The Blacklist Episode (1×16) Review – “Mako Tanida”



The dreaded winter hiatus is over, and Red and the gang have returned to check off another name on The Blacklist.

This week’s episode of The Blacklist was one of the best episodes, if not the best episode of the season. Seems like that was said last week, and the week before as well, but somehow this show always seems to outdo itself week after week. All season long we’ve been wondering who the hell this Jolene chick is, and before we get any real answers she gets suffocated by a car cover. Not only that, but Lance Reddick’s guest stint came to an end this week as he was executed by mild-mannered Tom Keen. To make things even crazier, this week’s Blacklister was none other that Banshee’s Hoon Lee, who played Blacklister #83 and title character, Mako Tanida. Prison breaks, murders, crooked cops, and crazy spies ran rampant in episode 116. While on another show this might be overkill, On The Blacklist it was perfection. So let’s open up the case files and dive into episode 116, “Mako Tanida.”

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“Searching in the desert for a drop of vengeance to slake an unquenchable thirst is a lonely walk, my friend.” Back when Ressler and the FBI were hunting Reddington they took down a Yakuza boss named Mako Tanida. Somehow in the process, the squad “accidentally” killed Mako’s brother Iko, and now that Mako has escaped out of Abashiri prison he’s out for vengeance. The idea of a man forcing those he holds responsible for a loved one’s death was made even more poetic by the fact the targets were FBI agents. This theme of avenging loved ones lost through violence rang throughout the episode. Whether it was Tanida seeking revenge for his brother’s death, or Ressler seeking revenge for Audrey’s death by first kidnapping Tanida, and later threatening his supposed BFF’s (and actual bad guy) life. Even the ballet performance Red orchestrated throughout the episode, Swan Lake, is about seeking vengeance in the name of love. In the past we have seen people on this show seek justice, monetary gain, or just plain revenge, but never has it been done in the name of loved ones who were murdered. At least not this beautifully. In this story, the lines between “good” and “bad” were blurred. People we believed to be the “good guys” proved to be corrupt, and those who were supposed to be the “bad guys” had a just cause. If Tanida just wanted to see people die, he only had to pull the trigger. Instead, he asked his victims to take their own lives to save their honor. He wasn’t out for blood for blood’s sake. He only wanted these men to atone for the crimes they committed against him and his family.

Red: For the moment the scalp I’m worried about is yours. Tanida is disciplined. Relentless. If he did that agent friend of yours, Agent Ramos, there’s a distinct possibility he’s just getting started. I fear, Donald, that you’re getting hunted by a ruthless, lethal killer.

The Blacklist Episode 1x16 03

“My greatest enemy brought her back to me, and my best friend took her away.” Ressler’s hunt for Tanido didn’t turn out the way he planned. He thought he was apprehending the man killing his friends. The man who accidentally killed Audrey. Those things are true, but what Ressler didn’t realize at first was that his supposed best friend, Robert Jonica, was a dirty agent who killed Iko Tanida so he could take control of Mako’s business. Tanida may have killed people Ressler loved, but it was Jonica’s actions that led to Tanida’s thirst for vengeance. This was a great twist! By having someone close to Ressler responsible for putting Tanida on the warpath, Ressler only skated on the line between Right an Wrong. If he had crossed the line, he would have become just like Red – A man lost in the darkness.

Red: Agent Ressler, once you cross over there are things in the dark that can keep you from ever feeling the light again.

Ressler: All I feel is hate.

Red: Good, you’re going to need it.

“Kiss me, Tim, or whatever your name is.” After almost an entire season of wondering if Tom was a bad guy, or if Red was lying to Liz and Tom was actually a good guy. Last week the answer was revealed to be that Red is a man of his word. Not only is Tom a bad dude, but it seems that he is a spy for a rival agency and Jolene is another agent with his organization. Thanks to the tail Red put on Jolene Parker aka Lucy Brooks, Tom’s cover was blown, but before Red got the proof he needed to open Liz’s eyes, Tom expertly dispatched with both Jolene and Lance Reddick’s no-name (did I miss it?) PI character. It’s not clear at this time what moment was the most disturbing: Tom taking off his glasses to smother Jolene with a car cover and then calmly executing Lance Reddick, or showering with Liz and smearing blood all over her back as they began to make love. You can pick either, but one thing’s for certain- Tom is one cold bastard! As of now we still don’t know anything about why Tom has infiltrated Liz’s life, but we do know he’s a sleeper agent and was ordered to marry her and wait for further orders. Which he’s done for the past two years. Considering that there’s only six more episodes left this season and how slowly the writers like to unveil mysteries, Tom’s story will probably continue to unravel next season. In the meantime, we’ll just have to enjoy watching him manipulate Liz and play cat and mouse with Red.

