The scheduling for The Blacklist is weird this season.
After a two-hour episode last month, the show ran a two-parter across multiple Fridays, concluding with last week's big moment of freedom for Reddington (James Spader). This week, the show returned with another two-hour block of loosely connected episodes, each with a distinct vibe. Blacklist isn't a show that requires a deeply immersive viewing environment, but the flow between "Robert Vesco" and "The Osterman Umbrella Company" didn't aid in what was a fairly impactful conclusion to the second hour.
The throughline across both episodes was all about Samar's (Mozhan Marno) decision to retire from the task force due to her memory issues. The show has an inconsistent track record with B- and C-level stories, but it has done a fine job keeping this one in the forefront amid all the Reddington and Liz (Megan Boone) plotlines. It was time for Samar and Aram (Amir Arison) to get more screentime, and these episodes nicely encapsulated the odd charm of the pairing despite the unfortunate circumstances.
In the first episode alone, the show reintroduced Oded Fehr's Mossad character Levi, teased a pregnancy plotline and breezed through a potential Samar-Aram breakup. That's a lot of ground to cover. Though the pregnancy stuff was a bit clunky, Arison and Marno salvaged it by episode's end. Their separate reactions to a theoretical child nicely represented the couple as the show has always shown them: Aram is positive and naive and Samar is more realistic and rational. Of course, she'd lie to Levi and Mossad that she was pregnant to hide her real illness, and of course, Aram would quickly take that to be true, talk to his parents and start planning for 10 months in the future.
That all of this played out during an episode that also saw Reddington — a man who just two episodes ago was all hooked up to be, literally, executed by the U.S. government — partake in a zany National Treasure-esque hunt with his former mentor was jarring. The context of both prior Season 6 stories and everything going on with Samar and Aram diminished whatever fun was being had by Spader and special guest star Stacey Keach. Tonal whiplash, hello.
Nevertheless, the tonal disconnect and temporary separation between Samar and Aram ended up working well as a mini-misdirect for the events to come in hour two. It's reasonable to believe that Samar would try to remove herself from Aram's life, just as it's obvious that he'd push back against that and recommit to working through her illness together. All of that only made the second episode's conclusion more painful, as Samar ultimately elected, with Reddington's help, to escape Mossad's assassins on her own, leaving the task force and Aram for good (or for now).
The concluding moments of "Umbrella Corporation" were legitimately moving, playing off of the actors' strengths and years of character history. Again, it's fair to label both Aram and Samar as truly supporting characters in a show with very clear leads. But simply through the process of time served, there's an emotional connection with the audience and those characters. Devasting Aram, he still of mostly pure heart, is the one card the show can always play, and it played very well here.
Injecting Reddington into the middle of the couple's challenging circumstances further increased the tension and ultimate emotional wallop. Aram punching Reddington in utter heartbreak, and Reddington simply taking it because he understood the emotional context, was one of the better moments of the season. Arison and Spader played that moment perfectly. Mozhan has always been restrained as Samar, but she loosened it up effectively as Samar made such a difficult choice.
This is one of those stories that a show can really only tell later in its run once the audience is significantly invested in the characters and their relationships with one another. According to Mozhan Marno, Samar is gone for good, and her departure should create new storytelling opportunities for Aram and the task force as the season nears its conclusion, even if those are C-level stories.
The Blacklist airs Fridays at 9/8c on NBC.