The first part of “Luthor Braxton,” the episode of The Blacklist that followed the Super Bowl, was appropriately heavy on action and relatively light on the series’ complex mythology and exposition. That was for the best, of course. Even fans that have seen every episode, like me, can have a tough time outlining the exact sequence of events that lead Elizabeth Keen from being a happy and care-free child with two loving parents, to being the adopted daughter of a reformed criminal who grew up to be the linchpin in an international conspiracy involving a secret cabal and one of the FBI’s most wanted. Last night’s episode may be named after Luther Braxton, but in a very real sense, it was all about Lizzie.
The backstory of Agent Keen has always been nebulous, partly due to the typical workings of a show developing itself and partly because The Blacklist doesn’t want to offer easy answers. Is Red Liz’s father? He says no, though he hesitated, and she did ask him point blank. The man who raised her, Sam, wanted to tell Liz some kind of truth before he died, but it was a truth that Red could not allow Sam to tell her. Was it Fulcrum related? In hindsight I think that’s likely, but in that moment Red acted as though he didn’t want Sam to reveal what role he personally had in Liz’s past. That was another flashing red sign about paternity, but let’s take Red’s word for it, he’s not Liz’s birth father, but maybe he had some role her formative years.
In part one, we learned that Liz is the key to finding the Fulcrum, a fact Braxton was eager to exploit. When waterboarding (and presumably other torture) fails, the only conclusion there may be is that Liz had buried the memory, the trauma of the fire that gave her that distinctive scar was so horrible that her mind sectioned it off and made it password protected. Conveniently, Liz’s memory of the fire is just jumbled enough to be barely understandable even if the sequence of events we’re seeing don’t add up to much. It was perhaps naive to think that The Blacklist was going to deliver the goods, and even though it’s guarding its mystery box as tightly as ever, what revelations were made weren’t maddeningly nebulous.
So, what did we learn? Red was there the night of the fire, with a group of people who were looking for the Fulcrum. Liz’s parents argued about it as she hid in the closet, the fire started, she screamed, got burned and was led away after seeing her father’s dead body on the floor. Most importantly though, Red was there! (We need to reinforce that.) Notice too that a portion of Liz’s lucid dream/remembrance was set during Christmas time. Christmas Eve was the setting of Red’s turn from promising naval officer to career criminal, the night he abandoned his own family, so I hardly think it’s a coincidence that yule tide trimmings were there in the background as Liz and her young avatar chased a bunny around.