Last week’s penultimate episode of The Blacklist’s second season, “Karakurt” ended with the possibility that this week’s season finale would end with answers. Would we find out who Liz’s father is? Why was Reddington at Liz’s house the night of the fire? Why does the flash drive of Cabal information look like a terrible PowerPoint made by someone in a 90s tech thriller? Of course “Masha Rostova” doesn’t really answer the questions we’re most interested in, as is typical for The Blacklist. But it does solve one mystery that has held this show back for quite some time: when the hell will Liz finally trust Reddington?
Even though Reddington is often very shady in response to Liz’s questions, by now she should know that it is for her own good. He rarely—if ever—straight up lies to her, and if he does, it’s for a reason that always makes sense in the end. After two seasons of trusting Red, then questioning his intentions (and back and forth, over and over), “Masha Rostova” feels like the moment when Liz finally understands that all of his actions have been for her benefit. I’m not entirely sure why Liz would think that Reddington turning himself into the FBI would be a smart business move for him. Spending two years protecting her at all costs and putting himself into danger constantly doesn’t exactly sound selfish, but then again, Liz doesn’t always seem to understand the sacrifices that Reddington has made for her.
Season One of The Blacklist ended by setting up Berlin, who started out as an intriguing villain, but eventually didn’t really live up to his potential. However “Masha Rostova” makes it clear that the new villain to take down is the Cabal, which won’t go away quite as easily as Berlin did.
“Masha Rostova’” ends right where “Karakurt” ended, with Liz being framed for poisoning Hawkins. She is being framed by Tom Connolly, yet helps escape his grasp with the help of Reddington. The Cabal isn’t going to be stopped so easily, which means Liz is going to be on the run for some time now. In order to take the Cabal down, Liz and Reddington take two very different approaches. Reddington compiles 11 of the world’s greatest investigative journalists and presents them with the information about the Cabal, telling them to research and bring them out of the shadows. Meanwhile, Liz and Cooper find Connolly, and in a rush of anger, Liz kills Connolly, runs away and Cooper turns himself in for Connolly’s murder.
This handling of the Cabal actually highlights the differences between Reddington and Liz in a pretty succinct way. Reddington knows that just taking one cog out of this large machine won’t stop it and if anything, will probably make the Cabal harder to fight. Reddington is smarter to play the larger game, and by smoking out the Cabal will make them far easier to fight. Yet as we’ve seen with Liz’s conversation between Reddington, Liz wants immediate results, regardless of how they might hurt her. She knows that shooting Connolly will only mean bad things for her, but in the moment, she doesn’t care. It’s this sort of short-term thinking that has caused her plenty of problems throughout these last two seasons and hopefully will be a habit that Reddington will one day break her from.
But even more interesting than the battle of Liz/Reddington vs. The Cabal is Liz/Reddington vs. their old team. With Cooper out, Kessler becomes the new head of the team and his first order of business is to add Liz to the wall of criminals they need to hunt down. By putting these two teams against each other, maybe The Blacklist will finally move away from the crime of the week process for a little bit—at least until Liz and Reddington are finally inevitably working with Kessler and his new team once again.
“Masha Rostova” isn’t exactly a shocking, surprise-filled finale, though. Liz and Tom hook up again, with Liz pointing out that she doesn’t want to regret being with Tom after all this time. Even the “revelation” about her house burning down doesn’t really reveal all that much, except that we now know that Liz shot her father. But it’s still not clear who her father or mother even are and Reddington could still very much be her father. “Masha Rostova” is largely more of the same for The Blacklist in the mystery department, which is to say, not much is revealed. However “Masha Rostova” does gives us a look at what could be a largely improved third season. This second season has ended with some of The Blacklist’s strongest episodes and takes some steps in fixing problems that this show has had since its beginning. If “Masha Rostova” is any indication of what we have to look forward to, The Blacklist could be coming back better and more exciting than ever before.
Ross Bonaime is a D.C.-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.