If you read enough of my Blacklist reviews, you’ll know my two criteria for what constitutes a good episode: an excellent villain (which should go without saying) and as much James Spader/Red Reddington screen time as humanly possible. “The Good Samaritan Killer” fulfills both of these criteria with such aplomb that it’s almost gratuitous. The short version: Frank Whaley joins the Blacklist party as the villain of the week, the hunt for the mole goes on, while Red goes off to settle some scores. Permanently. As for the long version? You’ll just have to keep reading. But beware…there’s almost no way to do this one without spoilers, so please be careful. I’ll try not to spoil anything too big, but I don’t like making promises I can’t keep.
I’m going to dispense with even the barest hint of plot recap for this one, because there’s just so much to love that I’m liable to eat up my entire word count just hitting the high points. Initially, Frank Whaley’s “good samaritan killer” (so named for a very good reason, which we’ll get to in just a moment) just seems like another Blacklist-by-the-numbers baddie of the week. He’s a kidnap/torture killer who drugs his victims, and then proceeds to, well…kidnap and torture them. Nothing terribly new here, right? Wrong. Add one twist, in that he then leaves the still living (but gravely injured) victim somewhere public, calls 911, and lets them know that he “did it again” before wandering off into the night. Oh, so he’s like San Francisco’s Zodiac Killer, then? Nope. The Good Samaritan Killer is actually giving these folks a chance to be saved. It doesn’t seem to work out that well for them. Oh, don’t worry…there’s more to his MO than what they give the audience up front, but we’ll get to that.
I must confess that after the events of “Anslo Garrick” parts one and two, I fully expected a good chunk of the rest of the season to deal with “Red on the run.” But here’s the thing: even when Red is on the run, he’s still somehow in complete and total control of the situation. Or at least he acts like he is. And, well, the results speak for themselves, don’t they? How in control is Red?
I lost track of the body count in this episode, that’s how in control he is. I mean, it wasn’t astronomical or anything. I was just too busy either laughing like an evil person or muttering “Holy shit” as every glorious moment of Red’s fact-finding revenge killing spree unfolded to bother counting. As Johnny Cash’s “The Man Comes Around” played, Red settled scores with everything from a pistol to a bottle of vodka to his own two hands, always with that impassive smirk on his face and a series of epigrams that would do Oscar Wilde proud. Is it wrong to root for such an unrepentant bastard, even when it’s clear that The Blacklist is doing its damndest to make it crystal clear to us at every opportunity what a monster he is? Yes. Yes it is. Do I care? Not at the moment, no. Oh, and in case you’ve forgotten, Red is a hell of a shot.
Anyway, back to the actual Good Samaritan Killer. This isn’t a lead that Red gave to the team. In fact, this is a case Agent Keen has worked on in the past. Red helps with a clue, which is actually the key to the episode: what this guy does to his victims is actually a reflection of the victims themselves. Confused? His victims are domestic abusers, and the injuries he inflicts are the same injuries they have reflected on others. It’s a bit of a stretch, but it works in context…a good chunk of that may have to do with Whaley’s performance. You see, the killer is actually a medical professional, so he sees these things firsthand, and thus knows who (and how) to exact justice. The fact that he does all of this with the bedside manner of an attending physician is a nice touch, and quite amusing.
The internal search for the identity of the mole mirrors Red’s search for answers of his own, and it’s only a matter of time before the two intertwine. Red and Aram share some special one-on-one time, which ends up clearing Aram of suspicion…at least Red’s suspicion. “Don’t look so stricken. The first shot will kill you.”
Of complete and utter non-interest remains anything relating to the home life of Elizabeth Keen. Her sketchy hubby wants to move to Lincoln, Nebraska to take a teaching job…Agent Keen isn’t interested, and neither am I. This show has enough going on without this nonsense cluttering it up. I look forward to Red dispatching him in suitable fashion in a (hopefully near) future episode.
The awkward “reunion” between Red and Agent Keen at the episode’s conclusion didn’t exactly ring true, either. I’ve never fully understood or bought the relationship between them that we’re being sold. It’s hot and cold, there seems to be no danger that Elizabeth is going to “turn to the dark side” nor is there any indication that Red wants this to happen.
These are exceedingly minor quibbles for what was an extraordinarily exciting, violent, and (yes, as much as I hate to admit it given the body count involved) funny episode. “The Good Samaritan Killer” is possibly the best that The Blacklist has produced so far, and that final sequence (which I will NOT spoil) opens up a can of shit worms that should propel this show quite nicely through the final episodes of the season. Welcome back, Mr. Reddington.