You see, Lizzie, now I’m interested.
The Stewmaker is in town. You’re going to need a plumber.
*All right, episode four and it appears that Tom Noonan is the villain; he is bald and horrifically scared over his entire body as we discover in the cold open of the show when he takes out his false teeth, removes his wig, strips completely naked, shaves his entire body, douses himself in orange antiseptic chemicals and covers an entire hotel room in plastic.
*I fear that this fellow is up to no good.
*One thing this show is pretty good at is music choices. The song playing under this cold open is fantastic. It’s by a group called Suuns and it’s called Up Past the Nursery and it just has this really great menacing sound and this fantastic beat.
*Okay, so I managed to actually put away all the Silence of the Lambs references and now the show just waves it in my face by hiring the Great Red Dragon himself to be the villain?
*So, Liz is about to testify in court against this psycho Mexican drug lord named Lorca. Liz has a witness that she says will put him away cold. But Red tells her that Lorca has reached out to him in order to get fake IDs and such for transport out of the country. And he says he needs it all by the next day. Clearly, he’s not planning to still be in police custody.
*So, anyway, the prosecutor says that Lorca and his gang have killed more than a hundred people, but their bodies have never been found.
*Why do I think a naked, orange Tom Noonan has been eating them?
*Anyway, chaos in the courtroom when a juror gets poisoned and then Liz turns her witness over to a couple of U.S. Marshals. It is nothing short of PAINFULLY OBVIOUS that these Marshals are totally fake. So, yeah, her witness disappears.
*Liz still hasn’t gotten over that little dodge Red pulled last episode about her father: “Not really the most convenient time for me.” “I don’t give a rat’s ass.”
*Great Spader lines: “A man’s life is at stake!” “A man’s life is always at stake.”
*So, yeah, Tom Noonan has the witness’s body and he dissolves it in with this nasty chemical soup in his hotel room bathtub. It’s disgusting. Let’s move on.
*So, Tom catches Liz with a paper that has the location from the homicide file, Angel Station, and the date of the murder on it. But he misconstrues it. It seems that he and Liz were both in Angel Station, which is somewhere in Boston on that date. It was a vacation/job interview for Tom. But, hmm, was it really a job interview? Now it looks like maybe it was a vacation/brutal homicide.
*Tom’s Vaguely Threatening Lines™: “Do I really have tells?” “Lizzie, you’re an open book, which is one of the things I love about you. Cause I always know EXACTLY WHAT YOU’RE THINKING.”
*So, Red figures out, when Liz tells him that all of Lorca’s victims disappeared without a trace, that it’s the Stewmaker.
*Great Spader lines: (to Liz when she’s at the hotel crime scene) “The Stewmaker is in town. You’re going to need a plumber.”
*So, the Stewmaker’s in town; he’s exposed momentarily so Red thinks they can get to him, but they have to do it before he vanishes again. “The Stewmaker is the key to so much more . . . The Stewmaker knows where all the bodies are buried. He’s got the answers to hundreds of unsolved murders.”
*So, Malik threatens Lorca with Homeland Security. She basically says they’ll trump up evidence that some of his money’s been going to terrorist organizations and that “Homeland’s gonna stick you in a nice hole someplace.” But if he rolls over on the Stewmaker, they’ll put him in a cushy prison.
*And I really liked this twist: “I don’t think you really understand who you’re hunting. This man, he is much more dangerous than your agents. I’ll take my chances with Homeland.”
*I dig this. It’s a great premise. Mexican drug lords are super-scary, right? Let’s make a show about the guy THEY think is scary.
*But then Lorca escapes anyway because apparently the FBI and Homeland Security don’t establish any kind of security perimeter when they’re doing prisoner transport and so Lorca’s guys just drive up in a van and start shooting grenade launchers everywhere. And they kidnap Liz too. For some reason. Not sure why at this point.
*Great (?) James Spader Lines: “Your witness is dead, you lost Lorca, and he took Agent Keen. I’d say my meeting with Lorca might be the equivalent of you falling on your ass & landing in a pile of Christmas.”
*Is that an expression? A pile of Christmas? I have never heard that before.
*So, Red goes ahead with his meeting with Lorca to give him all the fake IDs and such to help Lorca get out of the country. Ressler insists on going with him. So, Red & Ressler go in and Lorca asks who Ressler is and Ressler’s expecting Red to give him a cover identity but Red just says, “Oh, this is Special Agent Donald Ressler of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”
*The look on Ressler’s face. I swear.
