"The Blacklist" Season Eight Talkback (Spoilers)

Fone Bone

Matt Zimmer
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This season's been pretty good. No need for a snarky talkback title this year.

The Blacklist "The Skinner"

I liked that Dembe is in the FBI.

Is it just me or with Liz dead, is the show much less insufferable? Ressler's still pretty bad though. And he DOES look like a mess.

Aram's stuff was funny. Harold is the worst boss ever.

I laughed at Harold speaking in Ebonics after the car crash.

Like Red's new bald look.

Maybe I shouldn't be surprised I was all right with the episode. Liz was the entire problem with the show and had been for seasons. With her gone it's gonna suck less. By definition. ***.

The Blacklist "The Skinner, Conclusion"

Red as the new Skinner? Good plan.

The kiss was both hysterical and surprisingly hot.

SO glad Liz is gone. Maybe the show will stop sucking. ***1/2.

The Blacklist "The SPK"

It's amazing how much easier the show is to take without Liz. They should have killed her off five seasons ago.

I love that the second Red agrees to the supervised visits, Harold goes and gets Agnes in the next room. That is a REALLY cool thing.

Vesco is quite amusing. I love when Red kissed him. I think Red doesn't really understand where he stands with Dembe. He thinks Dembe is his man in the FBI. And Dembe knows he isn't. I don't think Red will actually grow to resent this, but I don't think he understands it yet.

For the record, Ressler can get off his high horse. We the viewers have witnessed him do multiple things skeevier and more unethical than Dembe has ever been shown to be doing. It's infuriating to hear the guy complain about Dembe's ethics in the very episode he's trying to cheat a drug test. I'm guessing Ressler is gonna fill the show's d-bag power vacuum with Liz gone. It actually won't be a stretch. He was already the second worst character on the show after her.

Other than Ressler, that was good. ***1/2.

The Blacklist "Avenging Angel"

The end was super dumb. It was so dumb it insulted my intelligence. Red asks for the Angel's blood type, and says she looks about the right size for the heart transplant, and then he shoots her. That's not how donor matches are decided. It's so freaking stupid.

What bums me out is I really liked Red's idea that a person shouldn't be judged by their worst day, but by all the other days. I wish that cool insight hadn't come in such a dumb episode.

The stuff with Ressler and the urine? Dumb. I'm sensing a theme.

I did dig the 90 year woman who was the lead singer of a death metal band. That is very this show and very the company Red Reddington keeps.

But my brains hurts from how stupid that was. **1/2.

The Blacklist "Benjamin T. Okara"

I thought Park and her husband learning they lost the baby before they even knew they had it was cruel in the worst way this show tends to be cruel. Not on-board with that.

Speaking of which, the people at the lab can detect testicular cancer or pregnancy from a urine sample but can't determine to the gender of the giver? Not buying it. But perhaps I should have complained about that bit last week.

Never seen Red so mad at Dembe. But I'm glad he didn't make him go through with it.

The ending confused me.

I like Red's new female bodyguard. It's so much fun watching her and Red get the upper hand against criminals inferior to himself. It's ruining his business though. But oh, yeah, he's the Skinner. Almost forgot about that bit.

Annoying week. **1/2.

The Blacklist "Dr. Roberta Sand, Ph.D."

Interesting way for Red to choose a therapist.

I am not loving the stuff between Red and Dembe simply because I think both of them are wrong. And it would be easier for me if I could pick a side. But I think if Dembe gave the letter to Liz after promising he wouldn't, that's not cool. On the other hand I think Red is a bit paranoid and crazy to believe that did harm to Liz. There is no way to know if Liz would have survived that night. But Red DID. And apparently he might not have if she hadn't read the letter. I get that Red valued Liz more than himself. Can he possibly understand Dembe didn't feel the same way? That he thought it would be best for Red himself if Liz knew the truth so she wouldn't kill him? That he didn't betray Red for Liz's sake, but for Red's own good?

I'll tell you what I do like. I like that Red is talking to Sands and explicitly saying he fears his anger about the situation and losing control. Things might have been better for everyone if he had done the same thing during the ordeal with Mr. Kaplan. Red makes mistakes when he isn't thinking clearly. And his thinking is most muddled when he perceives a betrayal by a friend. And like Mr. Kaplan, I don't actually think Dembe was thinking about what he did in terms of a betrayal.

