‘The Blacklist’ Mid-Season Finale Review

Published 1 year ago by

The Blacklist Season 1 Episode 10 The Blacklist Mid Season Finale Review

[This is a review of The Blacklist season 1, episode 10. There will be SPOILERS.]


Since the series premiere, The Blacklist has predominantly sustained itself on its two primary attributes: the magnetism of James Spader’s performance and its desire to continually build mystery after mystery, and then reveal them (or not), just to keep the audience guessing. For the most part, that combination seems to be working for the show, in terms of garnering viewers, but the persistent use of surprises and reveals (or non-reveals) has left the show’s narrative dealing with a bit of an identity crisis: it’s as though the series is testing various potential mythologies before actually making any of them concrete and forcing the show down one path or another.

After several weeks of fairly simple, mostly rote villains enduring the haughty wrath of Raymond ‘Red’ Reddington, it began to look as though he’d finally walked into a situation his many, many underworld contacts and vast array of associates simply couldn’t help him out of. That is: Red was tucked away in his DARPA-crafted lockbox with a grievously injured Ressler, while the dreadful visage of Anslo Garrick (Ritchie Coster) skulked about outside, threatening to execute whomever he thought might coax the master criminal out into the open. Last week’s ‘Anslo Garrick, Part 1′ ended rather abruptly, leaving the audience to conclude Red’s associate Dembe (Hisham Tawtiq) had been the next one to eat a bullet. But ‘Part 2′ picks up immediately afterward, revealing Dembe to still alive and well, thanks mostly to the intervention of Elizabeth and Aram, who had just managed to get the Post Office’s communications back online before being taken prisoner and then used as the ultimate tool force a mano a mano between Red and Anslo.

The surprise of the episode, however, doesn’t come from Anslo taking Red to an abandoned church somewhere in the city, instead of killing him immediately; rather, the surprise comes from the man who stayed Anslo’s eager hand. After having a doctor ply the captive with a drug intended to increase Red’s sensation of pain, and then notching a big fat zero when it came to procuring information through torture, Anslo turns his captive over to none other than Alan Alda – who, as you might guess, brings along all sorts of additional mysteries and questions regarding Red and the criminal underworld from whence he came.

Richie Coster in The Blacklist Season 1 Episode 10 The Blacklist Mid Season Finale Review

As you’re also likely to guess, Alda’s character and Red share a lengthy and complicated backstory that will surely be revealed in the coming weeks – only to reveal that that mystery is itself shrouded in all sorts of seemingly unanswerable questions as well. But until then, having Alda show up and tell Red that the criminal sect they both belong to is well aware of his alliance with the FBI feels like step in the right direction. What’s more, Alda mentions how even though they could have killed him at any time, Red’s alive because of what he has. Naturally, the show doesn’t go into specifics, but according to Alda, “we know what will happen to it if you turn up dead.”

There’s a great deal of suspense built-up around what’s in Red’s possession, and why a cabal of criminals would let him hang out with the FBI for fear that killing him would result in something happening to “it.” And then all of that gets washed away when Alda basically shrugs, leaves the room, and lets Anslo seek his revenge. So whatever Red has either isn’t really that important and Alda’s character just wanted to let everybody know he’s a step ahead of the guy who’s a step ahead of everyone else, or he knew Red would do what he always does to Anslo, and “beat him” – in this case, for the last time.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth spends her day in search of Red and Anslo, which at one point requires her to commandeer the Mercedes of the most willing civilian in the United States, as he drives with the kind of skill and determination the world hasn’t seen since Jason Statham stopped making The Transporter movies. But Lizzie’s storyline is mostly wrapped up in finding out her house is under surveillance, and then working with Red’s cleaner (that’s cleaner in the Harvey Keitel in Pulp Fiction or Point of No Return sense, not guy who steams your carpet sense) to dispose of the guy she killed after finding out. The episode ends with Red telling Elizabeth over the phone that he’s not her father, and that she shouldn’t trust her husband. And considering the aggrieved look on Red’s face, there’s likely more to both of those statements than he’s letting on.

