‘The Blacklist’: 4×18 Review: ‘Philomena’

So I was expecting a lot from “Philomena” and I guess for me, it kind of fell flat. I was expecting things to really start escalating with the fight between Kate and Red, but it was pretty much just another episode of buildup to the final confrontation, which it looks like we aren’t getting until the last two episodes of the season.

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Part of the reason why “Philomena” fell flat, is that Red keeps coming up with extremely questionable justifications for his actions. Actually, he’s really not giving any justifications at all. Multiple people have told him to just let things be even with Kate, to try and work things out with her or at least not hurt her, but he’s not listening. Even when Liz gave him this ultimatum he refused to budge:

Red: “How’s Agnes?

Liz: “She’s amazing.”

Red: “May I come up and see her?”

Liz: “If you’ll do something for me.”

Red: “Name it.” 

Liz: “Now I need you to look me in the eye and tell me you won’t harm her (Kate).”

Red: “I can’t do that, Elizabeth.”

Liz: Then you can’t come up.”

Even when faced with the prospect of not being able to see Agnes again, whom he loves,  he will not promise to settle things in a non-violent way with Kate. It’s hard to root for a character who seems to have lost his moral center, even though he is an anti-hero. Red has made some questionable decisions in the past, but he always had a solid reasoning behind them, and the people who were affected by them deserved what was coming to them anyway. With Kate, it’s completely different. She didn’t deserve what he did to her. It’s like he has tunnel vision and can’t see the error of his ways. Every week I try to find a way to get behind Red again, but it’s getting harder and harder.

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This brings me to another few scenes that I took issue with, the exchanges between Samar and Aram about her nomination for the Katai Fellowship, a prestigious honor at the FBI. This is a position that Samar has been dreaming of attaining since the beginning of her time at the FBI, as she states in “Philomena”. She has never been nominated before, until now when Aram recommended her. She got the position, but turned it down when she found out that he had.

This is just wrong in so many ways. Lately, it’s been a recurring trend with Samar that she can’t get anything without help from Aram. We know that Samar is perfectly capable of getting things for herself. She’s strong, independent, whip-smart, and qualified for everything she applies herself to. But she only gets recognized when Aram is involved. In this case, the agent selecting members for the fellowship told Samar that Aram had nominated her and sang her praises so well that it would have been foolish not to select her. It’s not a problem that Aram though she deserved the position and nominated her, the problem is that they handled it in a way that diminished Samar’s accomplishment in earning the position.

They made it seem like Aram’s help basically handed it to her, and she doesn’t need any help. Samar can reach her goals and her dreams on her own without the help of any man. A couple instances like this could be excused as accidental examples of insensitive writing, but this has happened too many times with the women in this show, especially Samar, to be excusable. I’m just hoping they take notice from feedback and do better from here on out.

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Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to pull the show apart. There were some moments that I absolutely loved from “Philomena” as well. As I do every time he finally gets to be part of the story, I’m going to talk about Ressler. In “Philomena” he got an offer from a former co-worker named Julian Gale to help with the investigation about the 86 bodies at the ice rink linked to Red. The goal of this investigation, to bring Red down once and for all. Ressler used to be on the task force that was focused on taking down Red, so this is the perfect opportunity for him to finish what he started so long ago, but it’s not an easy decision for him.

He wants to see Red pay for the crimes he’s committed, gotta say at this point I do too, but if Red goes down and the FBI discovers the work Cooper, Aram, Samar, Liz, and Ressler have been doing with him they could all be arrested. Ressler voices this concern to Cooper and Samar, so you can see that he’s struggling with the decision. He’s loyal to his friends on the task force, they’re basically a family, so he’s reluctant to put them in a potentially dangerous position, but ultimately at his core he wants to see that justice is done properly, and I think it’s important that he doesn’t lose that part of himself.

There are some who take issue with Ressler being the straight-laced government agent who doesn’t like to bend the rules in order to help his friends, but doesn’t someone need to fill that role? If everyone is bending the rules to fit their needs whenever they please, if something goes wrong, who will be held accountable? Someone has to take responsibility, and Ressler is that person.

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Besides all of this, it was great to see Ressler showing off his detective skills when working with Julian. Analyzing the furniture pulled from her house, he figured out that Red had killed Diane Fowler and Kaplan had cleaned up the crime scene. They found a furniture duster that still had fingerprints on it, which didn’t match Red’s prints, but Ressler deduced that it was a woman by analyzing Red’s personality, who he described as a gentleman who is very comfortable around women.

So they’re one step closer to uncovering Kaplan’s role in everything which will in turn bring them closer to taking Red down. However, Ressler faces another dilemma here as well. After studying this crime scene, Julian suggests that the next lead they need to follow, the next person they need to investigate who will lead them to Red is Liz. Ressler wants to make Red pay, but no way is he going to sacrifice Liz to do it. We all know how he feels about her, and you could read it clear on his face after Julian said her name.

One final scene in “Philomena” that really pulled at the heart strings was when Red visited Dembe in the hospital:

Red: “Well, I really only have one friend. You’re my friend. And I misjudged you in a way that no apology could suffice. I’m ashamed of that. I want you to keep that box, and on the day you decide to leave–

Dembe: “I’m not going to leave.”

Red: “But you can. At any point of your own choosing, I’ll insist that you do. No questions asked, no debts accrued, with our friendship intact and flourishing. For we’ll have new lands to discover. Not as coworkers, but as cohorts. Whether that’s today or tomorrow or 10 years from now, that’s when you open the box.”

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Not much can make me feel sorry for Red anymore, but whenever he talks to Dembe on the verge of tears, I can’t help crying myself.

One last thing I almost forgot about, when Kaplan showed up in Liz’s apartment holding Agnes, who was watching her? Tom wasn’t home, and there was no sign of a nanny, so what the hell was going on? Was Agnes just chilling in the apartment by herself?

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Let me know you’re thoughts on this in the comments below, or just feel free to rant with me about this pretty giant plot hole from “Philomena”.

To end on a positive note, wasn’t it lovely to finally see Ressler smiling and interacting with another normal human being who wasn’t a suspect he was interrogating?

This man’s smile could outshine the sun.

That’s it for this week! I know it was a long one, but check out the trailer for “Dr. Bogdan Krilov” below, and I’ll see you all back here next Thursday!

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

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