episode, though the meeting doesn’t go as you might expect. There’s this really fascinating and intriguing conversation between the two women and it offers a lot of hints as to what the relationship between Elizabeth and Red is, but there are no firm answers at all, and that is kind of frustrating, but pleasingly so I have to admit.
The relationship is one of the big mysteries of the show, and if that were to be suddenly exposed, much of the lure would be gone, and I don’t think that I am really ready for that, as a viewer. I want the show to keep hinting things, and I kind of hate how it is all being strung along, but I don’t want it to come to an end either. Weird, I know, but it is what it is.
After all, Red plays Elizabeth so well again and again, and just watching the two of them interact, especially when the conversation is focused on what they mean to each other and the various secrets between them.
One of these secrets comes to light towards the end of the episode, and is involved with the climax of Linus Creel’s confrontation with the Task Force, and you realize just how dedicated Red is to keeping Liz safe. And it is moments like these when you really wonder just what the hell is going on between the two of them. Just what exactly does Liz mean to Red and why? As usual, I doubt that the answers are going to come anytime soon, and I suspect that we won’t know the truth of things until the end of the season either.
In a show full of great actors and characters, one who really stands out is Mr. Vargas, played by Paul Reubens. I’ve remarked before on his excellent performance, from previously when he posed as an agent of Berlin to allow Red to clean house of certain traitors, and he turns in another excellent performance. We already have Mr. Kaplan, who is an excellent aide and confidante to Red, and now we have another equally-fascinating character. Stuff like this is why I love the show so much.
The episode ends on a rather interesting note, with Liz sitting in a large hall, facing a locked room and playing with a set of keys. Just what is behind the door is anyone’s guess, but I’m thinking that it something major to do with her and with Red, so I can’t wait to see what it is. Hopefully next week!