In the latest episode we have a child wandering around a scene of carnage at a hospital in Moldova (yet another one-time part of the former Soviet Union), illicit and immoral biological weapons research, an undying, unconsummated, tragic love story, a lavish card game, the slouching gait of Death, bereavement and Tom Keen doing what he does best (pretending to be someone else). We even have Reddington not killing someone while setting up a little charade.
A Rose By Any Other Name
In the last article I took a look at the dangers of being named Craig (you know those dangers are real) and it got me thinking about the names in this latest episode. This week we have two characters who are indeed, just like Romeo and Juliet (except one does not die), Natalie Luca and Malik Roumain. Let’s take a look at Natalie’s name first:
Luca itself means: ‘Bringer of light’. Whilst Natalie is derived from and also refers to Saint Natalia, who, with her husband Saint Adrian is patron saint of: plague, epilepsy, arms dealers (yes, you Raymond!), butchers, guards and soldiers. Of course, Natalie in this episode was not only a potential bringer of plague but also a bringer of ‘light’ i.e. information to Reddington. The terribly sad thing (amongst many terribly sad things this episode) is that as a small child she should have been protected and cared for by adults, however she was inporisoned and treated as a subject for experimentation in chemical warfare- how often the similar theme of children and the adults that should look after them appears in this show.
Malik means ‘King’ and Roumain may be a nod to the Haitian poet and author Jacques Roumain. His most famous work is Masters of the Dew which is mostly set in the village of Fonds Rouge (Red Funds) which, bearing in mind that the episode greatly revolves around Red’s specific problems concerning funds, seems too much of a coincidence (I don’t believe in coincidence). We also have Meera Malik, erstwhile member of the task force- she didn’t end well either!
Chanticleer~ The Rooster
Aram mentions the Buddy Chanticleer novels written (very badly) by Caitlin Montag.
Chanticleer means ‘Rooster’ and is used as a proper name in medieval ‘fairy tales’. There are a variety of versions of the story but they all involve Chanticleer being warned in a dream about his capture by a predator, but he is inclined to disbelieve it even though his favourite hen, Pinte, warns him that she has seen Reynard (the wily red fox, and pronounced RAY-nahrd) lurking in the cabbage patch. When they do meet Chanticleer is charmed by Reynard’s flattery about how he admired the singing of the cockerel’s father. To cut a long story short Reynard seizes Chanticleer and runs off with him. The farm workers and their dog give chase and Chanticleer advises Reynard to turn round and defy them. When he opens his mouth Chanticleer flies up to safety in a tree. Pride and succumbing to flattery are the undoing of both Chanticleer and Reynard.
Truth, Love and other stuff
Baldur: The truth doesn’t matter. It’s about appearances.
Red: You said something before: ‘The truth doesn’t matter.’ The only thing in this world that matters is just the appearance of truth. I fear you might be right about that. Lately I find that the truth has become so elusive. Often imaginary. But in the end, it’s all we’re left with, isn’t it? What is real, what you can taste and touch and feel. The words that pass between us as we look each other in the eye- are all we have to hold onto.
The truth. I hold it dear.
Although Reddington is here speaking of the truth and what it means to him this speech mirrors exactly what ultimately happens to our star-cross’d lovers Natalie and Malik. He is shot and we have the following interchange:
Malik: Oh, I take your hand in mine.
Malik: So soft
Natalie: And I pull you close.
Malik: And I feel your breath against my skin.
Natalie: And I kiss you.
Malik: The two of us.
This shows ‘truth’, exactly as described by Reddington, in action.
The whole Natalie and Malik relationship brings under the spotlight the idea that real, true, romantic love can exist without any physical contact; that it is really a meeting of minds outside of the corporeal body. That it can be eternal. Romeo and Juliet certainly spring to mind here although our ‘Juliet’ survives in an emotionally broken state. Could this be, in some way, a parallel to what happened to Reddington himself with Katerina Rostova.
The Kiss of Death
Talking of death or should we say ‘Death’ there is a focus in it this episode. Not only the lovers and their doomed fate, nor those that die through contact with Natalie (literally the kiss of death) but also Reddington himself. There seems to be a definite shift in mood and tone, with foreshadowing of a death worse than fate awaiting, or perhaps as he says: an echo of another time.
But lately, I can smell it in the air around me. Like death is slouching towards me out of the corners of the room. And I cannot tell if it is here for me. Just an echo of the past.
When Red manages to get time alone with Natalie he talks initially of grief and the physical impact it has upon a person. His expression of sympathy seems totally genuine.
Losing someone we love is painful. Agonising even unto death. The Japanese call it tako-tsubo, a grieving upsurge of abnormal electrical waves that cause the heart to deflate and contort until it resembles a fishing pot. Hollow and cold, an empty vessel at the bottom of a fathomless sea.
As is often the way with Reddington we have another metaphor based upon (or underneath) the sea. So many things we have seen in this story so far have echoes of the sea.
The Queen of Diamonds
During the ridiculously crazy and degenerate Xavier Holcombe’s annual poker bash, quite clearly a hand with the Queen of Diamonds is shown. Is this, perhaps, a reference to the novel The Manchuria Candidate by Richard Condon (which has twice been made into a film)?
In this spy story it is the Queen of Diamonds that is used to subconsciously activate the brainwashed sleeper agent Sergeant RAYMOND Shaw into being a guiltless assassin. Provoked by the appearance of the card while playing solitaire, he obeys KGB orders which he then forgets. The main target is the President of the United States. Later he is reprogrammed after a meeting at Central Park Zoo.
Lost my…well, no one has a shirt that expensive.
Keep it. Discretion is a rare and tragically undervalued quality. (Oh you ironic little devil you, Raymond).