*So, Ressler’s about to get killed when he comes up with an excuse, telling Lorca that he’s actually a corrupt FBI agent and he’s the one who got Red the fake documents. “I’m not the guy you kill, Hector. I’m the guy you pay.”
*Red seems pleasantly surprised that Ressler passed his little test.
*So, Red gets info about the Stewmaker from Lorca. Lorca’s turned Liz over to the Stewmaker for him to dispose of her as revenge for all the trouble Liz’s investigation caused him. But Red spins a nice tale, saying that he has a job for the Stewmaker and wants to get in touch with him and then they’ll be able to say that Ressler rescued Liz and that’ll look good on his FBI record and divert suspicion away from him. That’s actually a great justification.
*So, they get a name and location. The Stewmaker is Stanley Kornish and . . .
*So, now I know why he goes by “the Stewmaker.” It’s not actually the most menacing name, but it’s a hell of a lot better than “Stanley.”
*Anyway, Ressler and Malik head for Kitzmiller, the town where Kornish supposedly lives. Red, on the other hand, remembers that the Stewmaker has a dog, so he calls animal control and passes himself off as Kornish in order to get the tracking chip information on Kornish’s dog.
*Liz is using her humanizing techniques like a ************: “My name is Elizabeth. I have a name. I’m a person . . . Who are you? I should know the name of the person who’s going to take my life . . . The name they call you out there . . . It’s disparaging, disrespectful. But it’s not who you are, is it?”
*Liz has been watching her Criminal Minds, I tell you.
*What? Kornish really DOESN’T KNOW that he’s called the Stewmaker? He has to have heard people refer to him that way before.
*The Stewmaker & Liz talk past each other: “Nature . . . it’s the transference of energy. Energy cannot die. It can only be transformed.” “You seem like a father. Do you have kids? A son?”
*So, Kornish starts like straight out torturing Liz with needles in her nerve clusters. This feels jarringly out of place for this show, I have to tell you. I’ve gone this far with the show, as grotesque and Criminal Mindsy as the Stewmaker has been. But this just feels dumb.
*So, there’s a great joke as we cut directly from Kornish torturing to Liz to his wife being interrogated by the FBI. “There’s a nerve cluster just under the stomach muscle. This should be quite intense. *stab*” *cut* “My husband’s a dentist.”
*Yeah, he is.
*So, the Stewmaker once again strips totally naked in order to do the real dirty work. I like to think this is part of the torture. “And now . . . you will look at my horribly scarred penis!” “NO NO OH GOD PLEASE!”
*This should be quite intense.
*So, the Stewmaker injects Liz with a sedative that paralyzes her.
*The Stewmaker, rather hilariously, sends his dog out of the room. “Hey, you don’t have to watch this. Go on. Why don’t you go play?”
*You guys who have pets? Do you let them see you naked? Is that weird at all for you? It’s kinda weird for me in some settings. Like I do not want my dog in the room when I’m getting aroused. I mean, if I get out of the shower, he’s usually waiting at the door and that’s just kinda like “Whatever.” But I would be very uncomfortable to have my dog in the room while I was sexually aroused. Though when he comes in and wakes me up in the morning, you know, when guys wake up in the morning. But that’s a pre-existing condition from before the dog comes in the room. Could I BECOME aroused while my dog was looking at me? I don’t think so.
*And, just FYI, since that is not something I have any interesting in experimenting with, we’ll just never know.
*I’m sure you’re okay with that.
*I remember that amazing episode of Improv4Humans where they talked about bestiality and they were arguing about how cognizant a dog is of what a human’s genitals are. “My dog does not know what my penis is.” “Your dog knows. Your dog knows everything.” “It’s like your dog pees and he sees you pee and he’s like ‘Oh, that’s the thing he pees out of so it’s like my thing that I pee out of.’”
*I think I would be more comfortable with my dog seeing me murder someone than to just see me strolling around completely naked.
*Death awareness in animals is something that kind of haunts me. I mean, my dog knows that he can kill a squirrel. He knows that it’s alive and he can kill it. Does he know that he’s going to also die someday? I don’t think so. And I wonder if I’d want to live that way or not, like just not understanding that I was going to die.
*I think you kind of do that when you’re young, like even into your pre-teens, even if you’re aware of death it just doesn’t seem like something that’s going to happen to you, even though you do kind of know in some way that it is.
