‘The Blacklist’: What Happened in Florence?

Published 8 months ago by

James Spader inThe Blacklist Season 1 Episode 14 The Blacklist: What Happened in Florence?

[This is a review of The Blacklist season 1, episode 14. There will be SPOILERS.]

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After three weeks away so that professional broadcasters could say things like, “It’s all about speed” when discussing Olympic events that actually have the word “speed” in their title, NBC is finally back to its regular programming schedule, and that means Monday nights once again belong to Raymond ‘Red’ Reddington and, to a certain extent, The Blacklist.

Loyal viewers will understand why there is a difference. The conceit of the program is built on a somewhat solid procedural premise, but the show’s continued existence is largely the result of James Spader doing whatever is necessary to keep the scenes he’s in as interesting as possible. If that means developing strange ticks whenever he talks or putting on overly exaggerated affectations in order to convince a heavily armed guard at the Syrian Embassy not to consider him a threat, then so be it. Spader’s the only one who has been doing anything interesting for the better part of 14 episodes, and if the show doesn’t start bringing him in some help, there’s a good chance Red will be doing a string of increasingly demeaning celebrity impressions before slipping into full-on psychosis.

Maybe that’s why, with ‘Madeline Pratt,’ The Blacklist brought in the always-fantastic Jennifer Ehle (Zero Dark Thirty, RoboCop) to help out a bit. Ehle guest stars as the titular Madeline Pratt, an inscrutable thief who uses her skills to leverage influence on the international stage and, naturally, also has ties to Red’s past. As Madeline makes clear on a number of occasions, she and Red had some dealings in Florence years back, and Red left her hanging, which, apparently, has given her cause to hold a bit of a grudge. After breaking into one of Red’s safety deposit boxes to get his attention, Madeline wrangles him into a scheme to swipe an effigy that supposedly contains the names of the Kunger Six – Soviet deep-cover spies from the Cold War.

Jennifer Ehle in The Blacklist Season 1 Episode 14 The Blacklist: What Happened in Florence?

Of course, Red’s game, as such a high-risk operation not only allows him to coordinate with his favorite agent, but it also gives him the chance to waltz into the FBI Black Site and all but tell Cooper and Malik he killed Diane Fowler with the kind of unsubtle insinuation this show has more or less perfected. For his part, Cooper is all bark that’s quickly muzzled by the higher-ups in D.C., after he tasks Malik with tracking down Fowler’s “killer.”

With Fowler’s death ostensibly on the backburner for now, Red and Keen can break into the Syrian Embassy, using Lizzie’s incredible skills as a thief – which…okay. Ultimately, their collaboration this time reveals Madeline’s dealing with the Russian mafia, and the Kunger Six are actually small nuclear devices hidden across the U.S. Red pulls a fast one on Madeline, going so far as to regale her with the tale of his murdered family, before conning her out of the location of the bombs and leveraging them with Cooper in exchange for the statue.

The episode concludes with Ressler postponing his date to comfort Keen, who is now convinced losing the creepiest husband this side of Arthur Mitchell would somehow be a bad thing. Right now, cutting the nauseating subplot of the Keens’ domestic troubles would be the smarting thing The Blacklist did since casting Spader. Tom’s been seen spending more time with Jolene (Rachel Brosnahan), which feels like it would be a significant development, but the show has yet to adequately address it. With any luck, the mysterious Jolene/Lucy Brooks will feature prominently soon, and we can get this show (and Tom) on the road.

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

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  1. Red continues to prove he’s the smartest person in the room. (and the reason why I watch the show.) He stops short of saying “I did it and you’ll never prove it”.

    We found out more about Lizzy past.

    Tom is straying from Lizzy, oh well… I’m kinda more interested in who Tom works for and what he does for them. Remember the people across the street were spying on him and not her.

    Maddy wasn’t caught, though the 6 nukes are a nice consolation prize.

  2. I am with you 1000 percent. I feel without Spader this show would be a dead end. He does all the heavy lifting and it’s amazing when he shares scenes with the likes of an Alan Alda, Jane Alexander, and now the fantastic Jennifer Ehle, how much more balanced and interesting the scenes are. I’m not sure it’s the fault of the cast, they haven’t really developed anyone, but I wonder if a stronger co-star might have helped. Boone, while very capable I am sure, just doesn’t resonate to me as some brainy FBI profiler. Even Julianne Moore’s Clarice Starling in Hannibal was more effective(and we know how she didn’t fit the role).