I'll tell you the real betrayal that Dembe did. He should have owned up to it after the fact. Frankly, it's out of character that he didn't. I'm actually most skeptical about this entire plotline because it's unlike Dembe to have this specific type of secret hanging between him and Red, even if he now works for the FBI. I'm half-convinced something else is going on.

The guy telling Harold somebody was obviously framing him was good to hear. It also means the anonymous blackmailer at the end is the real killer. Of course if Harold isn't a complete dope, he'd know it. For the record, the fact that that conversation was recorded is crazy suspicious. It also tells me the guy who supposedly covered the evidence is the actual murderer and framer. Why I can't say. But Harold would be a dope to not immediately suspect him after that phone call. In fairness to me, Harold might in fact be a dope.

I do not care about the drama between Park and her husband even one little bit. It's weird that the show thinks I should.

I like that Red knew something was wrong because Agnes revealed Liz said good things about him. During the last year of her life she reviled him, so if she said anything definitively good to Agnes it must have been the night she died, and AFTER reading the letter.

But let me tell you something. My biggest anger last season over Liz dying is that she apparently never learned the truth. I never believed she deserved to, but the producers shoved down my throat how important it was to her and her arc. And her dying when she did pissed me off like nothing else. And not because I personally didn't learn the truth myself. I feel better in hindsight to find out she actually DID learn the truth, and we just didn't know or learn it ourselves. It makes me feel a LOT better because Liz WAS the worst character on the show and it's definitely better with her dead and gone. And learning her arc DID actually pay-off, even if we didn't witness it ourselves is the last and biggest loose end about that sociopathic hot mess.

My favorite small moment in the episode was between the guest cast. I liked Sands asking indignantly if the mob boss was threatening her, and him breaking out into a big grin and owning up to it like a man instead of the evasive weasel many fictional mob bosses are when asked that exact question. He owns his bad behavior, and considering what she does for a living, she not only deserves that level of honesty, she also should be able to handle it. Ned Eisenberg has always been a solid character actor (I know him best from Law & Order SVU) so it was fun to watch that scene.

It was a good episode, but I'm concerned where things go from here. It's not outside the realm of possibility a competently written show could go somewhere interesting, or even great, with the Red and Dembe conflict. This however is NOT remotely a competently written show, and has never delivered even once, so I'm nervous instead. ***1/2.

The Blacklist "Between Sleep And Awake"

It was a nice but imperfect episode. I thought the break from the main narrative was lovely, and I really liked the guest cast. It was also good to get some of the gaps filled in from between the end of last season and the beginning of this one.

My negative note is that Ressler is a jerk. And he has been since the first episode. For an episode with such high emotional stakes and pathos, I can't really get invested in Ressler's pain as long as he's such a buttmunch. And he always has been. And frankly I don't understand why he is. It doesn't make his character or the show better. The show needed an antagonist for the team, and it randomly picked him. And now emotional, touching episodes with him don't work as well as they should. That's on this show. To be blunt, there are ways to have a character be a group complainer without either the character being a jerk or the audience hating them. But that's actually difficult and requires a lot of work and writing skill, and Ressler was not a character the writers of this show believed was important enough to put in that effort. In my opinion, there is no character you should put more effort into than The Resident Complainer. They are often the make or break character for any given show. Brainy Smurf literally broke The Smurfs. My Complainer character in Gilda And Meek (Bernadette) is amazing because I care about her and put in the work to make her amazing. You can't just shove a butthole in the middle of the heroes and expect the audience to simply accept that character by osmosis. That's not how it works. And while I don't want to see that kid crushed or disappointed by Ressler leaving, I don't think the kid is worse off when he does, which is a failing of the episode and the show. That was not the intended moral. But because Ressler is a butthole, it's the one I got.

For the record there is no way in hell any doctor would knowingly prescribe Oxy to someone they knew had a drug problem. The only way the show could think to get Ressler back to being an addict is by making it not be his fault. But there is no doctor in the world who would actually do that so the show is being fake instead.

It was a very well-put together episode. Focused on the wrong character. ***1/2.

The Blacklist "Dr. Razmik Maier"

Random thoughts about a passable episode.

I knew the nice and helpful guy was the bad guy. He was too nice and helpful.

Aram is a good interrogator.

