As The Blacklist was entering the final few episodes of its first season, I couldn’t help but think that the show had tangled itself up with loose ends too much to consider its first season a success, except for its help in securing NBC’s #1 ratings rank. I thought the season finale could be the real game changer, making all the pieces fit and even possibly building excitement for a second season, even if the first was lackluster. So does “Berlin: Conclusion” do this? Well, yes and no.
If anything, the title of the finale should be “Berlin: Beginning,” as we finally get a villain that makes the future much brighter. With a Russian plane crash in New York, the search begins for all the missing passengers, one of which should be the sought after Berlin. All the passengers are played by unknowns, yet the passenger who is stuck in a hospital bed with a lost hand who happens to know everything about Berlin isn’t considered suspicious at all. The show carries on like it’s some big surprise at the end when the bedridden man turns out to be Berlin. It also doesn’t help that this man is played by Peter Stormare. As the audience, it’s pretty easy to sort out who could be Berlin: the group of 10 guys I can’t tell apart, or the main villain from Fargo who put Steve Buscemi in a wood chipper? The presentation of this doesn’t leave a lot of room for mystery.
Of course the dumb Blacklist version of the FBI doesn’t figure this out, and Berlin is now free, leaving Liz and Reddington to search for him in the next season. But before he goes, Berlin and his Russian cronies take out a few members of the cast that don’t need to stick around anymore. First, Meera gets her throat slit looking for Russian passengers at a night club. (RIP.) Then Harold Cooper is strangled in his car, but by the end of the episode we see he’s still alive. Most importantly, Liz finally gets to shoot Tom in the gut several times before saying her goodbyes.
At the very least, Liz does let Reddington know what these final words are: Tom said Liz’s birth father is still alive. Red immediately lets her down, saying that he knows for a fact that her father is dead, and that he died in a fire trying to save her as a child. Reddington must mean this as a metaphorical death, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, and we see that Reddington has burn marks all over his back. Dum duh DUUUUH!
Once again, The Blacklist tries to present another twist that is so incredibly obvious, I believe I and many other people predicted this in the very first episode. Now that it’s at least on the table, the show can quit pretending like it’s some big secret.
“Berlin: Conclusion” gives us both the obnoxious version of Reddington and the version that makes you slightly understand James Spader’s Golden Globe nomination. First, we see the Reddington that spouts nonsense to seem charming, this time about different types of peaches and not hurting dogs before throwing a knife at a Russian ambassador. But as the episode goes on, he becomes the better of the two Reddingtons, the kind that shows a love for Liz and for his friendship with Sam and his recklessness to get ahead. This is the type of Reddington that makes him a compelling character rather than a frustrating know-it-all.
There’s still plenty of questions and odd ends from The Blacklist’s first season that are left unanswered, such as why exactly everyone is so interested in Liz or what exactly is Alan Alda doing with The Secret Board of Shadowy Figures. This finale does give just enough reason to keep us interested, and “Berlin: Conclusion” is by far one of the best episodes of The Blacklist—even if, at this point, that still isn’t saying much.
Ross Bonaime is a D.C.-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.