I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about Howard Hargrave since the Redemption Season Finale. It broke my heart to have him turn out to be the villain. I know it was speculated within the fandom, but I didn’t want to believe it. I just wanted Tom to have a father that cares about him for him, not for how he can use him. One that was different than the man that raised him.
A couple of days later, I’m trying to take a step back from the emotional response I had to the episode’s end and look at what happened through the lens of the world it’s happening in and see if I can piece together something that makes sense that I might have missed.
Howard is a deeply manipulative man, which isn’t abnormal for this show and this world that we’ve watched the writers build for us. It’s funny, because I found myself angry at him for hiding his intentions from Tom because the gut emotional reaction was that if he did, that mean he didn’t love his son. I’ve been looking at it from a point of view that says he’s either like Bud or the opposite of Bud, and I think that’s wrong. He’s like Red.
Red has put Liz in countless dangerous positions over the course of 4 seasons. Some were intentional to get the job done and some just because his presence is an added danger to her life, but even when he sends her into some of the most volatile, dangerous situations or when he leaves her with half truths and manipulated answers, but I don’t question that he loves her. He did warn her that he would never tell her everything, but he also said that he would do whatever he felt like he needed to to keep her safe. I’ve had four seasons to watch Raymond Reddington struggle and be willing to die to keep Elizabeth Keen, a woman that he said he should have raised himself, safe. Regardless if Red is her biological father or someone who loves her as a father would, he always tries to protect her, and that’s a truth I accept in the Blacklist, but I’ve had four seasons to do so.
We haven’t had that time with Howard. We’ve had eight episodes in which we never quite knew where he stood. Was he innocent or guilty? Sane or crazy? We’ve been questioning Howard since the moment he dragged Tom into this mess, and that left me with a negative impression of him at the end.
During one of my rewatches the scene gif’ed above jumped out at me. I believe Howard in it. I believe that he loved Scottie once and that, in a way, he might even love her now.
Scottie has mentioned, both on the main show and in Redemption, that there was a change in Howard. They haven’t slept together in five years (four when she made the statement about a year ago in S3), and something happened to heighten her anxiety three years earlier, which would also coincide with the year that the photo was taken that she used for Howard’s funeral. Scottie described her husband as brilliant and playful, charming and a terrible flirt. She loved him and he loved her. So what caused the change?
It could be a multitude of things. Secrets kept, secrets revealed, employers, goals, or anything really. It’s the Blacklist and these are two spies. What if it was something that made Howard question her at her core? What if Scottie is responsible in some much deeper way for Christopher’s disappearance? What if she’s been working for a third party and Howard feels that they’ll never successfully combat the threat without Whitehall’s prototype, but he doesn’t trust the board or anyone enough to reveal that? What if Howard is doing terrible things with a supposedly good goal in mind, and he’s approaching it as Tom has approached so much over the years: the ends justify the means?
Looking at him in comparison with Red instead of Bud helps even out how I feel about Howard and the possibilities that he’s not 100% evil. He could go to great lengths, manipulate everyone around him, use them, even abuse them to a degree, but still love his son. It doesn’t make it a healthy approach. It doesn’t mean that he hasn’t used him, but this is a very dark, very twisted world in which they live, and that tends to lend towards more extreme measures being used to reach goals. Red described them as “people like us” to Scottie in S3, and I imagine that extends to Howard as well.
I would love other’s thoughts on this.