‘The Blacklist’ Recommends Staying The Course

Published 3 months ago by

James Spader The Blacklist Season 1 Episode 18 The Blacklist Recommends Staying The Course

[This is a review of The Blacklist season 1, episode 18. There will be SPOILERS]

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Near the end of ‘Milton Bobbit,’ Red and Liz have what amounts to – on this show, anyway – a meeting of the minds. Liz has set up the prototypical conspiracy-tracking whiteboard, filling the void left when Tom’s board was torn down in a hurry after his secret lair was discovered. Obviously, this was a way for Liz to work out the complicated ins and outs of discovering her husband is working for some clandestine operation that has targeted her due to whatever connection she has with Red. And sure, like everyone who’s still watching the show, Liz would like to know exactly what that connection is, but because this is The Blacklist, Red tells her that’s not important now; they need to focus on things like burnt pieces of paper referencing Berlin and just “stay the course,” because all the answers will come in due time. (Translation: Wait until the season finale, so the show can leave things on a cliffhanger.)

But when Red says, “stay the course,” who is it that he’s actually talking to? Is it Liz, or is it the audience? Because for all the fumbling around the episode does with regard to working out who Tom is, in the end, all that comes from the investigation are more of Red’s weak stalling tactics and Liz’s yarn-free whiteboard. It’s a frustrating way to tell a story, but at least all these unanswered questions and feeble refusals to progress beyond a simple conceit provide the audience with at least one concrete detail: The Blacklist isn’t about anything beyond answering the question of who Red is to Liz. That is: instead of being an intriguing storyline with a mystery (or mysteries) at its core, the show is proving itself to be a mystery with no real story to back it all up.

The stakes are presumably raised during ‘Milton Bobbit,’ when Liz accelerates Tom’s proposal that they renew their wedding vows. In a sense, the rushed ceremony demonstrates just how deep and personal Tom’s deception is, but it also establishes that Liz can give as good as she gets. And if the fate of Tom’s famous gluten-free pancakes is any indication, she can give a whole lot better than simply faking her way through another wedding ceremony. It’s a game of cat and mouse that attempts to establish the conviction of both parties involved, but, like everything else, it winds up feeling like another stalling tactic.

Megan Boone and Peter Scanavino in The Blacklist Season 1 Episode 18 The Blacklist Recommends Staying The Course

So, rather than expand the storyline, or progress beyond a trite ‘I Married a Spy’ reveal, The Blacklist serves up Tom’s fake brother Craig, as the superficial sacrifice for the sake of appearing to move the narrative forward. As unfulfilling as it was for Craig/Chris bail out a hotel, it was worth it to see the look on James Spader’s face – once again proving the only reason to watch the show is to see Spader’s reactions to everything that transpires.

That notion is reinforced by the fact that the blacklist component to the episode is so inessential to the plot and the overarching story that Liz bails halfway through the investigation and just lets Ressler take point on tracking down Milton Bobbit, a.k.a. The Undertaker. Milton’s story is so disconnected from the rest of the episode it winds up being little more than a distraction from any of the bigger issues at hand – which, if you think about it, pretty much sums up everything else that happened.

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The Blacklist returns Monday, April 21 with an all-new episode.

TAGS: the blacklist

13 Comments

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  1. What is your problem? Seriously. This show is averaging 10 million viewers which is way more than shield even though shield has a built in market. This a great show. It’s entertaining. It has action. It has a fun main character. It has sick twisted story of the week villains. Yeah the big reveals aren’t coming quick but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun. I’m confident the show knows where it’s going and I’m patient enough to watch it get there. It’s not like Lost or Once Upon a Time or Agents where the writers just wing it. Five year olds have more patience than you.

  2. Wonder why they chose to use “Milton Bobbit” rather than “The Undertaker” for their Blacklist titling?

    It is interesting that Red is using the Blacklist for his own means, two of them in regards to Jolene.

    I always wonder why people are more willing to kill themselves than work with a group that might be able to help them.

  3. Not bad episode.

    The real guts of this episode what Tom and Liz with this week’s Blacklister as a side story. Ressler shows why he was on the team long before Liz and Red walked into the Post Office.