Episodes like this are why I hate Ressler.

I was as disappointed in Dembe as Red was. Didn't for a minute believe Red's anger at him would be justified, but it totally was.

Okay. ***.

The Blacklist "Boukman Baptiste"

I'm glad Red and Dembe achieved a level of peace, but to be honest, Dembe is still on thin ice with me. His brutal honesty and willingness to own up to his mistakes makes me forgive a lot, but I'm not sure I can ever forgive him killing a kid.

I'll tell you what I didn't like. I didn't like Gerard being in this episode. Just because I know how mysteries like this are constructed on TV. Gerard has been used less and less in the later seasons, so when he appears in the very episode Red learns a source must have betrayed Liz's location on the night of her death, it just means I'm sure it's him. And I don't like that about television. Mysteries shouldn't be able to be solved ahead of time by looking at a guest cast list. And that is a very real weakness of all television. About the best thing I can say is that it's not just this show this problem affects.

I was very pleased with this episode otherwise. I very much liked the show dealing with the controversy of black men becoming police officers, and how pride and taking care of your community is a big part of that. Not all of the politics of this show are the same as the real world (Trump was never President there) but it's good that BlackLivesMatter matters to this show and is real in this fictional Universe.

I thought the episode was very solid. I am happy with this season so far, and it's literally been years since this show has made me happy, so I'm taking notice. I am SO glad Liz is dead. She was poison, ruined the show, and it's totally fine now with her gone. ****.

The Blacklist "Arcane Wireless"

That was a very well-constructed episode.

The teaser starting it off was great. I love Heddy.

It was a very visible fail for the task force, and I liked seeing every way they got fooled. It was like one of those phony "Greg Weisman-explain-everything exposition reveals", but it's a mission report instead of a villain brag, so it's actually credible that it's happening. I love that. It's showing us how they did the magic trick without actually ruining the joy of said magic trick. That's rare. And coming from a show I had been coming to detest as recently as last season, that's good.

The part of the mystery that doesn't hold up is that Red could have achieved this exact outcome simply by being a whistleblower and telling his associates how the phones worked. Hell, he could do this for ALL criminals using the phones, and he wouldn't have had to waste this much manpower and effort.

But I like that Raymond used that specific threat at the end for Heddy's sake. It struck me as a card he could only play once, and I thought it was awesome he used it for her. And by him doing that we can see why she was loyal to him to begin with. Maybe that's the actual reason he put in that specific effort. Maybe that's the only reason he needed.

And I like that the Task Force failed because Red designed them to fail. Arcane Wireless was actually only a threat to him.

I find it funny how much Aram hates his mentor, as well as utterly befuddling. The guy seems so sweet and genuine. Yeah, I get why Aram is intimidated by him. I just don't get why Aram would immediately suspect him of being a traitor because of the discrepancy he found.

Gerard is telling Red to drop investigating who killed Liz, which is another definitive thing that proves it's him. I hate television for this reason. All you have to do is look at a cast list to know who the actual culprit is. It's why Law & Order hasn't delivered an unpredictable episode in decades.

But that was surprisingly great otherwise. Getting rid of Liz turned a terrible show into a good one. It's as simple as that. *****.

The Blacklist "The Conglomerate"

Not into it. I can't stand Park (and never could) and I'm tired of the show asking us to accept all of the horrible things she's done because she's attractive and a woman. That's basically her entire defense, which makes it very clear why she considered a mess like Liz a role model. She's not even witty or funny or particularly smart to make up for that. She's just kind of hot and the show thinks that's enough.

It's not. She sucks and so does the show whenever it focuses an episode on her. I can't believe we lost a solid character like Navabi to this. *.
 

Fone Bone

Matt Zimmer
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The Blacklist "The Chairman"

I think the Chairman is one of the best villains of the week the show has come up with in years.

He's extremely silly and playful while he doing horrible and violent things. So he's a sociopath, right? That doesn't track though. It was probably just for effect to scare the dirty investors. Him claiming integrity at the end and pointing out his hands are no dirtier than the Wall Street crooks the government let slide in 2008 suggests he actually possesses both pride and a moral compass. Which makes him SUPER interesting. Also interesting is that his first response to Harold's press conference is that he knew it was a trap. It wasn't even a question for him.

