‘The Blacklist’ Mid-season Premiere Review

Published 6 months ago by

James Spader in The Blacklist Season 1 Episode 11 The Blacklist Mid season Premiere Review

[This is a review of The Blacklist season 1, episode 11. There will be SPOILERS.]

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Television procedurals and those programs locked in a more episodic format generally follow a certain guideline as to how each and every episode is built. Most of the time, The Blacklist uses the criminals on Red’s titular list as the vehicle of the story, while the increasingly complicated matters involving Elizabeth’s past, Red’s intentions with her, and now the clandestine organization headed-up by Alan Alda’s Fitch slowly boils away in the background, providing question after question and basically avoiding any firm answers.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with that; the intrigue is likely enough to keep most people tuning in week after week (after all, there’s only so much magnetism in Spader’s performance to attract viewers), but what happens when such a formula is used during an episode where it’s completely unnecessary. It asks the question: Does the show not know where its own strengths lie, or is it just not interested in developing them?

The basic premise of ‘The Good Samaritan Killer’ is very much in line with everything else the show has delivered so far in its first season; the only real catch here is that it has to follow-up on all the drama and potential game-changing events from the two-part ‘Anslo Garrick‘ storyline that aired prior to the break. The conclusion to that story not only left Red out in the open, but it also pointed to a possible mole in and around the group working from within the Post Office Black Site. When the episode kicks off, it clearly intended to demonstrate how the group is still reeling from the Garrick attack by showing everyone as a potential suspect. Aside from that, there are few changes, though. Sure, Ressler (Diego Klattenhoff) is amazingly up and around – though walking with the aid of a cane, for the time being – but other than that, it’s alarmingly business as usual for everyone but Cooper (Henry Lennix), who’s eager to task Agent Malik (Parminder Nagra) with finding the mole.

Alan Alda in The Blacklist Season 1 Episode 11 The Blacklist Mid season Premiere Review

This feels like a terrific place to jump back on board with The Blacklist after the mid-season finale; it certainly has the potential to create some intrigue with regard to the identity of the mole, and it ties in tangentially with the lingering questions regarding Elizabeth’s husband – who suddenly wants to move to Nebraska. Aside from maybe generating a better idea of just how the black site is run, and offering a glimpse as to who the people doing the running are, focusing solely on the aftermath of Garrick’s raid on the Post Office would have also created considerable interest into Red’s location and what he’s been up to, which might have made the desperation to bring him back in feel more pressing and less a function of the show getting back to normal. Instead, ‘The Good Samaritan Killer’ chooses to add Red’s own mole hunt to the story, while also throwing in a tale involving Frank Whaley (Ray Donovan) as a serial killer hunting down perpetrators of domestic violence.

Obviously, Red being who he is (i.e., the only interesting character on the show, and James Spader) the storyline involving his bloody and violent quest to track down the traitor in his midst quickly becomes the most interesting thing the episode has to offer. Sadly, instead of focusing on Red, or the Post Office, the episode just scatters the interesting bits like crumbs on the floor, hoping the audience will follow the tiny morsels of significance and think them nourishing enough to wait for more. Meanwhile, Whaley’s vengeful nurse storyline comes in just behind the Dexter series finale as the worst Dexter episode ever; not only does it have nothing to do with the show’s central conceit of the blacklist, but it offers no logical reason for Red and Elizabeth to have any interaction with one another at all. Not that it stops the writers from literally phoning a reason in, as Red randomly makes a phone call that points her in the right direction and, like magic, Frank Whaley’s suddenly on Elizabeth’s radar.

It’s understandable that The Blacklist would want to come back from break with a story that might help things settle back down into a comfortable rhythm; but if ever there was an opportunity for the show to open itself up to a slightly different, character-focused approach, this was it. As a consequence, the more interesting aspects the storyline has to offer are starting to look as if they’re in conflict with the episodic formula the series is still beholden to. The bright shiny roadster that was the conceit of the program doesn’t have room in the back for the larger story that has sprung up around it. If The Blacklist wants to expand its story to accommodate the needs of characters like Red and Elizabeth, it’s going to have to trade that roadster in for something with a little more space.

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The Blacklist continues next Monday with ‘The Alchemist’ @10pm on NBC. Check out a preview below:

TAGS: the blacklist

5 Comments

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  1. I liked the episode. Gave a reason why Red was on the run in the first place. He wanted to find the mole himself..and figure out who attacked him. His antics, the search…all cool. Spader owns it..But its important to not take that for granted.

    Also..I think the show has largely done a good job. It does leave a trail of breadcrumbs. Where I slightly disagree with the review, is that the trail..and the story..and Red himself..are interesting enuf for people to follow the trail over multiple episodes. Another thing, I do find Elizabeth quite interesting..also the story with the husband is really intriguing. Red is the most interesting character. He has to be. He’s the star. But the rest of the cast is clearly keeping pace. Acting and characterization.

    Yes, the show is not providing the answers. It doesn’t have to at this point. Its the 11th episode! And its interesting enuf for the wait.

    • Sorry, but I disagree. Why does the exorbitant violence have to take precedence over the characters? The series is turning into another “let’s see how many people we can kill off in the most horrible way possible”. There are too many of these shows already.
      How about some character development? How about using Spader’s acting ability to move his character along? How about bringing another actor in who can fit into a relationship with Spader’s persona, offering some acting competition instead of the current cast, whose dialogue seems to be written as throwaway lines? Where’s Denny Crane when we need him?

      • I disagree. There was a value to the killing. People keep talking about how dangerous Red is but this is the first time we really see him off the leash. He is a man who will burn the system to the ground to deal out justice (His form of justice).

        It brings more tension to every conversation he has from here on. He’s not full of hot air

  2. I think this episode was important. Uncomfortable, but important. We see the Red that is helping the government catch the bad guys. He has a soft spot for Lizzie. He uses illegal means to make things happen and isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. But until this episode, it wasn’t really in the forefront that he is still a coldblooded killer. And the code he lives by… that was an odd exchange with his right hand man. I have to kill you but don’t worry I’ll take good care of your family.

  3. There is a big plot hole here though.

    It’s obvious that anyone who works for Red, or even works with or against him, knows how many resources he has and how ruthless he is. So how was it so easy to turn one of his own? One would think that if threatened by this Fitch group (who we can assume is some large shadow govermment) that he would let Red know so that Red can deal with it. I guess you can imagine that the Fitch group is more powerful than Red, but you also have to know that Red will eventually figure out it was him so he was dead either way. Knowing how loyal his people are, you would think they would pick him over the Fitch group.

    Also, why has it taken this long for Lizzy to suspect the truth about Red? We the audience suspected the paternal relation from Episode one. You would think the FBI would have already had him DNA tested against Lizzy to determine what connect Red has to her.

    And yes, this week’s Blacklist person was a strange one. Usually Blacklisters are people who are a threat to the nation, the Samaritan was basically a vigilante and his crimes didn’t seem to warrant him being a Blacklister (although maybe we know that now that we understand who his “victims” were).

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