Agent Ressler (Diego Klattenhoff) seeks revenge on a fugitive Yakuza boss in the newest episode of The Blacklist. Mako Tanida (Hoon Lee) escapes from prison, seeking revenge on the FBI agents who put him there four years ago in the midst of their search for Red (James Spader). After murdering Agents Ramo and Maguire, he hunts down Ressler and kills his girlfriend, Aubrey, in the midst of a vehicular ambush. Swearing vengeance despite Red’s warning, Ressler contacts his best friend and former agent Jonica, heading out to track down Tanida. Liz and her team attempt to stop him before he can find the Yakuza boss and commit a regrettable act that will land him in prison.
Meanwhile, Liz’s husband, Tom (Ryan Eggold) tries to maintain his cover as a schoolteacher and faithful husband. Having confirmed Red’s suspicions last week, Tom is a plant who receives the unwanted company and advice of Jolene (House of Cards’ Rachel Brosnahan). Red’s hired gun (Lance Reddick) tails the both of them but gets discovered and subdued.
“Mako Tanida” is a clear attempt at a more personal story for Ressler’s character, who has been Liz’s stiff-as-a-board partner for much of the series. He had reunited with Aubrey, a former girlfriend, after nearly dying of torture wounds three months prior. As an agent who went strictly by the book and never hid his disdain for Red, this episode sought to make him a more emotionally vulnerable character as opposed to mere physical vulnerability. While the narrative of the episode itself is sound, it would likely have been even more effective if Aubrey and Jonica had a more consistent presence on the show. Their fates are all too predictable and not quite as saddening because of the audience’s very limited exposure to them. Although it’s sensible that a best friend and significant other would bring out Ressler’s vulnerability, the characters are relative strangers to us, serving more as templates than people that we have actual stock in. However, the episode succeeds in bringing Ressler and Red closer together (as Red’s gift at the end suggests). He frequently cautions Ressler against letting the need for revenge consume him and attempts to provide him counsel on overcoming his grief, showing compassion that we didn’t necessarily know Red to be capable of.
The episode’s B plot expands on the cliffhanger of two weeks ago that was Tom’s revelation as a plant. His identity is no longer Liz’s potentially innocent husband, falling victim to her hectic work schedule. Though he’s been targeting Liz for two years, since their relationship began, Red’s presence and suspicions have hampered his progress. As Jolene (or her real name, Lucy) mentions that “Berlin” is getting worried, Tom expresses frustration over the lack of information he has been getting.
While this story promises to be a more slow-burning, serialized payoff, Tom’s guilt can no longer be denied to the audience. In addition, he takes out one of Red’s men, showing his training but also effectively making him a marked man. Red’s attempts to get more information on Tom will undoubtedly turn into a more spirited effort to remove him from Liz’s life. The question is who will get to the truth first, Red or Liz? Right now, Liz is far too naïve, and as a profiler for the FBI, her background suggests that her character should be more on to Tom’s games. Red as the knowledgeable one worked well in the beginning, but the show would be better off letting Liz prove to be clever.
“Mako Tinaka” has mixed results in pushing the narrative forward with two of its ancillary characters but sets up potentially huge subsequent steps for Liz and Red.
The Blacklist airs Mondays at 10 pm/9c on NBC.