Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Paging Mrs. Reddington

OnDemand has become my new best friend lately; my go-to place for movies and missed episodes alike and it saved the day yet again when after skipping The Blacklist Monday in favor of an early night in bed, I was able to catch up with the latest episode (“Madeline Pratt”) last night. Red was back in rare form; witty, charming, and thoroughly conniving. Unlike episodes past, this week’s blacklist target was actually intriguing because she seemed to play a direct role in the larger picture and story arc involving Red and his past. We first see Madeline Pratt, whom the bank employee interestingly enough addresses as “Mrs. Reddington”, as she’s emptying a safe deposit box in an Istanbul bank, and later at a hotel bar where she meets Red in order to recruit his help in stealing an ancient effigy currently residing at a Syrian Embassy.

There’s definitely more than business between these two. As Maddie (how Red later refers to her) tells him “You stood me up in Florence I had to get your attention somehow.” Truly the narrative surrounding the effigy isn’t nearly as intriguing as the seductive and sassy interactions between the winsome duo, and it quickly becomes apparent that there is tons of history between these two to be mined for clues into Red’s enigmatic past.

Later when Red approaches Cooper about Maddie being the next blacklist target and the plan to help her steal the effigy using Liz’s help in the robbery, he inadvertently (or purposely, you never know with Red) exposes Liz’s hidden talent by saying “luckily we have an ace of spades among us.” The comment of course raises a red flag for Cooper and Ressler who question Liz about her past, saying her father’s criminal record didn’t show up in her background report and neither did hers, to which she testily replies she doesn’t have a criminal record and Ressler pipes in “because you never committed a crime or because you were never caught?” which she mysteriously answers with a simple “Yes”; no further explanation as to whether it was no crime or not caught. Hmmm.

Red later introduces Liz to Maddie as Nicole, a supposed cohort of his with the skills necessary to assist in the robbery. At the meeting, Liz expertly palms Maddie’s cell phone with all of the skill of a seasoned professional and does the same again when stealing an ID card as someone brushes past her on a street. This of course opens up a whole new can of worms and introduces a new array of questions about Liz’s own past because her demonstrated thieving skills prove that this good girl wasn’t always so good. It seems like the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree after all, and Lizzie is turning out to have a mysterious past of her own just like daddy. Double-hmmm.

The most eye-opening moment in the episode came though when Red tricks Maddie into believing he’s been tortured and in a gut-wrenching confession goes on to tell her about the Christmas Eve 20 years earlier when he ran out of gas with a car full of gifts and after walking home opened his home’s front door to find everything covered in blood. The pain in his voice seemed too raw to have been an act, so while the torture was a ruse to get the location of the effigy from her, I think the confession was very real. After rewinding and watching that scene again, what struck me in his comments was that he said “they’d love the story, daddy running out of gas…They’d get such joy from telling that story at my expense.” It’s the “they” that gets me; in that word is he referring to his wife and child or “they” referring to more than one child. Also, while he does mention all the blood he also goes on to say “I can still smell the nape of her neck, feel her little fingers on my cheek, her whisper in my ear” which means she survived whatever attack occurred.

Another item of note in the episode was Madeline’s countless references to Florence; bringing up “last summer in Florence” multiple times, including one time when she angrily questions why he didn’t show, saying “Florence was our way out, a fresh start.” When Red makes the above confession about the events 20 years earlier, he blames that event for his absence from Florence and many other places in the years since. What makes the timeframe of his absence from Florence (last summer) just a little intriguing is that it coincides with Lucy Brook’s faked death (June 8, 2013) as listed in the obit Red was holding during "The Alchemist" episode (see below).

Also, in the coming attractions for next week’s episode Red says “she already faked her death to elude me, now she’s back” so assuming the episodes are meant to be running in real time, despite my initial impression that he was just learning about Lucy through the ViCAP database search that he did during the "General Ludd" episode, in fact not only was he aware of her existence at that time but given his wording also already in her pursuit.

Egad, instead of answers, we got more questions. Now for some upcoming spoilers; the next episode will be titled “The Judge” and stars the great Dianne Wiest. also reports that Fringe’s Lance Reddick will have a guest spot as “The Cowboy” one of Red’s many assets, “but when Red gives him a new assignment, the results will leave Red in shock.” About the assignment, TVGuide later revealed: “Let’s just say Jolene, the woman who’s been getting a little too close to Tom, may not be such a mystery for much longer. She actually has a connection to another Blacklister who we’ve already met.” Hmm…stew on that for a while.

I must say while “Madeline Pratt” wasn’t a great episode in comparison to some earlier favorites, like Stewmaker or Anslo Garrick, it at least advanced (even if only by inches) the overarching mythology of the show. The coming attractions for next week look oh so juicy so despite an undoubtedly late, late night on Sunday thanks to the Oscars, I definitely won’t be skipping next Monday night (even if it means red eyes and bags under my eyes the next day). 'Til next week.