The Blacklist Review S02E19
This week’s The Blacklist kicks off immediately where last week left off: Reddington on the ground, bleeding, with Keen and Dembe taking fire. What follows is an episode with actual stakes and tense moments: I never stopped and actually considered the thought that Reddington might not make it (C’mon, it’s James Spader), but there was the sense that the consequences of what would unfold could be felt for a long time to come.
This episode features an impressive shift in focus. With Reddington literally laid up and out of the game for the majority of the episode, Keen is forced to step up (with Dembe’s help – who can actually form sentences! Yay for Dembe having lines!) and sort out his mess. Although she gets a lot of help from Reddington (AKA Red sets her onto the Blacklister of the week: Leonard Caul, a former CIA Agent), she actually manages to achieve stuff in the end.
Keen’s brief period of competency is somewhat dampened when it is revealed that the reason that Red set Keen after Caul was because Caul would end up finding her instead, but she redeems herself later in the episode when she saves the day – without Red whispering vague answers into her ear. It would’ve been nice to see an episode where Keen to able to get stuff done from start to finish, but I’ll be willing to settle for this attempt. It is, at least, an improvement over watching the FBI trip over themselves until Reddington has enough and steps in.
Caul’s overall contribution to the story is his ability to decrypt the Fulcrum. Ned Van Zandt’s performance is nothing to write home about, and his character felt underused for someone who had such an important role in the history of the Fulcrum. Indeed, Keen spends the majority of the episode looking for Caul, and Caul spends the majority of the episode tracking down Keen and Reddington because, as Dembe informs us, he can decrypt the Fulcrum. Cue drum roll. This is it; the moment where we will all be blown away by Caul and the Fulcrum.
Instead, ‘decrypting the Fulcrum’ appears to be the ability to turn a key in a box that Dembe sends Keen after. Since Dembe is aware of the box and its significance, and Keen has the Fulcrum, Caul’s contribution here feels a little underutilised. Surely, Keen can turn a key herself.
The weakest part of this episode revolves around the FBI task force. Our little cut backs to the rest of the gang are undoubtedly a way to give the audience a little bit of a breather between the tense moments of Red’s struggle to survive, but these moments are far too slow and far too unengaging to justify their place in the episode. Nothing really happens in the Task Force subplot apart from exposition about Caul and it feels like wasted screen time. That said, it did whet my appetite for an episode where Keen and Reddington are completely cut off from their respective teams and are forced to work together in order to save themselves. Get on that, Show.
The most impressive moment of the episode, conversely, revolves around Keen saving the day. As the bad guys close in on Reddington, and James Spader proves that Red is badass even when on a hospital gurney, Keen rocks right up the CIA and threatens the Director point-blank with the Fulcrum in order to get him to call off his dogs. I had to suspend my disbelief a little bit here, as theoretically, it would’ve made sense for the director of the CIA to simply dispose of Keen somehow, take the Fulcrum and wipe out those with knowledge of the Fulcrum and the desire to use it against him in one fell swoop, but whatever. Never let logic get in the way of a good story, I suppose.
Not only was it refreshing to see Keen step into Reddington’s shoes and start to blackmail people of incredible power, it was also a great moment to see Keen and Tom pair up at the end of the episode as Keen – after two years of a constant back and forth and trust issues with Reddington – finally decides to be proactive in finding out information about Reddington and their shared history. Apparently, the FBI agent has finally figured out that asking Red right-out isn’t going to give her the answers she desires and maybe, just maybe, she should start using the skills she’s acquired as a federal agent to actually investigate him properly. Kudos for long overdue character growth.
All in all, this was a standout episode in a season of cookie-cutter offerings. It had its weak points, but the main story arc progressed nicely and it was a refreshing change to see Keen take control of her life. It did, however, leave me with one overriding and completely puzzling question:
Why the hell is Keen still using a flip-phone?
Review by Hannah Fitzpatrick.