‘The Blacklist’: Confessions Of A Teenage Hacking King

Published 1 year ago by

Ryan Eggold and Megan Boone in The Blacklist Season 1 Episode 17 The Blacklist: Confessions Of A Teenage Hacking King

[This is a review of The Blacklist season 1, episode 17. There will be SPOILERS.]


All season long, The Blacklist has been leisurely working to generate a full-blown mythology as the driving force behind the show, a central mystery so intriguing it keeps audiences coming back week after week, just so they can be a part of the conversation. At least that is the obvious objective; the only thing is: there’s no real conversation going on, the series has been around for 17 episodes now and it’s no closer to presenting the idea that something worth talking about is actually at stake.

Of course, this is in reference to the mystery behind Red’s ongoing fascination with Liz, and now the disclosure that Tom has been surreptitiously renting warehouse space to put up a smoke-free Rust Cohle-style corkboard, complete with various photographs of his wife, push pins, and the requisite red yarn tying it all together. What exactly he’s trying to tie together is never stated, because the show’s trying to generate the sort of suspense that inevitably becomes the next morning’s watercooler experience. The problem is: there’s nothing to experience. The series has been doling out information little by little, but rather than filling the story with details that eventually build to a large, game changing revelation (or at least one that hasn’t been telegraphed since day one), the only thing the narrative has been building is a road that ostensibly leads to nowhere.

As far as shadowy conspiracies go, The Blacklist might have the most shadowy one of all – in that it’s beginning to feel as if even the writers don’t know what they’re looking at. It’s one thing for a program to not know the exact details of how a story will arrive at what it’s after, but not knowing (or not convincingly demonstrating it knows) what it’s after, or more importantly, what’s actually at stake within the context of the central mystery is bad news.

James Spader in The Blacklist Season 1 Episode 17 The Blacklist: Confessions Of A Teenage Hacking King

At least in ‘Ivan,’ the series finally shows some movement regarding Tom and Liz, as deep cover agent Tom is undone by a toy hippo with a flashing light in its rear end (side note: if Liz thinks the hippo toy will entertain a classroom of fourth graders, her decision to postpone motherhood is the smartest thing she’s ever done). This, of course, comes after Tom attacks Liz in his secret lair, leaving her bruised, but (temporarily) unaware who she was tracking. The main takeaway from their encounter is that neither one is particularly good at their job. Tom makes the split-second decision to hide behind the loudest door in the greater D.C. area, while Liz manages to first lose a suspect in an alley strangely filled with plastic sheets, and then fails to identify the guy punching her in the face as her husband of two years. And it seems all of this was just so Liz could wind up being comforted by Red and the music box he spent the entire episode building, while he continues to withhold information.

With all the Tom and Liz non-drama going on, The Blacklist still has time for its weekly procedural element, which involves a love struck teenager with the kind of amazing hacking skills that suggest The Blacklist equates computers with some kind of sorcery or black magic. It turns out 17-year-old Harrison Lee has been impersonating an infamous Russian hacker named Ivan, so he can steal a piece of top-secret military technology being developed by the father of the girl who doesn’t even know he exists. After a brief chase, the blacklist portion of the episode climaxes with Liz talking Harrison out of crashing the subway car they’re both on with his magic hacking device (thank goodness for the D.C. transit system’s super-reliable Wi-Fi, right?). Afterward, Liz briefly reminds Ressler he has no one to go home to, while the NSA presumably beats Red to the punch and hires Harrison on the spot.

That leaves the pending cat-and-mouse routine between Tom and Liz to be resolved before the end of the season. If such a resolution actually occurs, hopefully the show has something far more interesting and propulsive waiting on the other side.


The Blacklist will continue next Monday with ‘Milton Bobbit’ @10pm on NBC. Check out a preview below:

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  1. So Ressler is working to avoid his grief about her. So I can feel his character development.

    Tom… what were you thinking? You have a hideout, stocked with supplies, a clean getaway car and you didn’t rig the whole place to go up with the push of a button? Hell Gene Hackman had that setup (Enemy of the State).
    Your wife, and target, works for the FBI and she’s not in the public relations part, she’s in the man hunt of the most dangerous people… Tom, you should know that.

    • I completely forgot about the “outpost” that was watching the “post office” when Denbe and company assulted it thinking that Red was being held inside, they electronically destroyed they’re equipment as they retreated… why wouldn’t Tom have done this too?

  2. Suspension of belief needs to be generously applied when watching The Blacklist.

    This series reminds me of Alias but more “realistic” (if you can use that word).

    So yeah, Keen is lame as an FBI agent if she can’t identify her attacker, was she closing her eyes the whole time? You would think the writers could create a different close call scenario rather than one where the viewer has to close their eyes too to believe it.

    I’m still watching though. I want to find out why “Berlin” targeted Keen in the first place if they don’t know her connection with Red. And you would think since Red has such vast resources, he would already know who is “Berlin” is.

    I hope they can get William Shatner to do a cameo… “Denny Crane”.

    • As awesome as that would be as a fan of Boston Legal, it would totally screw the pooch…. such a knowing nod, a break in the 4th wall will kill this thing.

      Hope they clear this Tom nonsense up soon, they guys irritating to hell.

      If it wasn’t for Spader this would be seriously floundering, have you even seen such an inept bunch of agents portrayed on screen (Team Coulson run them close)

      Sometimes you just want them to get on with things, one meaningful reveal just to keep the interest.