I'll you something nice about him. Craig Bierko is one of the least memorable actors I can think of. He makes Bill Pullman look like Jim Carrey. Like Christopher Rich, he kept getting cast as the lead in sitcoms in the 1980's and 90's that never took off because he simply did not have the chops to carry an entire cast and show. I like that the show found the Chairman for him. I'll tell you another good thing about Bierko in 2022. He voiced has matured. There are legit layers and texture to it now, which is cool. I think the guy could do animation voice-over for dramatic cartoons at this point. His voice is actually memorable now (even if his looks still aren't).

Ressler claiming that Red was responsible for Liz's death is the precise reason I don't give a crap about his struggles.

I liked hearing Red's perspective that Liz was dead and gone, and what was left was an empty shell, and the best way to honor Liz's memory is to find her killer. What I like about him saying this is that it's true. But even though it's true, it's not a moral you hear on TV that often. Even rarer still is the fact that the argument actually moves Harold enough to actually freaking DO something. I found that very refreshing.

Learning the reason Red wanted to take down the Night Market is interesting. That's definitely a new wrinkle that will have to be dealt with in the future.

I like Red's frustration over Harold's accusation that he gave them the case to raise his own stock prices. I like it because the actual answer is Red's stocks going higher actually HURTS him, and he doesn't have the time to explain the complications and business nuances of that to Harold in a rushed phone call. But I could see "How long has this guy known me?" in Red's eyes. Maybe the problem is Harold DOES know him. But Red was justifiably very unhappy there.

Have I speculated in past weeks that the guy blackmailing Harold is the precise guy helping him in his investigation of that? Because I've always thought it, and if I never voiced it before now, it means I forgot to. I'm not going through all this season's reviews to check though.

That was a great villain and a great solid the show did for Craig Bierko's consistently-ailing career. I am very happy. ****1/2.
 

Fone Bone

Matt Zimmer
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The Blacklist "Genuine Models Inc."

The show has been spending the season gradually winning me back bit by bit, and then this episode turns out to be about sex robots. That is super dumb.

Even worse was the villain killing himself at end. It was literally a grand romantic gesture on behalf of nothing. Made the entire plotline feel pointless.

Not the entire episode though. Red's mystery with Barney was pretty great, especially learning his positive judgment of Barney's honesty was sound after all. I hated his widow played by the mom from Home Improvement. Should have known she was a heavy. TV likes casting TV parents as those a LOT.

I like when Red's lady friend asked him at the end if the woman he was pining for would take him, he insightfully says it doesn't really matter. Because she already has him. What a bittersweet notion. Red understands grand romantic sacrifices better than a guy who kills himself for a sexbot.

Red's stuff was great, but the case of the week was one of the dumbest things the show has ever done. And yes, I know I just made a statement by saying that. **1/2.
 

Fone Bone

Matt Zimmer
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The Blacklist "Eva Mason"

The case of the week was pretty standard. It was reprehensible, which is standard for this show.

Red putting his arms around Herbie and the baby and crooning to them was simultaneously sweet, creepy, and more than a little bit homoerotic.

Ressler screaming at the team for having the unmitigated gall to plan a surprise party for him behind his back is totally on-brand for that scumbag. Ressler is one of those rare TV characters with no redeeming qualities. You just sort of took how awful he was in stride in previous seasons simply because Liz was a hundred times worse. When they're talking about how the party is the least they do for him, I'm thinking the actual least they could do is wash their hands of this dirtbag entirely. I don't understand why Ressler and Liz, who treat the team like utter crap, are somehow beloved for it. That is a failing of the show.

Eh. **1/2.
 

Fone Bone

Matt Zimmer
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The Blacklist "Andrew Kennison"

That was a pretty juicy episode.

I get why everyone is upset nobody upstairs is cutting Harold a break after all they let slide for Red and Liz, but the truth is Harold needs to be held to a higher standard. I don't have to like it, but I fully understand the idea. Totally.

I love that Aram refused to work an investigation against Cooper. And after his rant everyone (correctly) realized he was right. After all this, the least they could do is go to him and have him explain himself. I thought the idea that Ressler actually supported the investigation was outright repulsive. But Ressler in general is repulsive.

