After last week's episode saw Liz and Red (James Spader) share a series of honest-ish conversations about how they plan to proceed with the hunt for Tom's killers, tonight's affair returned to the familiar formula of Red lying — or at least not being fully transparent — to Liz in order to protect himself.
This is obviously in line with Red's normal behavior and doesn't exactly invalidate those strong scenes from last week. But it sure feels like we've seen Red have a secretive conversation revealing extraordinary knowledge that Liz seeks a dozen times in five years. If the show wants the audience to feel like Liz, well then that's one thing it's doing correctly.
The information in question relates to the identify of the mysterious Oleander. Once Liz obtained Tom's personal effects, she discovered notes about Oleander, ultimately leading her to a remote location and Dom, played by special guest star Brian Dennehy. One misleading conversation later, Liz left Dom's place with intel about his role in various Russian-related operations but a firm denial that he, in fact, is Oleander.
But if you've seen TV before, you weren't shocked to learn that Dennehy's Dom is Oleander after all. Better yet, he revealed this information in a hushed phone conversation with Red, who was pleased to learn his buddy didn't give up the really good details — whatever those are.
Dennehy was great here, as always. The potential for him and Spader to share the screen together is exciting. Liz getting her 93rd runaround, however? No bueno. Even within the context of the show needing to drag this out and make the ultimate reveal more satisfying, this was a frustrating development.
Thankfully, other pertinent information was revealed. Ian Garvey is law enforcement, more specifically a US Marshal, and the local detective investigating Tom's death appears to be on his payroll. Given that the detective simply handed Tom's personal effects back to Liz, thereby sending her on the hunt for Oleander, it seems that there's a much bigger web of chicanery happening here. Shocking!
Once again, The Blacklist is stacking the deck against Liz. At times, Season 5 has demonstrated an ability to remix its familiar tropes for meaningful moments and strong episodes. The Blacklist needs to be that version of itself in the final stretch of episodes to make Tom's death — and much of this season — worthwhile.
The Blacklist aris Wednesday at 8/7c on NBC.