The Blacklist’s biggest battle, like so many new shows, is against itself: It wants to be a serialized drama, but it’s built into its very premise to be a weekly procedural. The line in the sand that it continues to draw between itself and Criminal Order Investigation Minds SVU: Miami, takes the form of James Spader…or Red Reddington, there’s really no separating the two. It’s a division that has been disjointedly splitting storylines into two halves since the show’s midseason return.
So far, The Blacklist has been fairly compelling in its serialized half, but mostly middling in its procedural plots. Probably because the former relies on the character of Red, a complex, mysterious, highly intelligent enigma, and the latter relies on a team of FBI agents who seem to always be flying by the seat of their pants, only successful when Uncle Red steps in to nudge them toward the shiniest Easter eggs. Red’s plot could go on forever being interesting simply with James Spader, a few years’ worth of fedoras and a pretty impressive musical rights budget; but the procedural plots would accomplish little without the backdrop of Red and Lizzie’s mysterious pasts. But tonight, finally, the Blacklist case serves a purpose to the larger narrative of the show.
The Cyprus Agency stuff was played with a pretty heavy hand, sure, but it was exactly that: a play. This episode goes the furthest to show that Red is serving up these Blacklisters whenever and however he best sees fit to play to his advantage. Last week, it was to get the Alchemist’s falsified deaths list, a seemingly minor point (for now), but this week, Red played Lizzie like Director Fowler’s vinyl collection, manipulating her belief that she was ready to adopt a child with Tom via an evil adoption agency he happened to have in his Blacklist back pocket, just waiting for such an occasion: The Cyprus Agency, No. 64.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that the procedural half of The Blacklist doesn’t continue to glaze over large points of plausibility, both scientific and logical, and rob its federal agents of the intelligence their jobs should warrant, hand-holding the audience in such a way that seems highly unnecessary, when it asks so much of its viewers in the Spader half of its plot. But more on that later…there are babies to be saved.
The episode opens on a drugged woman in a hospital gown, wandering the streets asking for help and whispering something about someone taking her baby. She stumbles upon a police officer just as a mustachioed man hops out of a van to claim her as his sister. Hint: No one with a sister gets away with having a mustache like that. The police officer, a firm believer in the honor code, tells them to stay put while he goes to grab something from his car. And the mustache man shoots him, and then the woman.
Only slightly less disturbing are Lizzie and Tom, still acting like they’re ready to have a baby. I mean, technically they’ve told a pregnant woman that they would raise her child and they’ve had all of their friends give them expensive baby gifts, both things that would imply they’re well on their way to adopting a child, but they continue to act as surprised by the prospect as the audience was when they brought the idea back up last week. “Are we really doing this?” Tom asks. I SURE HOPE NOT, I scream internally.
NEXT: Playing in traffic with boys