James Spader in The Blacklist Season 1 Epiosde 10 The Blacklist Mid Season Finale Review

To a certain extent, the mixture of vagueness and surprise that came with Alda’s appearance is part and parcel to the kind of storytelling that The Blacklist is clearly so fond of. It’s intent on building a larger world by stacking mystery upon mystery and then having everyone guess as to what the next big reveal is going to be. But until the show starts pinning down a few answers, the continual build-up of questions shrouded in a thick fog of ambiguity – it doesn’t get more vague than a newly introduced character saying, “we know what will happen to it,” without a single hint as who or what he’s referring to – is going to start feeling like nobody’s willing to take the reigns in the writing room. Sure, it’s a long season and we’re less than halfway done, but it’s not outrageous to think the show might be showing more of a solid foundation at this point.

And as it heads into a brief break – returning next month – this show finds itself in much the same position as Revolution was in when it hit the midseason mark. At this point, one must simply hope that The Blacklist will come back with a renewed sense of where this is all going and, more importantly, an answer as to why it is going there in the first place.


The Blacklist will return January 13 @10pm on NBC.

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  1. It was like the entire season really. Utter nonsense, from the cop out at the start of part two of this double episode and the ending scene with Ressler all fine and dandy to Elizabeth Keen being a spectacularly unconvincing action heroine. In the case of the two parter, the first episode offered a set up (with obligatory bad guy monologues and British accents. Naturally) the second could not sustain. The obvious ‘Die Hard’ influences worked well through familiarity and Red’s speech about staying alive was the high point of the entire season. A second episode that increased and catered to the claustrophobic nature of the scenario would’ve sent it into a three week break on a high. Considering it was advertised as the “game-changer”, I expected as much.

    As for the overall show itself, the pattern is familiar and in a sense a lot like ‘House’ was. Witty monologue from the cool main player, confused scrambling from the secondary players, witty monologue from the cool main player, conclusion leading to 5 minutes at the end of the overall season arc. To put it simply, there is nothing about this show that is original in any context whatsoever. But…

    It knows it and practically celebrates it. This, and an on form Spader having a ball, are the reasons I watch it. The thing that is obvious is NBC holding back before deciding on whether to extend it or not. The way the last episode ended felt like the end of the show entirely. But as we know, it is not and now what I suspect will happen is it will reset to where it was before the last two episodes and we get back to the aforementioned classic ‘House’ structure of before. So, considering NBC’s adherence to nonsensical TV, this gets a tick because of its self awareness and because of Spader.

    To move forward though, it is going to need more than one performer having fun. The secondary characters need to be more interesting. Especially Elizabeth Keen. She is supposed to be the audience, after all…

    • You should just stop watching TV and movies, you obviously don’t like anything because you complain about everything. Such a Debbie Downer.

  2. I enjoyed this mid-season ending episode. The story got away from the bad guy of the week syndrome and the program more or less reset itself for the second half. The spies across the street got resolved (sort of) and the plot line got the added benefit of a mole inside the secret Post Office.

  3. I watched the first episode of this show because people say that it is good, but honestly, it seems like it’s TRYING really hard to be a thriller but the first episode had so many plot holes it wasn’t even funny. There were so many things the agency had to do wrong in order for that episode to have worked. It reminds me of 24, how the only reason why the bad guys can get away with so much is because it seems like the agency the main character works for is completely and utterly incompetent… But more importantly, how so much of the enemy’s plans relied on that incompetence for it to work. Makes for a very unbelievable show…

    • Well, like yourself (and others I know), I recognised the ludicrous nature of the show during Episode one. But I accepted it for this. I’ve seen all 10 episodes and never once have I been given the impression that it is taking itself too seriously. Even during many a musical end of episode montage, it is clear (to me anyways) it knows what it is and what it isn’t. So, give it a run through, Sir. Enjoy Spader for his ham and roll your eyes at the rest.

      After all, and I am aware I am risking bad comments here, if ‘The Walking Dead’ gets to suspend logic from episode to episode, why can’t this?

      • That’s because you’re JUST SO SMART, Ajeno…

  4. If Red is NOT lizzies dad I will feel cheated! I just feel THAT needs to be the big reveal in the end

    • Could it be Red is the father of the husband?

    • No way Red could tell her he is her father as she would immediately become a pawn of those already wielding power over Reddington. His obsession is to protect her so no way he can admit to that.

      The fact that he paused before answering was the real answer. Yes, he is her father.