    And Craig/Chris… we hardly knew you. He chose to take himself out rather than deal with the big bad or crossing them.

  4. A rather hollow review of a cool show…
    Spader is excellent, as you note. Liz is great.

    I think the only problem SR has is that they haven’t told them the main secret yet. And that’s silly. Like if we shd. know at this point what Red is to Liz. Why? It’s like knowing who the mother was at the end of the first episode..(Wait..hmm..didn’t we..? A little dissatisfying.._) or if Godzilla is really defeated at the end..or does loki lose before the fight ever happened…

    Its a mystery show. It has a central mystery, i.e., How is Liz important to Red.
    Accept that…cuz that is the intention of the people doing the show. THey’re not just gonna tell you that!!!!!
    If you can’t get that thru..then don’t bother watching another episode..cuz u’re gonna feel the same way about it. N you shdn’t..its a kick-ass show.

  5. If you don’t like the show don’t you have better things to do than keep watching it.

  6. The relationship between Red and Liz is not the only central mystery of the show.
    Red obviously has some connection to a powerful top clearance group in Washington.
    His past and his business dealings are likely much more than the self-serving interest of an international criminal. I give the show high marks for holding the interest of the viewers. They shot a lot of episodes this year, not all of them were perfect. But if a show like 24 can stretch a day into a whole season, the writers of this story can reveal their plot points a little slowly.

  7. “better get the hacksaw. we’re gonna have to take him out in pieces…hahahahahahaha, just kidding.” cant wait to see him in A:AOU

  8. I am enjoying The Blacklist, and find Spader mildly entertaining. He is definitely the best actor on the show. At times I am kind of at a loss as to how significant the villains are to the show and each other, but I will stay the course and keep watching. Wonder where the mystery with the spy-hubby will turn up at at it;s conclusion?

  9. I’ll have to remember not lean too hard on a window next time I stay in a hotel. They sure seem to break easily.

  10. Just saw this episode. I thought it was excellent.

    Not sure how asking Ressler to take over the investigation as she had other things requiring her attention came up as a point of critique particularly given his seniority. Surely anyone in the workforce knows what it is like to have someone else cover important work for them from time to time.

  11. This series is terrific and I don’t get the constant criticism. Megan Boone has vastly improved and Ryan Eggold is spot on in his portrayal of Tom. James Spader is in a class of his own, so it is hard for anyone to compete with his acting skills but I love the entire case. The show is about Liz and Red essentially, so I don’t need to know every detail about the other characters. That being said, I think we have learned a lot about Ressler recently. The storylines are compelling and I don’t expect Spader to be in every scene. Since you obviously don’t like the show, stop reviewing it please (not trying to be rude) and review something you like. For my family and several friends of mine, we consider this the only decent new show of the season and must see television.

  12. Best new show on TV hands down (as a series)…otherwise it would be True Detective. Great episode!

  13. The Blacklist from the very first episode set up several Big Mysteries: the Liz/Red relationship, the mystery of Tom, the reason Red disappeared, the mystery of “how” good are the Good Guys (Cooper & Ressler), and finally, Is there a Secret War being waged between powerful forces–that countries and people around the world have no idea about? The outcome of that last question could mean that Red is really a Good Guy. [Note: one theory is that Red has been/is still "undercover" for a powerful agency.]

    Within this context of multiple mysteries, the Red/Liz relationship mystery is pretty inconsequential…and does not merit an early resolution. So far, the Tom mystery and (partial) resolution of Cooper’s true “character” have been revealed. Beyond that, the weekly stories are always entertaining–and contain early clues that pop back up later. (I’m hoping to see more about Gina Zarakakis’ relationship with Tom…and if/how they bring her back, potentially as a Major Adversary against Liz).

    Lastly, the writers are just beginning to work on the Liz character, IMO. She’s beginning to prove herself very deceitful–and it will be interesting to see just how “dark” she’ll go to bring down Tom.

    Bottom line: The Blacklist has the makings of a very good (broadcast network) show. It will never be “Homeland”–or even “The Americans”–because NBC will never allow for the character complexity and sexuality that even Basic Cable will allow.

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