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The Blacklist: A New Ally Emerges for Liz

Martha Plimpton shined in a dark guest spot

Cory Barker

One of the benefits of a short memory and reliance on guest stars is that a rough episode one week can be quickly washed away with a much stronger effort in the following week. Such was the case with Wednesday's episode of The Blacklist, which moved on from the annoyances of Liz "remembering" Garvey's role in Tom's death about as best as it could have.

It helped quite a bit that Martha Plimpton was here. I mean, doesn't it always?

Plimpton guest starred in a juicy role as Dr. Sharon Fulton, crusading FBI shrink who used her inside information on damaged agents to recruit them into dispatching of serial killers. Not only did this conceit inject major life into the show's procedural energy -- which has been lacking a bit throughout the 2018 episodes -- but it offered some solid moments of reflection for Liz (Megan Boone) in this never-ending conversation about right and wrong, crossing lines, and so on.

The Blacklist is always better when it lets Liz go "off book," or at least not serve as a stick in the mud to the more adventurous and charming Red (James Spader). Setting aside the stupidity of a government agency's willingness to even consider reinstating someone like Liz, the episode made a smart decision to dig deeper into Liz's perspective on "justice." The reinstatement process is meaningless, but Plimpton's nefarious Fulton perfectly invoked Liz's precarious placement in the bureau, on the task force and in the world.

The Blacklist: What's the Inspiration for All of Red's Crazy Adventures?

Liz has constantly "painted outside the lines," even before she learned that a master criminal was her father. Red's influence, and the utter despair she's experienced while working for the task force, have only emboldened that perspective, which doesn't exactly track with being an all-star FBI agent. In the show's universe, Red's tactics generally work. He claims to have an internal logic or moral compass. The FBI and many other shadowy organizations Liz has come across have been less forthcoming about their methods and far more willing to hide about patriotic rhetoric. Given everything that has happened to her, of course Liz shouldn't be particularly psyched to follow the rules every day.

That Fulton would exploit Liz's indecision over how to proceed made for a strong case of the week, with Liz having to further consider how she felt about an agent using bureau resources to track and kill serial killers outside the confines of normal procedure. It also wonderfully dovetailed with another string of lies from Red, who predictably made contact with Garvey, negotiated for the bag of bones and didn't care too much that a key witness in the legitimate investigation to take Garvey down was killed.

Liz, therefore, faced yet another moment of crisis at an inopportune time. Once again, the traditional methods failed her, and once again, she's left questioning her father's intentions. That meant that she didn't have much of problem letting Fulton walk free -- in fact, she utilized the Reddington family playbook to lean on Fulton for potential assistance in the future.

Finally, all the traumas of Liz's life are influencing her decisions in a meaningful way, and The Blacklist can be better for it.

The Blacklist airs Wednesday at 8/7c on NBC.