Tom: You know, I sat right next to Reddington once in a hospital. I could have put a bullet in his head.

Jolene: That’s not your mission.

The Blacklist

“Who the hell are you?” Honestly at this point do we really know any of these people? Every character on this show is a mystery to unravel. This week we learned that Tom is a spy, Ressler isn’t a murderer and almost was a father, and Red’s daughter was a ballerina. That’s it and that’s all!! Still, surprisingly, I have no complaints. I’m still mystified at how the writers manage not to really tell viewers a damn thing, but still manage to keep us from getting angry. It’s like magic! Not real magic, but stage magic your awkward uncle does at parties. They keep us so busy trying to unravel the mysteries of the Blacklister of the Week while feeding us crumbs of the main mystery of who Red and these other folks are that it’s not until the episode is over and you’ve had time to think that you realize you’ve never learned anything. How do they do that?!? My head is spinning. I know more about Mako Tanida and the other Blacklisters than we do about the main characters, and all I want is more. More of Tom’s wicked ways. More of Red trying to piece together the memories of his broken life, while helping his new BFF Ressler.

Speaking of which, can we please talk about Tanida’s head in a box? Red gave Donald the most disturbing gift ever (at least not since Kevin Spacey gave Brad Pitt a box with Gwyneth Paltrow’s head in Se7en), yet it was kind of sweet (in a very disturbed way). Ressler told Red that the only thing that would make him happy was if he could get Tanida’s head in a box, and presto! By the end of the episode, Ressler got just what he requested. Talk about dreams coming true.


I want you to know that I do understand how you feel. There us nothing that can take the pain away, but eventually you will find a way to live with it. There will be nightmares and every day when you wake up it will be the first thing you think of. Until one day , it will be the second thing.

The Blacklist

Next week Tom is questioned in Jolene’s murder/disappearance. Will Agent Keen finally realize she’s sleeping with the enemy? Stay tuned….

From the Blacklist Case files…

  • Abishiri Prison that Mako Tanida escaped from is located in Hokkaido, Japan and is used to incarcerate political prisoners. The old prison is now a museum, but the new prison is still in operation.
  • Hoon Lee (Mako Tanida) uses an impressive Japanese accent, but was born in the USA. He’s a Harvard Grad and stars on Showtime’s crazy action-adventure crime drama, Banshee, which just wrapped up its second season last Friday.
  • Red’s daughter apparently was a ballerina who he last saw in a performance of Swan Lake on March 22, 1987 before she died/disappeared.
  • Swan Lake was composed by Tchaikovsky and first premiered at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow on March 4, 1877.
  • Synopsis: Prince Siegfried is ordered by his father to choose a bride at a ball they’re throwing the next night. Sad that he can’t marry for love, Siegfried wanders out by a nearby lake and is about to kill a swan with his crossbow when she transforms into a beautiful maiden. Her name is Odette, and she tells Siegfried that she and the other swans were cursed by an evil magician, Von Rothbart, who transformed them from humans to swans. Only at night can they turn back into human form, and only if they remain at the enchanted lake. The two spend the night together and fall in love. The next night, Von Rothbart tricks Siegfried by turning his daughter, Odile, into the very image of Odette. Not realizing he’s been tricked, Siegfried proclaims to the court that he will marry “Odette.” Once he dies, Von Rothbart reveals the trickery. Realizing his mistake, Siegfried runs to the lake to explain himself and apologize to Odette. When Von Rothbart arrives, Siegfried attempts to kill him, but Odette warns him that if he does she’ll remain cursed forever. Von Rothbart threatens Siegfried that if he doesn’t marry Odile as promised, Odette will remain a swan forever. Despondent, Odette commits suicide, followed by Siegfried who doesn’t want to live without the woman he loves. Their deaths lift the spell, allowing the other “swans” to be free, and the lovers are reunited in Heaven.   
  • Tom and Jolene report to Berlin. Are they German agents, or could that be a code?
  • Liz: He’s not like  you. He can’t just murder somebody and come out on the other end.

Red: No one can just murder somebody and come out on the other end.

  • What is Ressler going to do with Tanida’s head?
  • Ressler was going to be a dad ;(