I still think the mastermind is Marvin Gerard, but I'm hedging a bit. He's the only real suspect who knew where and when to get the dirty cop, but if he IS the guy, he's playing it cooler than he should considering how close people were moving in on the truth in this episode. Gerard is the kind of character who doesn't handle stress well. If he IS the guy, it's out of character that he's being such a cucumber.

Knowing that Harold's framing is connected with Liz's death means I no longer think the guy who was helping him is involved. He wasn't given enough information to be as effective as the guy's accomplice actually was. Another sign it's Gerard.

Solid stuff, although the ending was a bit of a downer. ****.
 

Fone Bone

Matt Zimmer
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The Blacklist "Helen Maghi"

I found Red's conversation at the end with Helen absolutely riveting. Because it turned shockingly personal. And knowing that her lying to him is the stickler for him makes me understand why he is ready to leave the Task Force because of Aram. And I think he's right. Aram is painting what he did as a moral victory. But he had to lie and break a promise to get that outcome. There's nothing moral about that.

I like Panabaker calling Red a son of a b-word and him conceding, "Yes, but you never met my father." That was great. I also like that when she's outraged at the recording and says she thought he was helping her, he correctly points out he DID help her. The recording doesn't change that. It just means she has to help him now. I feel like the agents in this episode are moralizing against Red without possessing the high ground. In fact, the reason I thought Aram should have gotten the job is because he was the only agent of the Task Force who wasn't ethically compromised. But that doesn't matter if he's untrustworthy to Red. I enjoyed the controversies explored in the episode.

I like Harold pointing out to Lou that most of the illegal stuff was done at Lou's own initiative, and not something Harold would have thought of or sanctioned himself. While I get that Lou has a kid, I think a very good lawyer could easily point that out on the stand. Frankly, I'm shocked the Feds gave him the deal at all. He was the more guilty one in that endeavor. If they actually had him dead to rights they should have taken him to trial.

I think the biggest failing of the episode is getting me to believe the agents would have fallen for Red's trick at the end. How long have they been at this and worked with this guy? It's not remotely credible.

Very interesting week with no good guys. ****.
 

Fone Bone

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The Blacklist "El Conejo"

Mr. Kaplan's shenanigans coming back to haunt Red.

I thought it was solid. The Red stuff was better than the Aram stuff, but they were both pretty good.

I was satisfied this week. ***1/2.
 

Fone Bone

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The Blacklist "Laszlo Jankowics"

The last five minutes with Mr. Kaplan were interesting but I didn't like the rest of it.

It's the stuff with Aram that bugs me. He's too much of a pushover. It's driving me nuts.

Hopefully next week will be better. **1/2.
 

Fone Bone

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The Blacklist "The Bear Mask"

That did not work at all.

I feel like this is gonna be a long review. I'm steeling myself for it. Maybe I've built up this episode too much in my head. Maybe I'm making too much of it.

This is not the worst episode of the series. It's probably not even bottom five. But every second I was watching it I felt like it was this show's biggest failure, worst episode or not. Nothing it did clicked. I'll get into my theories why there in a minute, but the difference between this an an episode starring Liz at her most loathsome is that this was the biggest example of the show swinging for the fences, trying something new and different, and failing miserably. And I may be building this up in my head more than it is, but for me this episode was the biggest piece of cringe the show ever did. For the first time in the show's history I felt strongly compelled to just shut it off, and come back next week in pure embarrassment. I didn't, but that feeling was strong, and really, when it comes to shows I watch, pretty rare.

Me, being the theatrical person I am, wants to very much believe there was a huge amount of backstage turmoil over this episode. In my head, this is the episode that caused production nightmares. Every show has one. The thing the "nightmare episode" always has in common is the producers know as it is happening that the episode is crap, but there is nothing they can do for budgetary reasons. Sometimes it's that they realized far too late in the game the episode was crap, and couldn't well junk it in the middle of filming it. Every show has a "What Went Wrong" episode. For Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, it was "Meridian". For Farscape, it was "Jeremiah Crichton". For Batman: The Animated Series it was "I've Got Batman In My Basement". What most episodes of this nature have in common is ambition going in, failing to be met. To bring Brigadoon to Star Trek, that's an understandable failure on a TV budget. The kiddie Batman episode is so bad because the idea is sound and just everything else in the episode broke in favor of the trolls who make fun of the show. It was the ambition to do a light, fun Batman episode, the pure need to do SOMETHING absolutely different that damns that low-stakes episode as much as if they tried to recreate Brigadoon for Batman. Sometimes a show gets a bad break.

