‘The Blacklist’ 4×01 Review: “Esteban”

Last night finally saw the return of the Blacklist that fans have been dying for. The season premiered with the explosive “Esteban,” and episode that had me on the edge of my seat with my mouth hanging open in shock multiple times, as I’m sure happened to many of you. From epic shoot outs and fight scenes to emotional monologues, declarations of love, and shocking twists, this episode had it all. I think Red can demonstrate the emotions of the fandom right now.

The episode opened with Red, Kaplan, and Dembe at Liz and Tom’s abandoned safe house in Cuba looking for clues as to where Liz and the baby may have been taken. They attempt to question one of the kidnappers that Tom shot, but he dies before he can tell them anything. Red cuts off the dead man’s head (ya I know, but this is Red we’re talking about) and uses it to frighten workers at a nearby warehouse into telling him who the dead man worked for. Red kills all but one of them, because they fought back and refused to give him the information he needs. The last man standing gives him the name of the dead man’s employer, Manuel Esteban. Red knows that Esteban is a Cuban double agent working for the CIA, who can lead them directly to Liz.

Meanwhile Kaplan is desperately trying to make amends for Liz’s kidnapping by giving Red whatever information she has, but her role in helping Liz fake her death and hiding it from Red is a rift that they will probably never be able to get over. Red sees what she has done as a complete betrayal of his trust. Red trusting anyone is a rare thing, so when you break that trust with him, you’re pretty much done. It seemed like they may have been close to having a constructive discussion about where they go from here at the end of the episode, but that shocking car crash put the conversation on hold, possibly forever.

While Red is off looking for Liz on his own, the rest of the team back at FBI headquarters is using their resources to do whatever they can to help, with some team members taking the news that Liz faked her death better than others. Ressler responds to the situation by immediately offering to risk his life to help Liz once again, with no hesitation. For my fellow Keenler shippers out there, this scene made my heart soar and showed just how good of a person Ressler is. Aram also handled the news well, offering to do whatever he could to help Liz, as he always does, because he’s one of the sweetest people on the planet. Harold Cooper sums up the team’s feelings perfectly with this quote:

I didn’t think it was possible to be this joyous and this livid at the same time.”

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Yes, the task force is reeling. They feel upset and betrayed by their friend for making them go through that emotional trauma just to find out it wasn’t real. They thought she was dead, and each of them blamed themselves for not being able to save her. But in the end, Liz is part of their family and they will continue to help her no matter what, all except for Samar. She is taking this news particularly hard. When Aram confronts her about her unwillingness to help she says:

What’s happening to Liz is her own fault. I know that sounds harsh, but it’s true. She made decisions that have consequences, and now she has to live with them.

I can see where Samar is coming from, and I think it does need to be said that what Liz did was wrong, but to stop helping her and leave her fate and her baby’s fate up to her kidnapper is taking it a step too far. It looks like her attitude about Liz is going to put a wrench in her relationship with Aram, too. Not to mention that disobeying Cooper’s order to go to Cuba with Ressler to find Manuel Esteban puts him in direct danger. By refusing to help Liz she is putting the lives of the entire team at risk.

Ressler goes to Cuba on his own with directions on how to contact Esteban from the CIA. He takes a seat in the cafe and is contacted by one of Esteban’s men who puts a hood over his head and puts him in a jail cell until Esteban is ready to see him.

Let’s take a moment to appreciate Ressler’s reaction to being captured…again:

Ressler has been kidnapped and beat up so many times that it doesn’t even phase him anymore. He just sighs and accepts his fate.

Once Esteban enters his cell Ressler steals the gun from the man holding him and makes Esteban call Red.

Total badass.

Esteban locates Liz and tells Red where she is. Now Red can find her, and none of that would have been possible without Ressler.

Meanwhile, after a failed attempt to escape his captors with the help of a policeman, Tom manages to get away on his own. He calls Aram to tell him that Agnes has been taken to the same place that Liz is being held. Liz’s “father” finally returns Agnes to Liz, but is still holding them captive. He was also the one who ordered that Tom be killed after Agnes was taken from him. This doesn’t seem like a great way to get your daughter to want to spend time with you, as demonstrated by Liz’s reaction to this statement from her “father”:

Kirk: “I have a blood disorder.”

Liz: “Good.”

Kirk: “I’m dying.”

Liz: “Even better.”

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Apparently this reaction doesn’t phase him, because he continues to hold her captive.

After Aram informs Red that Agnes is being held in the same place as Liz he goes to confront Kirk and take both Liz and the baby home. Unfortunately, Liz has been separated from Agnes and taken away in an airplane with Kirk before he can get there. Thankfully Kaplan sees a woman trying to leave the house with Agnes and stops her. Maybe this will help Kaplan start to redeem herself and regain Red’s trust.

Finally, Red gets to hold Agnes.

I’m pretty sure the entire fandom burst into tears.

Just when everything seems like it might be ok, the writers pulled the rug out from under us once again. As Red, Dembe, and Kaplan are in the car with Agnes driving her somewhere safe, another car hits them side on and Kirk’s minions steal Agnes away while Red, Kaplan, and Dembe lie in the crushed car stunned and injured.

I think I can speak on behalf of the entire fandom when I say to the writers:

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Here’s what to expect from next week’s episode. Hopefully we get at least a tiny bit of happiness instead of pain.


The Blacklist airs Thursdays at 10/9c on NBC.

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