Last night’s new episode of The Blacklist, “The Travel Agency” held steady with the blacklister-centric theme, focusing on a defunct crime ring of for-hire murderers. The blacklister was a former member of this crime ring, but after a job gone wrong he suffered serious brain damage. It left him with severe amnesia, making him unable to form short term memories. His wife took advantage of his mental situation to get revenge. At the end of the episode, the task force, led by Ressler, has tracked the blacklister and his wife to a DC cemetery, where the wife is confronting her husband.
In a tragic turn of events, it is revealed that his wife wanted revenge for the death of their two daughters, who her husband inadvertently killed. While their mom was recovering from a burst appendix in the hospital, he took their daughters from the hospital and brought them with him to a job (A.K.A to murder someone). The hit went sideways, and the children ended up dying from being locked in the car. There are just so many things wrong with this situation that it was almost too ridiculous. Why would he ever take the kids from the hospital to literally go watch while he murdered someone? If the circumstances of the children’s death hadn’t been so far-fetched an unbelievable, this scene would have carried a lot more emotional weight.
However, the other focus of the episode, Cooper searching for a missing friend with the aid of Red, was extremely powerful and moving. Cooper has never been the main focus of an episode, and Harry Lennix’s performance in “The Travel Agency” shows us all just what exactly we’ve been missing. With the help of Red, Cooper eventually finds his missing friend, a young man who Cooper and his wife have helped every since the death of his father, who was murdered by a corrupt police officer. The Blacklist took no prisoners in discussing the topic of police brutality towards black people, especially black men, and delivered some very strong opinions voiced by Cooper on the matter:
Isaiah’s father was pulled over for having expired plates.
He got out of the car to see for himself.
Officer told him to get back in the vehicle.
But he’d paid for the tags.
He knew there had to be some mistake.
He was unarmed.
He just wanted to see for himself.
Officer gave him a second warning.
When he reached to get his wallet, the officer shot him.
Isaiah watched the man who murdered his father tried and acquitted on all accounts.
For him for so many like him it’s the gospel truth that if you’re black in this country and you say the wrong word, you could be killed.
Ask the wrong question, look the wrong way, you can be killed.
Almost every cop I’ve served with, black or white, I’d be proud to call my brother.
It tears me up knowing what so many people in my community think of them just like it tears me up knowing that the cops who kill my other brothers will almost never be held responsible.
The Blacklist could have taken a sanitized approach to this issue, but they decided to tackle it head on. As a Black FBI agent, Cooper is in a unique position to offer perspective from both sides of the issue, as a black man and as a cop. The message he delivers is a powerful indictment of the failure of the justice system to punish corrupt officers, but also addresses that there are many officers he has served with who would never act in such a manner. The Blacklist has dipped their toes in the waters of political commentary in the past, but they have never done something like they did in “The Travel Agency,” and I couldn’t be more proud. So often, shows like The Blacklist gloss over political issues to avoid controversy even when they shouldn’t. The Blacklist is a crime drama, but it should address the issues that organizations like the FBI and the police have as well. In “The Travel Agency” they faced it head on.
Red’s response to Harold’s statements was extremely moving as well, with his usual dash of sarcasm and humor:
Cooper: “Zeke Wilson is a bloodsucking scum who preys on people like Isaiah.”
Red: “Yes. And if you choose to hold him responsible for what happened to Isaiah’s father or for all the people of color who are killed for saying the wrong thing or looking the wrong way, you can do that.
You may be black, Harold, but you carry a badge, and like it or not, that means you’re a made man.
Your justice system will protect you, just like it protected the cop who killed Isaiah’s father.”
Cooper: “Is that your observation or your advice?”
Red: “My observation is that you came to this party with an unregistered handgun.
My advice would be as Isaiah’s father got six bullets, I’d give Zeke Wilson 12, order a rib eye, raise a glass of Château Latour , and toast to a job well done.
I know I’ve been a little down on Red lately, but he pretty much just made up for all of it with this one scene. I’ve missed this Red, the biting criticisms, the witty jokes, and the irreverent humor. Hopefully this Red is here to stay, and the vindictive violent Red can go on vacation for a while.
This season of The Blacklist so far is an indication of what can happen if the creators listen to the fans and fix the problems that were dragging the quality of the show down. After the veritable train wreck that was season 4, The Blacklist has returned to form. The writing is excellent again, the story lines are emotional, the characters feel like they’ve returned to themselves, and even characters like Cooper and Ressler are getting to lead their own stories. I was worried that this trend would only be for the first few episodes, but now episode six, “The Travel Agency,” has come and gone, and The Blacklist shows no signs of losing its footing or veering back into the world of soap opera family drama. I haven’t gotten to say this for a while, but if you’re not watching The Blacklist, you should be.
Check out the trailer for next week’s episode “The Kilgannon Corporation” which looks to be another excellent installment, as Red goes after a human trafficking ring.
The Blacklist airs Wednesdays at 8/9c on NBC.