The Blacklist S02E11 Review
The Blacklist drops the confusing twists-and-turns form this week, with a much simpler, streamlined episode that focuses on real issues and a well-rounded Blacklister that is almost likeable.
The Blacklister of the week is Ruslan Denisov, a man who is perhaps the most well developed villain of the week in the history of The Blacklist. Part of a Free Uzbekistan crusade, Denisov funds his separatist movement by kidnapping wealthy corporate executives and, more recently, a undercover CIA agent disguised as a priest. For the first fifteen or so minutes of the episode, Denisov seems to be like any other The Blacklist villain; a bad guy with a plan that the FBI, undoubtedly, will stop. However when Reddington shakes up the game by joining Denisov as his negotiator, we get a much more fleshed out, morally gray villain. The reveal that Denisov has kidnapped a CIA agent to get leverage in discussions about a leaking oil pipeline, owned by a USA company, that is poisoning his people plays out perfectly, for which Faran Tahir should be commended.
The rest of the storyline plays out as a social/political agenda of Reddington’s, who is clearly pulling the strings here, while the FBI struggles to keep up. In fact, Keen and Ressler feel like little more than window dressings in this episode, with Keen serving only to antagonise Red with their newly strained relationship and Ressler doing, well, nothing really. Not that I’m complaining: this is, after all, the James Spader show, and we should all bow down to, and make room for, his brilliance.
The inclusion of the Uzbekistan official who authorised – and is plagued by – the US-owned pipeline felt like merely a convenient way to jump to an acceptable compromise between the oil company and Denisov. The promo painted him as much a bigger deal than he was, and he felt like a last-ditch attempt by the writers to dig themselves out of the corner they had written themselves into. I would’ve liked to have seen a more organic ending to the storyline, but that is the biggest gripe I have with this particular aspect of the episode. This main plot was surprisingly believable and engaging, instead of the hollow rollercoaster of twists and turns and nonsensical plot points that usually mark a The Blacklist episode.
Meanwhile, Keen’s past has come back to haunt her. I’ve been hoping that the dead harbour master from her boat of torture-and-other-fun-things-to-do-with-your-lying-ex-husband would make a reappearance and Michael Kostroff’s dog-with-a-bone detective is the perfect mix of stubbornness and uncompromising perseverance to bring about Keen’s downfall. Keen might need to consult Reddington on subordinate loyalty, because her muscle from that adventure flips pretty easy and leads the detectives right to the body.
This new complication feels a lot like a way to bring an end to Keen and Reddington’s recent relationship problems, and although Ressler is in the know with Keen’s less than stellar history, I definitely see dear old Red being the one to throw Keen a lifejacket at the end of the day. Personally, I’m all for it though, especially if it means we get to see more of Kostroff and the possibility of Tom’s return.
Keen has also enrolled Aram to figure out what exactly was stuffed inside her precious half-burned toy rabbit. Aram comes back at the end of the episode empty-handed, only able to give a rough idea of when the device was invented. No doubt, once she is back on a more solid footing with Reddington, he’ll be the one able to give her answers.
All considered, this is the type of episode that I’d like to see more of from The Blacklist: something that focuses more on the heart of the story, and allows for well-developed characters across the board, instead of a confusing mess of twists and turns that make little sense. It is, for all intents and purposes, a simple episode, but done extremely well.
Review by Hannah Fitzpatrick.