  3. Again, you’re way too hard. I won’t claim the show is perfect. No shows are. But then again, The Blacklist is good enough to not warrant the kind of acid and bile this review is spilling.

    I watched this episode and was thoroughly entertained from beginning to end. Yes, we can pick nits about how the action scenes of this show are at the level of action scenes from other TV shows. The Blacklist isn’t pushing forward the craft in this regard (but, it’s hardly lagging at the back of the pack either). But then again, I’m not watching this show for the beat em’ up action.

    We can also complain about how Liz should have been able to recognize Tom with all the even TV set lighting around. Tom hid behind the door because he was trying to lure Liz into it. And the door was not noisy beyond a believable level. There’s no need to be completely pedantic. While it’s hard to believe initially that Liz was able to be out-foxed by Tom so completely, we have to remember: She’s a new rookie and he is apparently a particularly effective spy or assassin. This episode drove both points home. Liz is young, naive and inexperienced, and she simply wasn’t prepared for what she walked in to.

    Yes, the magic highschool hacker with the magic NSA super-computer is cliche. As a technology professional myself, I am annoyed by this but I’ve seen it so many times that it’s hard to say The Blacklist is a particularly bad offender. It is not.

    Meanwhile, the scenes with Liz and Red were the best in the episode, as usual. The final scene where Red cradles her in his arms and kisses her on the back of the head were powerful and emotional. He claims not to be her father, which he confirmed again by claiming to have never told her a lie. Yet here he is, acting every bit the father figure to a distraught Liz. Why? That’s the question that keeps driving me to watch this show. Other things, like Red’s history and the various shadowy organizations which have also taken a particular interest in Liz, are themselves compelling in a secondary sort of way.

    • they all but confirmed he is her father. she said her father sang that tune to her to comfort her and only her father would know that. and the way he held her and kissed her, just like her father.

      • When she asked him directly earlier in the season, he said “No”. In this episode, he claimed that he never lied to her.

        • Well, my theory is this. He told her he never lied to her and technically he can say he hasn’t. If he is her biological father, he hasn’t been around her for 25+ yrs. the man that raised her, the one Red mercy killed in the hospital was her father. Remember Red told him he would always be her father before he killed him. So Red might not feel that he has any right to call himself that. And besides that, I don’t think if Red has kept this secret for 25 yrs to protect her, I don’t think he’s just gonna pull a Darth Vader and confess his parenthood.

          • This too is what I believe

    • Yep, I love this show too and honestly, other than the hacker (but seeing how technology and hackers can be, it’s not hard to buy into it), the rest was convincing enough to thoroughly enjoy it.

      I keep reading comments about episodes I’ve seen (we get Milton Bobbit this coming Friday by the way) and it seems that the opposite to Agents Of SHIELD applies here.

      With AOS, lots of people comment about how great they think the show is when actually, it’s a steaming pile of crapola but a great show like The Blacklist is wrongfully hated on with comments about how people thought it sucked or was badly written or acted, none of which I really see at all.

      The main thread of this show is Red and Liz, the blacklist is just there to move that thread along in an entertaining way that also opens up the characters from one dimensional FBI agents to real humans dealing with real issues. It’s definitely the best show of this kind I’ve seen since 24.

  4. I enjoy watching this show, although it is not the highest one at all on my priority list. I will watch it all the way to the end, but when it finally ends or is cancelled, I will not jump off a bridge over it while screaming, “NNNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOO!” (That was “The Event”, which I liked well enough to buy the whole season on DVD. I think someone ought to do a second season on that one..lots of potential there!).

  5. I started out thinking the Blacklist was one of the worst shows I had seen in a very long time, but gave it a chance because a good friend likes to make it one of his ‘water cooler’ shows.

    Then, for an arc of two they went VERY Spader/Red heavy and the show actually became pretty entertaining.

    Now things have gone Red lite again, and it’s just painful to watch.

    One episode Tom has his nose out of joint and is blowing Liz off and flying off to somewhere or other without her and making with the sexy flirty eyes with Jolene, Liz is in tears, nearly hysterical that their marriage is “broken” and there was no way she could have a baby with Tom, and there is SO much work to be done to save their marriage.

    Then, whoops, they’re as lovey dovey as newlyweds and the schmoopy talk and adorable toy hippos are all over the place. ‘You’re the only one I can talk to Red!’ ‘Thank god I have Tom, because I have nothing to talk to you about Red!’ ‘You’re right, Red. OMG the muuuuusic booox!’

    Tom is a killer elite spy. Tom is an idiot who leaves singularly incriminating evidence around even when he’s taking pains to sanitize his Secret Lair. Tom is cold bloodly targeting Liz. No, maybe Tom has – Shock! Surprise! – Unexpectedly! Fallen! For! Liz!

    Please. Back to Red heavy story lines. When this whole shebang began, I got the idea that there was some very Redlike reason he was dribbling out the names on the blacklist to facilitate some Moriarty level endgame. Red back to center stage, Liz back to the chorus. Please.

  6. It amazes me that you can praise Agents of Shield. the single silliest and most awful show on television yet condemn Blacklist.

    • @Chris:

      I like them both, AoS more though.

    • @Chris

      I totally agree, man. AOS has no business being on TV at all, that’s how freakin’ awful it is. The Blacklist, however, is a brilliant show and always keeps me entertained and wanting more.