"Practiced all my sins, never gonna let me win, uh-huh
Under everything, just another human being, uh-huh
I don't wanna hurt, there's so much in this world to make me bleed"
- Just Breathe - Pearl Jam
When a TV show airs a season finale, there is material and questions from the episodes that came before it that the fans expect to be addressed, and some we manage to deal with when they are not. A good finale, of course, harmoniously combines the proper amount of mystery and answers to the overarching plot to satisfy the audience until the next season's premiere. Few television shows can pull this off, let alone with any style. However, I believe The Blacklist manages to do all that with it's two-part season finale, 'Berlin'. Although, some may disagree, it brought the first chapter of Red and Liz's turbulent relationship to a dramatic finish while at the same time prepared us for the seasons to follow. Many questions were left unanswered, however, and they relate to the larger mythology, which is what makes The Blacklist so captivating to watch.
"It's all just pieces of a much larger puzzle, and until all the pieces are laying in front of you, it won't go together" - Red to Liz
We want to know what really happened in that fire of Liz's youth and who Liz's father really is and what is the relationship between him and Red. We did discover Berlin's identity and the reveal was a twist and mystery until the very end, something that 'The Blacklist' did very well all season. Below, I will help you navigate what happened in the conclusion, with all the information we were given, and we can figure out what questions remain unanswered that we hope will get addressed in Season Two this fall.
The episode opens with some of the inmates from the plane crash, that ended the last episode, being questioned by the FBI. They all give the same replies to the story of the 'hooded' man; He was cutting his hand off. We later find out there is a double meaning to this answer and the twist being that Berlin was introduced to us from the start. We are then shown a guard from the plane arriving at a hospital with his hand cut off at the wrist. In my last review I was questioning why the writers had kept the identity of Berlin so secret, suspecting that maybe it was someone we had seen before. Now it is clear why they had done that. More on this later.
Ressler questions Dimitri, the man he apprehended in the nightclub, and discovers that the plane is part of a Russian SVR operation. SVR is the Russian equivalent of the CIA or MI5 and MI6 is responsible for intelligence and espionage activities outside the Russian Federation. Agent Cooper tells him to utilize Red to find out the planes manifest since the Russian government will deny the operation ever took place. Red goes to visit the Russian ambassador and the following scenes were hilarious as he successfully obtains the manifest of the crashed plane. The list of the prisoners and the guards on the plane reveal that there are three convicts still on the loose and one guard with a hand missing still alive.
It's important to understand who Berlin is and why he is here now wreaking havoc in search of Red and the FBI team. Red confesses to Liz that one of the reasons he decided to help the FBI from the start is because of Berlin. The work they have been doing has forced Berlin out of the shadows. Liz and Ressler go to pay the guard a visit in the hospital and he tells an interesting and disturbing story of Berlin's origin. He says Berlin began as a soldier in the Red Army, then the KGB, notorious for sending off his enemies to the work camps in Siberia. Stories circulated that his daughter fell in love with a dissident. She was subsequently captured and imprisoned and her father, Berlin, arranged it so she could escape. The Kremlin found out and decided to make an example of him. They sent Berlin off to Siberia to rot away with his enemies. The guard continues the story by telling them what sounds like a morbid ghost story saying, "it is said that they could hear him every night, praying for his daughters safety. That she would never be found.". Then, one day, arriving in Berlin's cell is a small package containing a pocket watch he had given his daughter and inside was a picture of her. We know this picture to be identical to the one Red took from The Stewmaker's Book back at the end of episode four. A few months later, Berlin received yet another package, his daughter's ear. Then her finger. There was also an eyeball. Berlin's enemies sent her back to him piece by piece. What I don't understand is if she was captured by The Stewmaker, why didn't he turn her into...well...stew? That is what he does and how he got his moniker. Berlin then escapes by fashioning a knife out of one of his daughter's bones. He then began hunting and searching for the man responsible for his daughter's death.
