[This is a review of The Blacklist season 1, episode 13. There will be SPOILERS.]
There is a highly perceptible nonchalance hanging around the events that dramatically change Elizabeth Keen’s personal life, The Blacklist winds up with an outlandish and horrifying storyline that should at least feel shocking, but instead what transpires in ‘The Cypress Agency’ so clearly demonstrates the episode’s real intent, the experience comes across as exciting, urgent, and intense as a stifled sneeze.
For what it’s worth, the ‘The Cypress Agency’ does have its priorities straight. Adoptive mother-to-be Liz is tasked by Red to investigate a wildly successful adoption agency run by Campbell Scott that’s been kidnapping young women who match their clients’ preferred genetic profiles for their mail-order bundles of joy, and impregnating them while they remain in an medically induced coma. Now that sounds like the kind of conceit that even Law & Order: SVU would have second thoughts about producing, but The Blacklist isn’t really interested in making such an exceedingly dark premise into something that’s potentially challenging or even all that interesting; it’s just smokescreen so Lizzie can finally have a reason to tell Tom she’s not ready to adopt a child. She even goes the extra mile to let him know that things between them aren’t working, a comment that eventually puts him in the company of the mysterious Jolene, during a montage wherein the rest of the cast stares pensively out windows or at unused baby strollers, as the dulcet tones of Gordon Lightfoot’s ‘Sundown’ help to accentuate all the hurt.
But the show finding a potential way out of Liz’s uncertainty over adopting a child (and apparently continuing her relationship) with Tom just means that even if it takes thirteen episodes, Raymond ‘Red’ Reddington always gets what he wants. Red’s been decidedly anti-Tom from the get-go and his constant prodding of Lizzie not to trust her husband has finally paid off enough that the writers can move forward; either to continue sowing the seeds of why Tom’s not to be trusted, or at least develop the Jolene character into someone other one of the show’s many, many mysteries.
Continuing with the idea that Red always gets what he wants, ‘The Cypress Agency’ moves through the mole storyline with surprising efficiency. Teddy Brimley, the guy vetting Agent Malik, proudly proclaims her “cleaner than a duck fart” – which, not only allows James Spader a chance to muster up a face that seems to know what that reference even means, but it also gives Red reason to task Malik with tracking down the person responsible for leaking the blueprints of the FBI black site to Anslo Garrick. You know, in exchange for her life.
Malik’s swift investigation points directly to Diane Fowler (Jane Alexander), and in keeping with his streak of violent reprisals, Red breaks into Fowler’s home and empties a revolver into her, even though she promises him the answers to what happened to his family that he has sought for so long. As per usual, Spader’s scenes grant the episode its only real sense of significance, which is troubling considering the subject matter serving as the narrative vehicle this time around was potentially more interesting than decision it provoked on Lizzie’s behalf.
In the future, The Blacklist would be well-served by making it look as though it’s as involved in these episodic plots as it is in their sometimes-formless outcomes, just so there’s something more to the series than a constant string of half-answered questions.
The Blacklist will be on hiatus while NBC broadcasts the Winter Olympics. It will return Monday, February 24, 2014 @10pm.