*I knew a girl in college who still hadn’t come to terms with her own death. Some of us were having a conversation one day about what we would want for our funeral services.
*Yeah, I know, I rolled with a kind strange crowd in college.
*Anyway, someone asked her and she just got this kind of panicked look and then said, “I don’t. . . I don’t think I am going to die really.” There were some very strange looks exchanged surreptitiously and then someone blurted out, “Well, yeah, I guess in some sense there’s some kind of energy that goes out into the universe and so we don’t really ever die in a way.” And then I feel like someone changed the subject.
*I mean, we were talking about FUNERALS, so even if some sort of energy burst from your consciousness never dies, you know, still, WHAT KIND OF FUNERAL SERVICE DO YOU WANT WHEN YOUR ENERGY BURST GOES OFF OR WHATEVER?
*Oh, you know what? I bet the Stewmaker gets aroused when he’s killing people and that’s why he doesn’t want the dog in the room.
*What in the actual **** am I even talking about right now?
*Okay, back on target. Red shows up and punches the Stewmaker in the face.
*I do wonder why Red keeps Dembe around. I mean, if you have this massive African who is your bodyguard, wouldn’t you let him do more of the heavy lifting? Sometimes, it’s clear that Red wants to be the one who kills somebody and I can get that. But if you’re just going to punch a guy to knock him out and he’s like a head taller than you are, wouldn’t you let your bodyguard do it?
*So, Liz is still paralyzed and Red also injects the Stewmaker and then he sets him up on the edge of the tank of chemical stew and does this whole monologue about a farmer and how his farm gets destroyed and he just turns evil and this is kind of ridiculous, but Spader sells it.
*And then it has a great ending. “He knows, in his heart, he must pay. Doesn’t he, Stanley?” “No, Red. He couldn’t help it.” “Maybe you’re right. Maybe he could change. Maybe he’s not damaged beyond repair. Maybe he could make amends to all those that he’s hurt so terribly. Or maybe not.” And then Red just shoves the dude right into his own stew.
*That last bit about how maybe this villainous person could change and make amends is brilliantly delivered by Spader. And then he just coolly says “Or maybe not.”
*I think that I like that speech because Red is, of course, talking about the Stewmaker, but he’s also talking about himself. And it reveals something really interesting. I don’t think this whole Blacklist thing Red is doing is a long game; I think Red knows he’s not long for the world. He knows he’s not redeeming himself; he can’t redeem himself. And I think he knows that his own “maybe not” is coming.
*I mean, it’s obvious, but I like it.
*All that said, there’s a really cheesy and annoying musical sting when Red pushes the Stewmaker into the chemical bath that I wish wasn’t there.
*Red isn’t entirely forthcoming with Agent Malik: “How did you get here?” “That’s a pretty blouse.”
*So, Red finds the Stewmaker’s big binder of his victims; he has a Polaroid picture of every person he’s ever dissolved apparently. Red pages through it and finds a picture of a young girl. He pulls it out and pockets it. Interesting.
*Then he gives the book to Liz. “At least you can give peace of mind to some of the families.”
*And then there’s a nice bit where Red is going to let Lorca go, but Ressler kind of gouges him into telling where Lorca is. “Lorca got away.” “Cost of doing business.” “No. You’re not just going to let him go. He was offensive. You didn’t like that.” “He’s on my jet.”
*Ressler is kind of starting to come into his own as a character. That was a particularly nice moment of him understanding Red and knowing what he needed to say in order to get what he wanted.
*Though, honestly, Lorca paid Red to get him out of the country. Could you not guess that he would be on Red’s jet?
*So, Liz gets home and Tom tells her that he thinks they need to get away for a while. He hands her a brochure. Liz & Tom are headed back to Angel Station.
*There was a lot here that I liked. I liked the way the Lorca story and the Stewmaker story were kind of separate plot threads, but they also overlapped a bit. I thought Red was shown in this story to be a bit more intelligent than he has been before, just in terms of tricking people into doing what he wanted. And I liked the way the show started to finally actually form a relationship between Ressler & Red.
*Some of the Stewmaker stuff felt, as I said, out of place and a bit cheesy. But at other times, he was genuinely creepy. I mean, Tom Noonan is a super-obvious casting choice, but there’s a reason that’s the case. He can still be super-creepy and that was great make-up they did on all of his scars. This episode was different. Wujing was their straight up spy story; this one’s a riff on Criminal Minds. And I kind of like the way the show can do all these different things.
*3 ½ stars.