Liz asks Red how Sam was involved in everything and Red doesn't offer up much information, claiming he is protecting Liz. Red tells her that one night an old friend (?Red?) shows up at his door scared. The friend told Sam he leaving town and was in danger. Red then has flashbacks of the fire we know from Liz's youth. The friend tells Sam that he needed someone to care for a little girl and that her father had died that night in a fire. So, Sam, took the little girl in and raised her as his own always sheltering her about the truth about her biological father. Red then tells Liz that he killed Sam because he was in pain and wanted to die, but also he wanted to protect Liz from the truth. What that 'truth' is the big mystery of The Blacklist, which will not be answered any time soon I imagine. Liz says the only memory she has of her father is that night of the fire when he pulled her out of the flames and saving her. Red tells her that he must keep the identity of her father a secret to protect her. Protect her from what? Why would knowing his identity harm Liz? Red did look choked up telling the story and we can't tell if it's because he is remembering his good friend, Sam, or he is sad because he is Liz's father. Questions for future seasons, I suppose.
Red gets the address to the location of Berlin's main henchman and when he gets there he ties him up. After explaining his eidetic memory to him he tries to figure out why Berlin is after him. He tortures a confession out of him, revealing that it was in Beirut in 2010, Red calls The Campolongo incident, that is the source of Berlin's animosity. Tom, in the meantime, holds Liz hostage as he enters the apartment where Red is. This is perhaps my favorite scene of the series. James Spader was perfect, as he was all season, and the scene was filled with so much tension and surprise. Tom shoots Red, but only grazes him, before Liz can wrest away from his grasp and Tom gets shot by her in the ensuing scuffle. Liz shoots him two more times and after Red leaves her to take care of Tom, Tom whispers something to her.
One thing that stuck out during the amazing first season of The Blacklist is the music selection. All of the episodes played music over crucial scenes or the ending of an episode that complemented it greatly. The finale was no different with Pearl Jam's, Just Breathe, playing at the end. In the closing scenes we learn that Liz is staying on the task force and Red was, in fact, at the fire of Liz's youth as evidenced by the burns on his back. That does not necessarily mean he is her father, but that he was present. Maybe he is the one who saved Liz? That is something we will need much more information to figure out. Tom whispered earlier to Liz that her father is alive contradicting Red telling her that he is dead. Who are we supposed to believe? This bothered me the most about the finale. They could have at least been more concrete with this answer that they have been teasing us with since the first episode.
Thoughts And Discussion and Unanswered Questions
- Are we to assume that Red was responsible for the death of Berlin's daughter? Is that why Berlin is after Red? What did Red do to her and why? Why else would Berlin be after Red?
- Is Liz's father alive or not? The creators want us to know that Red was present at the landmark fire of Liz's childhood, but that does not necessarily mean he is her father and he was just there. He could have been the one to save her, or the one who killed her father, or both. Why did Tom whisper to Liz that her father is alive, but Red is insistent that he is not? This doesn't give us a piece to the puzzle, but it makes the puzzle larger.
- What exactly happened the night of the fire and why did it happen?
- Did you notice...'Berlin' is an example of 'lexical ambiguity' (could be the place or a person) much like the important phrase from the episode 'He cut his hand off' is.
- I love peaches and never knew they grow 'free-stone' ones. I've been so deprived...jk, lol.
- Now we know...who the photo is of that Red took from The Stewmaker's Book. It is Berlin's daughter.
- Now we know...what Red wanted with the client lists from some of the blacklisters. He was using it to discover the identity and/or other information of his adversary Berlin.
- Did you notice...In the hospital after Berlin escaped they showed who he killed and a bloody scene. On the ground was the bone of his daughter he used to escape the Serbian camp.
- Did you notice...in Red's flashback of 'the fire' there is a Christmas ornament. Did we know if 'the fire' took place during Christmas? That would be a big piece of the puzzle.
- What makes Liz important enough to cause all this death, destruction and chaos? I debated with my friend about this and thought there has to be more to her story than just some criminal's daughter.
- Why can't Red tell Liz who her dad is? It's not like she will go nuts at the revelation. Couldn't he at least offer her some information, especially if he deceased?
- Why is Red holding on to the photo from The Stewmaker's book, also Berlin's daughter. What is Red's connection to her?
- RIP Agent Meera Malik...
- So, from the final scenes, are we supposed to believe that Tom is alive? I would say that he is and nothing creates a better air of mystery than a villain that can 'pop up' out of nowhere. Now, we have two; Tom and Berlin.
Thank you all for reading my Reviews this incredible first season! I really appreciate all of the kind comments and discussions we had after each episode. I can't wait until we can continue the same next season! Comment below so we can discuss the finale and the season in full! The next major show I am planned to Review is 'The Leftovers' on HBO and 'The Strain' on FX that air this summer, so please check them out!