The first part of “Luther Braxton” was not only the biggest post Super Bowl episode in three years, it also became the most watched episode of The Blacklist ever. Based on that, it’s easy to think that more people are watching The Blacklist now than ever before. To these new viewers, I would like to say this: get used to the jerking around you just experiennced in “Luther Braxton: Conclusion.”
“Luther Braxton: Conclusion” takes place seconds after the last episode’s ending, with The Factory hit by a missile, leaving it on fire and sinking into the ocean. Well everyone is fine, except that Braxton has taken Liz, and all of the characters that we care about eventually get saved by helicopter. As for all the prisoners that are either about to burn to death or drown? Ehhh, it’s best not to worry about them.
Braxton takes Liz to an Alaskan hospital, then we see that she is trapped in what looks like a pool, where she will soon be forced to recall her repressed memories. This segment of the episode had me asking so many questions about what I feel were just huge moments of stupidity for the show. For example, is Braxton keeping Liz hostage at the hospital, or did they move to another location? If so, why is the FBI not tracking them, especially when they know where they landed, instead of leaving it to Reddington (once again) to find Liz? And since they know that Braxton landed at the hospital, why the hell do they not realize he’s gotten all the way to Maryland?
The majority of “Luther Braxton: Conclusion” revolves around going inside Liz’s repressed memories from her childhood, and also watching her in the real world reacting to these memories. Both are unintentionally hilarious. The biggest mysteries of Liz’s story have been what happened at the fire she was saved from as a child and, Reddington’s history with her. So for those trying to figure out what happened in the fire, people were searching for an item we just learned about earlier this week. As for Reddington, he was looking for that item. But these don’t even feel like concrete answers, because it is revealed that Liz’s memories have previously been tampered with, and what she remembered might not even be true. The Blacklist’s attempt to give us answers is completely non-committal, and if anything, confuses the convoluted story far more than it ever needed to be.
As the episode ends, Liz is mad at Reddington for seemingly being more interested in the fulcrum everyone is searching for—which she discovers she has—than in her. It’s obvious that isn’t true from Reddington’s face. But what exactly is the positive possible explanation for Reddington being at her house? That he was just hanging outside her house like a creep, saw the burning home, decided to go in and save little Liz? Like, what does Liz think was the best case scenario there?
“Luther Braxton: Conclusion” relies so heavily on Megan Boone, and while I do like her, giving her the focus and making her basically act against her own subconscious feels ridiculous. Every once in a while, we’ll see her scream something in the real world like “Where is she???” in a lower register, and it’s impossible not to laugh. Meanwhile in her head, we’re basically seeing her trapped in a closet, watching what’s happening outside of the closet, which we never get to see. You’d think a dream episode would consist of something far more interesting than watching a character whispering to her subconscious in a closet, but in this case you’d be wrong.
As frustrating as Reddington can be, he is the best part of “Luther Braxton: Conclusion.” He’s always worked best when Liz is in trouble and he’s desperate to save her, as there’s a glint of anger and danger in his eyes that makes him far more unpredictable than usual. Also exciting is the fact that Reddington has another antagonist in The Director, played by David Strathairn, taking Alan Alda’s place as the actor who deserves better than this, but could make this show a little better.
It’s fine for The Blacklist to keep some secrets. In fact, without some of these core secrets, The Blacklist would be completely without merit. Yet the way “Luther Braxton: Conclusion” pretends to answer questions, only to further confound viewers is beyond irritating. There’s no commitment to any choice, which makes it seem like nothing matters. The show is going for a mysterious “anything could be true” style, but instead, it’s infuriating. The Blacklist needs to make some choices and stick with them before the show becomes completely irrelevant.
Ross Bonaime is a D.C.-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.