It's unfair (and obvious), but season finales can make or break a season of TV — especially for those shows built on a revealed secret or looming twist. Though strong in spots, Season 5 of The Blacklist has been building to a few specific moments since the fall. As such, the stakes for the finale, "Sutton Ross," were pretty high, and the show mostly pulled it off.
Given the season's focus on the duffel bag of bones, it's no surprise that "Sutton Ross" put the bag front and center, with Reddington (James Spader), Liz (Megan Boone) and the rest of the task force racing — oftentimes against one another — to procure that mangled, well-traveled piece of luggage.
Unfortunately, for much of the hour, this race played out in typical, staid Blacklist fashion: bland stand-offs, manic phone calls and firefights. And with only a few moments to go in the episode, it appeared that Red had bested his daughter yet again, bullying Cooper (Harry Lennix) into supporting his plea to "save Liz," which was just a transparent effort to get them bones. Given how The Blacklist has navigated the duffel story all season, it was hard not to feel temporarily exasperated by one more Red victory.
Thankfully, however, the show's frustrating tactics throughout Season 5 made the turn late in "Sutton Ross" much more satisfying. Despite Red's gloating, the final moments saw Liz return to Tom's (Ryan Eggold) grave, speak to his ghost and reveal a master plan.
She swerved Red into thinking he captured the duffel and buried his big secret forever. Instead, Liz staged a kidnapping with the titular Blacklister and her supposed sister to uncover the truth: that the bones belong to the real Raymond Reddington, the man whom our Red has been pretending to be for decades.
As far as last-minute twists and seasonal pay-offs go, this was a solid one. It re-contextualizes many past events and sets up a legitimately compelling showdown between fake father and fake daughter in Season 6 — something The Blacklist has been teasing for years.
The big question for me is how much this pays off a season's worth of stop-and-start storytelling. Delayed gratification is real, but it's also true that this show tends to delay things for too long, to the point where the real impact is muted by months of frustration.
To that end, in the context of the season and even the entire series, Liz's speech to Tom's ghost served as a triumphant moment. The character has been consistently outwitted or beaten down so that Reddington can shine. She's been positioned as reactive to his genius actions. Thus, both the plan to con Red and the speech illustrated how important this secret and finding some semblance of peace over Tom's death was to Liz.
It also signaled that, despite the lack of real blood lineage between the two characters, Red's influence on Liz is undeniable. She may have outsmarted him, but she had to mirror his tactics to do it. That's a strong reflection of how well the show has developed the relationship between the two characters, even while favoring one character over another.
The reveals in this episode — among them that Samar (Mozhan Marno) is awake and well and accepted Aram's (Amir Arison) marriage proposal, yay! — do not wash away all the tepid moments that paved the way for "Sutton Ross." Liz has lost so much — including the continued distance with her own young child — because of the man claiming to be Raymond Reddington. Indeed, that he has done all of this and is, in fact, not her father only makes the collateral damage that much more disheartening.
They do, however, offer a potential new road, one where Liz truly gets the upper hand on the person who has terrorized her since childhood. Given the last five seasons, it's fine to be skeptical that The Blacklist can fully execute that potential truly satisfying conclusion, but this is a really strong indicator that the show has a meaningful plan in mind for its end game.