‘The Blacklist’ 5×12 Review: ‘Tommy Wattles’

On this week’s Blacklist “Tommy Wattles” Liz finally confronted Red about what he knew about Tom’s death and the secret he had uncovered. Red did his trademark evasion of the question, but a short talk with Dembe convinced him to tell Liz at least part of the truth. Honestly, what would anyone in this show do without Dembe? He’s one of the only voices of reason and sanity.

While Red still didn’t reveal what his secret was to Liz, he did volunteer that he knew why Tom had died and what he had found out, but it is a secret that Red can’t tell, even if he wanted to. This secret is so important to Red that he was honest with Liz and told her up front that he can’t tell her, even if he wanted to. Much to my surprise, Liz actually handled this calmly and they had a very civil and polite conversation.

While I still don’t think it’s a good idea that Red won’t reveal his secret, Liz is bound to find out eventually and it would be better if she found out from him directly, I do understand why he’s doing it. Whatever his secret is (the identity of the bones in the suitcase) it’s something son integral to his identity and so dangerous that he is willing to keep it from Liz, even when he directly told her that he’s hiding it.

I did appreciate when Liz told him at the end of “Tommy Wattles” that she would find out his secret eventually, no matter what it took. Red usually has a good reason for keeping certain things hidden, but at this point, with the number of deaths it has already caused, I think it’s time for the secret to be revealed before anyone else gets hurt, no matter what the consequence to Red.

The Blacklister in this week’s episode was a new level of creepy. He was a former priest, named “Tommy Wattles” who burned women alive for “tempting him”. He broke his vow of celibacy with a woman in his church, causing him to be removed from the order. After that, any woman who he found attractive and showed him attention or kindness he burned alive for “tempting him away from God”.

What was even more disturbing about him, was that he continued to wear his priest’s garb after he was removed from the church, and this is what drew many of his victims to him. They would either come to him for advice or confession, or thank him for his acts of kindness, and he was this a sign that they needed to die. I can’t say I was at all sad to see him go. He burned himself alive at the end of “Tommy Wattles” after he had been cornered by Ressler and Samar. A fitting end for such a horrible man.

Perhaps my favorite moment from “Tommy Wattles” once again came from Ressler. At the end of the episode, Ressler testified for a former arsonist named “Earl Fagen” at his parole hearing. Fagen had served the majority of his prison term, and Red had a connection to him, so he suggested that the Task Force use Fagen to help catch Tommy Wattles. His help proved indispensable in catching Tommy Wattles before he killed more women. On his behalf, Ressler said this:

“I-I used to think in terms of black and white. You were either a bad guy or you weren’t. I’m not sure about that anymore. Under the right circumstances, I’ve come to believe that even the best of us are capable of – almost anything. I only mention that because, well, I figure everyone deserves a second chance.”

To me, this is a perfect illustration of how Ressler has evolved as a character. He used to be a straight laced, by the book, no nonsense agent, but his work on The Task Force has changed him. He’s made some mistakes, just like everyone on the Task Force. He’s done some things that he regrets, just like everyone on the Task Force, but because of that he now believes that everyone deserves a second chance. He no longer sees the world in the black and white of “good” and “bad” “legal” or “illegal”. He now realizes that people are complex, people make mistakes, and above all, people are human.

Of course, he still wants to make sure that those who do wrong see consequences for their actions, but he no longer believes that any one person is entirely good or bad. I think this speech that he made on behalf of Earl Fagen, really shows how much he has grown and changed for the better, despite all of the hardship he has been through.

Ironically enough, a lot of this has to do with Red, a man that Ressler had spent the majority of his live despising, wanting nothing more than to bring him down. To have Ressler change this much, because of a man he used to hate, but realized wasn’t as evil as he always imagined when they started working together I think is wonderful writing, and takes a character like Ressler that could have just been a one dimensional background character and turns him into so much more.

Next week’s episodes is another “Blacklister of the week episode” with Liz continuing to uncover parts of Tom’s investigation, leading her closer to Red’s secret. Read the synopsis and check out the trailer for “The Invisible Hand” below.


Red points the Task Force toward a group that targets people with reprehensible but legal actions. As Red helps one of his employees, Liz discovers a clue about Tom’s investigation.

The Blacklist airs Wednesdays at 8/9 c on NBC.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.