  5. after the 3rd or 4th episode i actually forgot about this show


    (Oops, s’cuze me, I hit the Caps button, and am too lazy to go fix it. Sorry; just be a man and tuff it out reading it, that’s a good boy!).

    • Aye. 22 new episodes ordered. Kicking back off in January.

  7. Spader playing Alan Shore (Boston Legal) turned up to 1,000,000 – nuff said

    Is there a more charismatic actor on telly, you want smooth, sophisticated, oily, morally ambiguous, call Spader.

    Loving his Raymond Reddington character, everyone else is there to create a situation for Spader to come in and be awesome.

    As for the mystery upon mystery we (me and the wife) love that, we love having to work it out, we love being wrong, seeing which of our MANY MANY theories turn out to be right, we love the answer NOT being as obvious as a black mark on a white wall with the “supposed” intelligent characters taking 3qrts of an episode to twig.

    What am I taking about, a symptom of the majority of American episodic TV that we get here in the UK (NCIS, ARROW, CSI, BURN NOTICE etc. – all shows we love by the way, much better than the majority of crap put out by the UK channels) highlighted by Arrow last week.

    Diggle, clearly mentioning his flu jab comes down with Vertigo withdrawal and you’ve got outbreaks all over the city…. hmmm 3 ad breaks later, must be the flu jab, well DUH!!!

    Guys either don’t telegraph it quite so obviously or let the “clever” people of the show work it out at the same time as the audience (like straight away) and get on with things.

    Kinda refreshing to be kept guessing if your playing the game, if your not then I can see how it could get irritating and want them to just GET ON WITH IT!.

    The trick is in the payoffs, you need to have them so people playing the game can keep score and those not playing the game can just get on enjoying the story being told….. otherwise you end up with Lost and NOONE wants that again.

    Can’t wait for to see what he brings to Ultron.

    Joss Wheedon – “we need someone hyper intelligent and evil to be Ultron”
    Casting Director – “easy, call in the Spade.”

  8. One correction to your review: Alda did NOT allow Garrick to have at Reddington after Alda talked to him, he actually forbid him from it. That is why Garrick told Raymond if he couldn’t torture and kill him he would do it to Lizzie. That way he would emotionally torture him since he couldn’t do it actually to Red.

  9. I like jumping the shark as much as the next guy – heck, Boston Legal jumped the shark every week thanks to William Shatner and James Spader – but, come on. Lizzie asks Red if he’s her father in the same episode that they match Red’s DNA at the scene? She doesn’t think to do a DNA test with Red’s DNA to see if he’s her father? There aren’t any pictures of Lizzie’s biological father from when she was 4 years old? (Red couldn’t have had all that much plastic surgery done, since they’ve shown pictures of Red from 20 years ago and he looks pretty much the same as he does now – like James Spader 20 years ago.) In the first episode Ressler gets mad at Lizzie for not revealing to the FBI about her father’s criminal past? Hello? The FBI background check depends only on what Lizzie tells them? I don’t mind suspending disbelief, especially since I think James Spader is one of the best actors out there, but I don’t know how much longer I can stay with this, even with James Spader as the draw.

  10. I was very disappointed by the introduction of the Alda character. Up to now, the premise of the show is that there is a free-wheeling, anarchic substrata of international criminals doing the bidding of governments, corporations and terrorist organizations. And doing quite nicely at it too, thank you. However, the Alda character, with all the lefty baggage he brings and his expensive suit, hints at a global conspiracy of Illuminati-like pedigree directing the works of Reddington, using Garrick-types for the heavy lifting. What Red “knows,” I surmise, is the connection between multinational corporations and Western governments to this shadowy world. This is too trite for me.

  11. it is unbelievable !!!! They showed Turkey, istanbul but nothing on the scene is real !! How the producers can be able to show us unreal thing, they do not know anything about Turkey, they must first of all search the county, these kind of wrong informations are such a shame, i never watch Blacklist again also Turkey is a democtatic repuclic, we do not use scarfs!!!!

    • Regardless of how much you want to be seen differently, being Muslim you will be seen as one and depicted stereotypically as it is done on this show. Scarves are worn by those who wish to in Turkey, they are not worn by those who do not wish to. But this show is cheaply made, not really able to film on location. And the producers must have some anti-Erdogan/Turkey hate to market and the Blacklist was their venue.