In the back half of The Blacklist‘s second season, the show seemed to get a little comfortable with the conformity of its format: every week Red would bring the FBI the name of a strange and exotic criminal, he would snark as the Bureau bungled the job, and then save the day with a Hail Mary pass. The season finale promised to change all that though, shaking up the entire concept of the show by taking our heroine, erstwhile FBI profiler Elizabeth Keen, and making her the last thing she’d ever expect she would be, one of the FBI’s most wanted.
“The Troll Farmer” picks up mere moments after the end of the season two finale, in which you may recall that the Cabal was exposed by the world press after Red leaked them the Fulcrum. The Cabal had framed Liz for the death of several CIA agents and a sitting U.S. Senator by revealing that her mother was a famous and accomplished KGB assassin. If all that weren’t bad enough, Liz personally shot Attorney General Connolly, a low-level rung of the Cabal that threatened to eliminate the task force (with extreme and creative severity). So now what?
Let’s start with the titular Blacklister, a social media guru that creates expansive and complicated distractions across Facebook, Reddit, Instagram and the like. As FBI and Homeland Security lockdown Washington D.C., Red intends to wait it out with Liz in an old bomb shelter, while the Troll Farmer prepares to launch his Twitter bomb. What could possibly go wrong? How about Donald Ressler suddenly being above average effective at his job and being quite nearly able to outsmart Red?
As fate would have it, now’s the time that Ressler becomes a super agent. Better late than never. It was an often held critique of The Blacklist earlier on that the FBI was often played the more stupid in order to make the Red seem the more brilliant, but now Donald’s able to anticipate Red’s moves. Not that I’m complaining, it was nice to see Red actually be on a back foot for once, and setting up the season as a Fugitive-style chase with Ressler as Gerard and Liz and Red as a two-headed Richard Kimble has definite possibilities, assuming that The Blacklist writers don’t mind keeping Red the underdog.
The snag in the affair is that Ressler has to believe that after chasing down the weird and the strange on Red’s own Most Wanted list for two years that Liz may, in fact, be guilt of being the spy the Cabal has set her up to look like. Why does Red have to pointedly ask Ressler to give Liz the benefit of every doubt? Is Ressler so blinded with the sheer black-and-white simplicity of law enforcement that he can’t think maybe the person he worked side-by-side with for years is innocent? In the midst of Ressler being so smart, it’s weird that his motives are so stupid, “Everyone says Liz is guilty, so I guess she is too.” So much for loyalty.