The Blacklist is a show that often tries to pull the rug out from under the audience, or tries to subvert our expectations, but I can honestly say that it rarely ever works for me. This is a show that often thinks it’s being smarter than it really is, or it goes for a move so ridiculous, it takes the excitement out of any “twist.” But what is fascinating about “Karakurt” is how it throws these little surprises at us, with intriguing twists that actually pay off.
“Karakurt” starts off by following the same general outline of almost every episode of The Blacklist:
1. Showing us the villain of the week and what makes them so dastardly.
2. Giving us Liz, who is determined to find out more about her past, which she increasingly knows less and less about.
3. Making sure Reddington’s urgency in the case supersedes anything that Liz wants.
Usually #1 never really matters much in the larger scheme of things, but it does in “Karakurt.” While trying to force #2 out of Reddington as he begins his discussion of topic #3 and eventually giving up, Liz actually fights for the information she wants. She stands up for herself and, surprisingly for once, Reddington’s crime actually is more important than Liz’s desire for information about her past.
For maybe the first time since “Berlin,” “Karakurt” supplies us with an exciting villain, one who is actually several steps ahead of the government. Even more exciting is that we finally see just what the Cabal and the government are capable of within the world of The Blacklist.
We learn throughout the episode that the titular villain is actually just a small part of a larger scheme to start World War III by convincing the United States that Russia is attacking them. Usually when The Blacklist attempts to explain a plan that has so many twists and turns and various layers to it, it becomes more convoluted and confusing than interesting. Yet the layers here actually work quite well, as we also learn that Liz’s Russian mother makes her the perfect person to frame in this situation.
The smaller crime at the center of “Karakurt” focuses on the task force attempting to figure out what Karakurt’s next target is, after he bombs the Office of Russian & European Analysis. The team discovers that he’s working on a WID, a weapon of individual destruction, which will only effect one person. After tracking down Karakurt at Union Station, he runs into Liz, and they lose the criminal, but it’s all just a part of his plan. When the task force discovers that Karakurt wants to poison a senator that believes these recent attacks have actually come from Russia, Liz tries to stop the senator right before he touches Karakurt, thinking this will activate the WID. What she doesn’t know is that she’s actually the one that was carrying the weapon, which has activated and killed the senator. With the virus in her bloodstream after having run into Karakurt and given her Russian background, Liz is now the top enemy of the government.
This will not only make Reddington the only person that Liz can trust, but will also likely push her closer to Tom, who wants to just leave D.C. with Liz. I’m just amazed Tom would ever want to get on a boat again with Liz. But more importantly, this makes Liz actually interesting. Usually she’s just the cypher for the audience’s frustration over not knowing the answers, but for once she’s in actual danger, which, at least at this point, is quite compelling.
Next week’s season finale will likely give us new answers and put these characters in completely new situations, which is what the show continually promises, yet rarely ever follows through on. But for once, these new situations and new paths the show is setting up are actually interesting. Our characters are completely flipping, with Liz becoming one of the top enemies and Reddington now being trusted more than ever with Cooper. For once, it’s actually intriguing to see where this show is going next.
Ross Bonaime is a D.C.-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.