The Blacklist
Cape May
Season 3, Episode 19 Recap ~ The Depths of Grief


Cape May. I never imagined just the name of a place could have such an affect on me. Though The Blacklist has had much to recommend it, "Cape May" was a standout in its depiction of grief, the way it flowed from beginning to end with the eerie feeling that something wasn't right, something was missing, like a half-remembered dream.


Nothing was right, of course, and the missing piece, it could be said, was Red; he hadn't been there to save Katarina from herself and he failed to save her daughter. In a profound grief triggered by Liz's death, Red fled to probably the last place that holds significance for him. Not knowing what to do and too hurt to do anything else, Red sat on the beach of Cape May to stare out at the hypnotizing vastness that guides broken souls through all their "what ifs?" Before long, his distraught mind decided for him.

What a superb episode. I didn't know James Spader could give more of his heart and soul than he already has throughout these past three seasons...

Barely having a chance to get lost in his thoughts, Red saw someone in trouble, a woman he had earlier seen fleeing a diner, pursued by a man in a flannel shirt with a scowl on this face. She was about to let the ocean take her. Having lost someone in such a way, Red didn't hesitate to act.

I had no clue who this woman was right then. I just thought it was nice for Red at his lowest to have someone to save. The first indication that something was off—those missing pieces—was the way this scene was edited. The woman started walking toward the ocean and Red ran after her, yelling for her to stop. She dove into the waves and he followed. Then suddenly, a little oddly, it cut to Red pulling her out of the water.

He helped her inside the beachfront inn, set her down by the fireplace, and went to get a blanket. He halted for a beat when the inn hostess appeared behind him and asked if he needed help. But this was the off season and no one else was there. He shrugged it off, found a blanket, started a fire, and layed down next to the suicidal woman. I assumed it was only for body heat and to comfort her, but then it seemed more intimate than that, his face showing more than the natural concern for another human being, his words too easily getting a confession out of her.

It's not that he died. It's not even the way he died. It's in the things I said to him just before he died.

When they had dinner, there was a wide shot of the table with two place settings where the woman was completely obscured by a post, as if she wasn't there at all and I got a sinking feeling. The next angle showed both of them and I was reassured, but then the unease about her returned with the way they seemed to have an unspoken connection and how she brought out of Red the terrible things that have happened, the choices he made.

I was arrogant. I presumed that there was an order to things, that there was - that if I nourished and protected and taught the child, she would and happy.

Then the attack came from the man in the diner. The woman whispered a warning to Red, and it sounded like she was right next to him, but she wasn't there. I was sure then of what I had begun to suspect. They talked in the living room afterwards, the woman at the piano and Red on the couch baring his soul again, the present in parallel with his past.

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There was a woman I loved. She was my heart. Then she died. She left behind a little girl: one last, precious piece of herself. I would give anything to be a part of that child's life, but a man made it clear I would never see her, hold her, watch her grow. And I knew in that moment, I would never be a part of that beautiful little girl's life...

This sad scene finished with a phone call, and they got ready for an onslaught. They won, but the people who were after the woman weren't going to give up. She had no options left, and Red did his best to talk her out of what he knew was coming by relating to her his witnessing of "a perfect circle of death."

That's every suicide. Every single one. An act of terror perpetrated against everyone who's ever known you, everyone who's ever loved you. The people closest to you, the ones who cherish you, are the ones who suffer the most pain, the most damage. Why would you do that? Why would you do that to people who love you?

A beautifully heart-felt plea to the woman he had loved. And her response is something he should have told Liz before it was too late. But don't we all think we have more time?

That little girl, the one you told me about, the one whose father you spared, what would you do if you knew, knew that as long as you drew breath, as long as you continued to exist her life would be in danger, she would be hunted, and she would be killed? What would you do?

Every one of their exchanges had felt like more than two strangers just getting to know each other; it's like they already did, but they were in a sort of purgatory where their memories of each other had vanished. Through all of this, until the end, Red didn't realize who he had saved, until after the woman inevitably walked into the water again, as she always would. Red's hallucination rewrote Katarina's last day as if he had been there with her, what he would have done to keep her safe. Everyone wishes they could change the past, but it is a deep and abiding sorrow, an utterly shattered heart, to be manifesting someone long-gone and to think she's actually there.

Now I wonder if Katarina really told him why she took her own life or if he just intuited it. Did she leave a note? (I don't remember if there was ever a hint of a note before.) Had he really been there in the past to help protect her from a couple of thugs and then did he leave when she asked him to? Is that why he said "I can't" and stayed with her, because this time things would be different? All I know for sure is she died and left behind little Masha. The rest could have been a scenario Red made up in this waking nightmare.

[EDIT I was in such a rush that there was a question I forgot to ask, until the latest episode reminded me of it. Why didn't Red recognize Katarina? At first I thought it was just the way his mind was working through the grief, like a dream where the people you know have different faces. That has happened to me a few times before. So, could it be that Katarina didn't really look like the woman in "Cape May"? Could it be that Red saw a flesh and blood woman in that diner, rather than a ghost his heart could never let go, and then built a scenario around her where she stood in for Katarina?]

What a superb episode. I didn't know James Spader could give more of his heart and soul than he already has throughout these past three seasons, but "Cape May" surpassed even "Madeline Pratt." That was the episode where Red recounted finding his daughter in a pool of her own blood, his eyes closed, transported back to that moment as if it had just happened, the wound never having healed.

And tonight, in "The Artax Network," the rest of the cast gets their chance to bring everything they have to the funeral episode. I'm really looking forward specifically to seeing how this affects Aram. Amir Arison was perfect in "The Director" when Aram saved Liz. That entire scene where he was trying to reassure Liz, pleaded for her life, performed CPR on her, and then threatened the Director was the highlight of Arison's work on the show.

I can't wait to see what the final episodes have in store, but I'm not even finished with this post. I sacrificed almost my entire work day for this, but I have to get to it or I will be scrambling to catch up on the weekend. So, I guess there will be a Part 3 of this post, which I will have to link to here.


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