    If they continue the parade of interesting guest stars to help share the burden to an extent as the rest of the cast continues to catch up to Spader, hopefully this show will have a decent shelflife.

  3. The show is always at its best when the case of the week matches up coherently with what Red is doing himself away from all of that. The more separation there is between the two the more you sit there impatiently waiting for Spader to reappear on the screen. In other words, everything away from his performance and storyline is utter rubbish with some of the most unconvincing cast members ever conceived. Last night’s episode highlighted this perfectly.

    What happened to Diego Klattenhoff? Fine I thought in ‘Homeland’. Here utterly unable to deliver a line and seemingly without any kind of instinct whatsoever? Megan Boone appears to be a fine enough actress but her actual character is as convincing as a five year old going ‘pew pew’ (minus the heavy make up and perfect hair in every scene).

    So, the writing is generally terrible. But here is the thing. The show knows it. Knows it is utter nonsense and puts everything then onto the shoulders of Spader. Thankfully, he seems to know this as well and is having a ball. The moment he goes, the show dies. NBC would do well to stick an extra zero onto his paycheque then.

    • Yeah ITA. I actually think this show has had a great number of fantastic actors play “black listers”. Really good actors who can carry that thread of the show because in most cases Spader/Red is not interacting with the criminals, just passing their names off to the FBI. Robert Sean Leonard, Campbell Scott, and now Jennifer Ehle by far my favorites. Add in Alda and Jane Alexander and it’s better. I’m glad to see that Spader actually spent time interacting with Madeline in this episode. I enjoyed their scenes together.

      Like you I think Boone is capable, I just can’t connect to her as an FBI profiler. Someone who carries themselves with a little more intelligence would have been better suited. A Jodie Foster type.

    • Yes, when Spader leaves it’s done. Might be why they’ve been giving a second season. And 10+ million watchers didn’t hurt either.

      Ressler… why didn’t the writers add more with him now walking around with Red’s blood in him? Red sending him a bottle of slightly better scotch than what he’s currently drinks. You know to try to expand his pallet.

      Though I’d love just a cameo of the great Canadian actor, William Shatner.
      Maybe he’s number one on the blacklist.

      Or Jonathan Frakes :)

      and yes, I’m still bitter that they offed Lilu.

  4. I’m done with this show. It’s annoying that Red doesn’t seem to be in the same conversation as the rest of the cast, he just says random things all the time. Not interesting. Also, they don’t explain anything, ever. Almost 15 episodes in and we don’t know anything about Red’s love for Liz, why Tom is “evil”, what happened in Florence (would it have killed them to state it outright, instead of giving cryptic information in a couple of conversations between Red and Pratt?), what’s the deal with the Alan Alda, who’s that awfully convenient chick that somehow Tom can’t help but like her (so he can cheat on Liz with). And not to mention that Red double crosses every character in every scene of every episode. It’s so annoying.

  5. In real life, do FBI agents just go in with a vest and not protective gear and helmets like the other officers?

    I know they do that in TV so that you can see who the characters are, but I always find it funny how geared up the extras are on an assault and would think they all would be.

  6. I kinda like this show, glad it will be around for awhile.

    • @Goldilocks – This is just a vehicle for Spader to be awesome. He’s the most interesting thing about the show. I can’t stand Cooper, the writers have all but made us hate Elizabeth Keen, and basically written out Ressler, which is a shame.

      But hey, the story lines each week are really interesting, I just wish they’d move the subplots along a little quicker.

      Paul

      • @Paul Young:

        I never figured Ressler as a focal point anyways. He’s basically the hand-to-hand combat part of the show (which seems to be getting worse instead of better).

        I find it funny that Red hurt his hand punching the guard as he’s supposed to be tough.

        I like Keen… she just vacillates too much between being stupid and smart. The husband subplot seems strange because it does really look like he’s an innocent bystander but then why are Red and Jolene so interested in him (although Jolene may just be after Keen).