The reason I am sure this is one of those episodes (and if it isn't, it should be) is that the show itself broke the high-concept premise midway through the first act, and showed unrelated B and C stories with the other characters. I am positive those were either last minute additions, or moved around from another episode. I'm guessing the producers saw what a disaster the LSD murder loop thing was turning into, and tried to soften the blow. Instead it made the ineffectiveness of the plotline more readily apparent.

Aram is tripping balls? So where are the trippy psychedelic visual effects to simulate that? The answer is the show does not have them in the show's budget. And instead of saving up for them, or attempting the episode when the effects budget COULD accommodate them, the episode suggests Aram's idea of an acid trip is an essentially an extremely boring version of Groundhog Day with himself cast as the villain. It was SO bad. I could not stop "Tsk tsking" the show for the pure level of incompetent, visibly low-budget television it was. One of the biggest complaints I can ever level at a TV show is whenever it reminds the viewer it's a TV show. Truthfully this show DOES do that sometimes. But never on this level before. I was watching the hopes and dreams a "Cool idea, bro!" in the writer's room melt and disintegrate before my very eyes. But that is also too kind of a description. They didn't really have any money to melt or disintegrate anything.

That was very hard for me to sit through. It was painful and embarrassing. What I am going to tell myself is that the producers knew it too and simply couldn't fix it. I would hate to happen upon a Blacklist DVD at some point in the future and hear a commentary where the cast and crew raves about what a fun episode and experience it was. Yes, I am being theatrical by creating this huge backstory of woe for the episode while having no proof whatsoever that that was the case. You can accuse me of having an overactive imagination there, but truly the thing I can't imagine is the producers sending that out to be broadcast and not being secretly appalled. I think my imagination there's pretty good, and far more believable than anything Aram fantasized about here at any rate. 0.
 

Fone Bone

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The Blacklist "Caelum Bank"

Who has two thumbs and could ever have predicted Marvin Gerard? This guy!

I freaking hate television.

Don't get me wrong. It was a great episode, and a great reveal, and it tied together perfectly. But I still resent the fact that I always knew it was Gerard because Fisher Stevens is the biggest name in the guest cast, and he's been so heavily featured, despite being largely absent for the past couple of seasons. I don't like television because you can predict major twists based on a cast list and nothing more. Fiction should NOT have to work that way. Ever. It was a solid mystery. Except for the fact that the REAL clues were nothing but pure television.

That was some great television. Which is me damning it with faint praise. I freaking HATE television. ****.
 

Fone Bone

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The Blacklist "Marvin Gerard: Conclusion, Pt. 1"

Very big episode. Played up the melodrama. Like at the end when Red says he's cutting ties with Harold. "Dah-ramma!"

I was surprised that Gerard was there during Liz's death and actually cried, but maybe I shouldn't have been. Him claiming that Red was his friend also shows how complicated this all is.

I don't know if Red was right about Gerard's true nature at the end, but were I Gerard I would have been as pissed as he was at Red saying it.

Red's tree metaphor with Harold about what a threat Gerard was was apt. Gerard essentially IS the Reddington Empire. You can't take down one without the other unless you simply kill him.

Big stuff that landed like gangbusters. A great week. *****.
 
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Fone Bone

Matt Zimmer
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The Blacklist "Marvin Gerard: Conclusion, Pt. 2"

First finale in years that didn't make me want to puke. It wasn't great, but just the fact that it wasn't terrible was a victory.

The most appalling thing about the idea of the Marvin Gerard Task Force is that it's actually a good idea on paper. That's the sickening thing.

So Gerard's last act is to destroy the Blacklist. Red really should have killed him in the judge's office.

The one thing in the episode that pissed me off is that the Task Force is dumb enough to believe Red is gonna break into prison to kill Marvin. That was SO obviously the dummy plan. How long have these jackasses actually worked with Red? How is it they could EVER believe he'd do something that dumb? It was so dumb I'd call it the stupidest bluff Red ever tried if it hadn't worked. The fact that it did was shameful. But apparently I overestimate the team and Red doesn't. They're all morons.

But really other than that, the episode was all right. Which is more than I can say about any of the other finales in recent memory. ***1/2.
 

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