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The Blacklist “The Mombasa Cartel” 

Photo Credit: Craig Blankenhorn/NBC
Photo Credit: Craig Blankenhorn/NBC

If The Blacklist were ever going to give us a Halloween episode, then “The Mombasa Cartel (No. 114)” with its cabin in the woods housing a giant, howling man with the mom-sanctioned hobby of hunting, killing, skinning and then taxiderm-ing human beings is as close as we’re going to get. Cabin Guy’s Pinterest boards must be the stuff of nightmares (Dear NBC Publicity: Please make Pinterest boards for every member of The Blacklist. That would be amazing).

Oddly enough, this episode of The Blacklist, creepy and gross as it may be, is all about love. Some of it sick, twisted and counter-intuitive, but love nonetheless.

The giant in the cabin is Matthew (Carel Struycken, Lurch from The Addams Family movie) the  intellectually disabled son of billionaire animal activist Geoff Perl (Peter Fonda: House of Bodies; Easy Rider) and the creepiest Mom I’ve seen this year, Skye Kinkaid (Phyllis Somerville; Bringing Out The Dead; The Big C).

Together with older son, Peter Kinkaid (David Aaron Baker: Revolution; Boardwalk Empire), the functionally dysfunctional  family indulges Matthew in his passion for murder and taxidermy (and his work is excellent; I’ll give him that. His campfire set-up of stuffed “friends” that he was cozying up to while hunting Ressler in the woods is horrifyingly flawless. Nobody was rotting at all). But at least the family was unified in stopping a few really terrible animal poachers and Mombasa Cartel members? Yeah, sorry, family, no. You’re still awful.

Photo Credit: Virginia Sherwood/NBC
Photo Credit: Virginia Sherwood/NBC

Skye’s devotion to Matthew is complete; she bathes him, plays his favorite song over and over and pressures Geoff and Peter when their commitment to Matthew starts to wane. It’s love at its deepest and most perverse, which leads to her murdering her youngest son and committing suicide when the FBI finally arrives, but that sacrifice is also firmly rooted in her love for her “baby.” Knowing Matthew would never survive whatever hellish institution in which he was incarcerated because of his disability and truly appalling crimes, she opted to euthanize him and die with her son.

A mother’s love is many, many things: devoted, determined, unconditional, sometimes irrational, and in this case, absolutely batshit crazy. But it is deep. Skye loved her damaged little boy deeply, and completely, all the way to the end she herself orchestrated.

Photo Credit: Craig Blankenhorn/NBC
Photo Credit: Craig Blankenhorn/NBC

The episode also gives us more insight into the relationship between Red and Dembe (Hisham Tawfiq: Dead Man Down; Kings) which is revealed to be almost a father/son dynamic. After a horrific beginning, in which he was taken from the scene of his family’s slaughter and sold into sex slavery, only to be abandoned when he became too old, too big and too angry to be any use to the human traffickers who stole his childhood, Dembe was rescued by Red, who ensured he was then protected, educated and loved. Red’s pride in Dembe’s achievements under his care is apparent, and wholly parental. When Red declares Dembe to be “splendid,” with that little hitch in his voice, he reveals the depth of his love for the boy Dembe had been, and the man he grew up to be.

Either because, or in spite of, Red’s care, Dembe became an accomplished man, one who urges Red to be merciful when presented with Geoff Perl, who, despite his role as an animal activist, is actually the financial backing for the Mombasa Cartel, who was responsible for the murder of Dembe’s family and his subsequent torturous youth.

Red, of course, shoots and kills Perl after he provides Reddington with the names of all the cartel’s members, despite Dembe’s urging him to embrace forgiveness. Because like any good father, Reddington can just not forgive anyone who hurt his family. And it’s Red, so that means his love is manifested with an act of violence, because that’s all Red knows. I’m conflicted as to whether I should applaud him or feel sorry for him. My internal, ethical jury is still out on this.

Loose Ties:

• The company backing the cartel financially is called Wendigo LLC. A legend of some North American aboriginal peoples, the Wendigo is a demon spirit that hunts and cannibalizes humans. With an appetite that is never satisfied, the Wendigo, described as gaunt and almost skeletal, is simultaneously gluttonous and starving. Coincidence? I think not.

• Up top, I almost referenced Ressler’s love for prescription drugs, but I’m better than that (clearly, I am not).

• Red’s hat features prominently (again) in this episode and Reddington’s introduction to the mysterious Zoe, she of the food truck. At this point, I think that hat is officially a Blacklist character and probably has its own trailer and SAG card.

• I purposely sought out and included at least one creepy actor credit this time. Only David Aaron Baker didn’t have something suitably scary on his credits list. Thanks, David. Thanks loads. Happy Halloween everybody!

The Blacklist airs Mondays at 9/8c on NBC.

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