The Blacklist S02E20
The Blacklist gets the supernatural treatment in this episode, which sees Red and the FBI more interested in their own affairs than in the case of the week.
The Blacklister of the Week is Quon Zhang, whose hobbies include digging up unmarried Chinese women in America, embalming them and shipping their corpses back to China so they can be ‘Ghost Brides’ and keep the dead Chinese men content in the afterlife. Red calls on the FBI to stop him, but other than that, no one seems particularly interested in the case, relegating it more to a B-Story than the main focus of the week.
Keen, for one, is more intent on uncovering the history between Reddington and herself. She even goes as far to threaten to expose each and every one of Red’s little dirty secrets if he doesn’t talk to her about the photograph that she found last episode. Keen discovers a few things: her parents were KGB agents and Keen herself was born in Moscow; Reddington was the one who blocked her memory of the night her parents died. But he won’t say why, even when Keen accuses Red of killing her father because he was in love with her mother.
Navabi, meanwhile, checks out of the FBI for a quick sojourn as Red’s muscle. The ‘shocking’ twist of Navabi outing herself as a member of the Cabal and saving the guy Red has been torturing was not so shocking, and the twist of her taking the guy around the block while he spills all the details he knows about the Cabal’s plans regarding Quon Zhang before delivering him back to Red’s capable torturous hands felt a little done. This whole side-plot felt like the writers weak attempts to avoid straight exposition, and wasn’t pulled off with the nuance or skill of a show that stars James Spader deserves.
Connolly continues to tighten the noose around Cooper’s neck, but when Cooper backs out of leaking fabricated classified documents, his wife steps up to the plate. If there is a question between national security and her man, her man will win, hands down, every time. I respect that decision, and it’s refreshing to see a show that realistically deals with the other side of honour in a situation such as this.
The biggest disappointment in this episode was the ending where Keen ends up sobbing in Tom’s arms. This is a woman who has recently become determined to undermine the man who has been pulling her strings for the last two years, and she ends up in the arms of one of his former employees who lied to her for years? The show appears to be trying to make Keen/Tom happen, and give Tom a redemption arc, but it feels far too unnatural and illogical for Keen to rely on Tom so much, even after what he has done for her this past season.
Overall, the Quon Zhang case of the week felt more like a way for the writers to provide the introduction of Agent Karakurt, who is in America to stir up a little bit of trouble (read: Cold War or World War III levels of trouble), rather than a complete story in and of itself. The Blacklist continues to fall into the trap of its own making: where the case of the week doesn’t quite mesh as well as it should with the overall progression of story, and perhaps should be a lesson to the show runners to consider the idea that the case of the week format of the show may, in fact, be holding them back from creating truly exciting television.
The Blacklist Review S02E21
For perhaps the first time since Berlin, The Blacklist treats us to a villain that is one step ahead of the government and would actually pose a credible threat to the characters.
Karakurt proves to be a formidable opponent in this episode and one that the FBI, and even Red, isn’t quite able to overcome. The episode starts off in the stock-standard manner of all Blacklist episodes, with the introduction of the villain, which then moves into Keen angsting about her past and about Red before Reddington kicks the whole FBI into gear. Where Karakurt differs, however, is in his plans and the threat he poses to Keen.
This episode is smartly plotted, with Karakurt keeping Red and the FBI (and by extension, the viewers) completely focused on the Cabal’s plans to incite a new War through using an ex-KGB agent to incite America into believing they are under attack from Russia. The twist of the episode (which is an actual twist, that I did not see coming. Snaps for you, Show! You’re evolving!) comes when Reddington discovers the more personal side of Karakurt and the Cabal’s plan: they are going to pin the entire thing on Keen (who dared to threaten the CIA Director some episodes back and needs to be sent to the naughty corner as punishment) and Keen’s biological parents as mythological-proportion Russian agents gives the entire plan credibility.
This serves to pit the whole of the government against Keen, leaving Reddington and Tom the only ones she will be able to turn to in the upcoming Season Finale and giving Keen one major drawcard that she has been lacking for the last two seasons: she may (may, mind you) actually become interesting. Instead of a vessel to vent frustrations over Red’s cryptic messages and his steadfast refusal to divulge any real information, Keen is actually in credible danger and will be forced to actually do things! Yay for character growth, show!
Other stuff happens in this episode, including Keen’s continued search for answers regarding her mother and Cooper and Red teaming up against Connolly, but honestly, all that fades in the space of the last five minutes or so, when Red reveals that Keen was the one who actually transferred the virus to the Senator and she becomes stuck within a government building with shadowy government agents coming after her.
I honestly feel sorry for the Cabal, because the ass kicking that Red is going to deliver them for daring to harm his not (?) daughter is going to be legendary.
All in all, this is an excellent episode to kick us into next week’s season finale. The entire dynamic of the FBI is about to turn on its head: with Liz as the number one enemy, and Red as Cooper’s confidant. Although I’m doubtful about any long-lasting suspicions from Cooper and the gang about Keen’s involvement, the new path the show has set Keen and Reddington on is intriguing. For the first time in a very long time, I’m actually looking forward to the next instalment.
Review by Hannah Fitzpatrick