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Season 5, Part II – 'The Blacklist' Returns
January 3, 2018  | By David Hinckley

Not since the golden age of the Steven Seagal / Sylvester Stallone / Charles Bronson vigilante flicks has a character gotten more sheer pleasure out of killing bad guys than Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone, top) gets in this week’s return of The Blacklist.

She also shows remarkable creativity in the ways she dispatches them. We didn’t say subtlety. We said creativity.

The second half of the Blacklist season kicks off at 8 p.m. ET Wednesday, and as fans would expect, the death of Liz’s husband, Tom Keen (Ryan Eggold), has reset all the characters and some of the rules.

The episode wisely focuses on Liz, who has been shattered into tiny pieces by the unsolved crime. Tom ran in a shady, dangerous world and she knew it, but that makes her no less determined to now implement her own notion of justice.

Liz is an FBI agent, of course, but she’s also the daughter of Raymond Reddington (James Spader), who routinely handles things outside the parameters of the law even though he works with the FBI to apprehend mega-criminals.

Liz’s bounce to the dark side doesn’t represent a sudden wholesale shift. Nonetheless, it’s emphatic, and Boone makes the transition both credible and compelling.

Specifically, Liz has gone off the grid. She’s living under an alias in a generator-powered cabin in backwoods Alaska, and even though the same attack that killed Tom put her in a coma for ten months, she’s doing everything herself while she continues her physical rehab.

Her mental and emotional rehab, obviously, are works in progress – and that progress will be a central theme for the second half of this season.

In the first episode, that puts James Spader’s Red Reddington, the focal character of the show, into an unusual supporting role. It feels strange to see Red getting relatively little screen time, though that’s also true in this episode for all the other main characters.

There are indications this balance will shift back a bit in coming weeks, though the New Elizabeth clearly isn’t going anywhere.

While Boone handles her new hardened persona well, it’s important to remember her evolution toward where she is now. At the beginning of the show, she was a naïve rookie FBI profiler who wasn’t quite sure why she was vaulted onto a high-intensity task force looking for some of the world’s most dangerous criminals.

She got that answer slowly. Her relationship to Reddington also unspooled in small increments, while Tom Keen wove in and out of the story without ever fully revealing himself. Good guy, bad guy? We never could be quite sure. Even his last mission, to find a mysterious piece of information for Liz, was never exactly spelled out. Tom seemed to think it would turn her against Reddington for good, and as far as we know, the information could still be in play.

Like most shows several seasons into their story, the nuances of The Blacklist might be hard to pick up for a newcomer at this point. It’s also a solid procedural, however, with bad guys doing bad things and then paying for them almost every week. No prior knowledge is required to follow the payback part of the story.

This week that tab is particularly high. Anytime you have lethal combat on which Steven Seagal would be taking notes, it’s going to get your attention.

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