The Blacklist is one of the rare network television shows that frequently transcends its channel. It also overcame its somewhat tired procedural premise. That’s because the ensemble of characters on this FBI show are very likable, and the stories eventually incorporate more intimate scenarios. The procedural element is a tough hurdle, but many of the cases are surprisingly intriguing. At its best, the series offers a balanced diet of humor, action, and heart. However, at its lowest, it can have some pretty frustrating issues. Let’s have a look at how the fans have rated all its highs and lows on IMDb. Spoilers included!
10 Worst: "The Vehm (No. 132)" - 7.5
Someone in the writer’s room took Mr. Wallace’s threat from Pulp Fiction very literally, regarding medieval torture. In this episode, a vigilante group that seems to be targeting pedophiles has killed one of Reddington’s associates. It’s very strange to combine silly elements like medieval killings with such a serious subject matter. But even worse, the case unfortunately has very little to do with the more interesting character interactions. Procedurals always run that risk, but by Season 3, this series had more or less outgrown it. Ultimately, if there were a better vehicle for the drama, this episode likely wouldn’t have been rated so low.
9 Best: "Tom Connolly (No. 11)" - 9.3
The second season's finale offered as much resolution as setup, with a refreshingly swift pace. Putting Elizabeth on the run resulted in some of the best stories on the show. It simply gets all of the characters moving around and forces them to act emotionally. The sense of urgency is palpable throughout the episode and Elizabeth’s rash murder is genuinely stunning. In retrospect, it’s reminiscent of John Wick 2, wherein Wick conducts business in the Continental. Elizabeth ends up on the run because she saw no alternative. She also recollects her memories and secures her relationship with Tom. It’s a thrilling, creative, and even daring episode.
8 Worst: "The Kenyon Family (No. 71)" - 7.5
This second season episode decided to delve into a predictable case about a cult. To the dismay of all fans, it doesn’t really put any kind of unique spin on the concept. Instead, the story resorts to some pretty familiar and tiresome beats. Furthermore, the culprits of the episode are a group of boys that were cast out of the cult. This show has often made the most of exaggerated villains, in a playful and fun way. But it just wasn’t able to capture that spirit this time around. Instead, the plausibility factor tests its threshold a tad too far, particularly with the manufactured kidnapping. But it features a pre-Stranger Things Gaten Matarazzo, so that's something.
7 Best: "The Director (No. 24): Conclusion" - 9.3
The Cabal isn’t necessarily a very original concept, but the course of events ultimately transpired in a captivating way nonetheless. And even with all the resolution this episode offered, the plot still wasn’t done. Reddington helps orchestrate the Director’s kidnapping, while Tom delivers Karakurt. So finally, the plan to restore Elizabeth’s innocence is successfully completed. This story arc was one of the more effective and engrossing standouts of the show, certainly this early on. It’s exactly the showdown that was promised by the second season finale, and the pieces come together impeccably.
6 Worst: "Lipet's Seafood Company (No. 111)" - 7.4
This episode directly followed a striking two-part storyline about Alexander Kirk. Liz’s convoluted history, steeped in secrets, has always been a highlight of the show. The Blacklist often went back to that well too frequently, but at least it was nicely executed. But this episode felt like an about-face, at no fault of its own. The series is really effective at top speed, but when it slams on the brakes, it generally doesn’t work out. However, this episode was actually the return after a seasonal intermission. The pacing is slowed for some decent character development, like Navabi’s secret. But the case itself was an uninteresting tangent to the drama.
5 Best: "The Osterman Umbrella Company (No. 6)" - 9.3
This episode almost borrows a page from Mission Impossible's "Syndicate", with a secret world of assassins and ex-agents. But obviously, the focus of this episode is the loss of such a major character. It’s a terrific, tragic sendoff that has sincere, compelling drama instead of melodrama. That’s because it is a willing goodbye, rather than a typical death scene. Also, the episode boasts some of the best action the show has ever offered. It helps that we’re completely invested in this two-parter. Also, there is a looming sense of inevitability as Aram and Samar haphazardly flee such an oppressive force.
4 Worst: "Gaia (No. 81)" - 7.3
Season 4 was a curious outing for the show, equally dishing out some terrific highs and abysmal lows. Everything involving Kathryn was absolute gold, and “Requiem” is arguably the best drama that the show ever delivered. But this episode sticks her in a cabin for a while, and the predicament is frustrating and arguably just plain silly. But the villain was probably the episode’s largest problem. It’s an eco-terrorist, and politics don’t blend well with this sort of entertainment. Certainly these days, and certainly regarding the environment. There’s simply a profound lack of originality in this episode. This includes the romance between Aram and Samar, which doesn’t feel especially organic here. And although fans love a breezy case, episodes that briskly advance the plot generally receive higher ratings.
3 Best: "Rassvet" - 9.3
Once more, we receive an elaborate history lesson full of answers, akin to “Requiem.” But this is a more intimate and complete portrayal of Katarina Rostova’s convoluted past. Understanding her relationship with the current Reddington provides the answers everyone wanted, and satisfactory context for the entire show. The casting for a young James Spader was actually superb, and the performances were terrific all around. The romance with Katarina felt very natural and was incorporated well. And yet, all of this history comes from a possibly unreliable narrator. At the very least, he could be withholding further truths. The writers understand that fans love their mysteries even more than their answers.
2 Worst: "The Major (No. 75)" - 6.9
This is the Season 2 episode that brought everything to a standstill. Perhaps it would be a particularly useful tool for newcomers that needed a recap on literally everything. Elizabeth is sent to court for questioning in a murder case. As a result, the show reflects on all the most crucial recent events. It’s a clip show, which is unusual for a serialized narrative. Fans weren’t pleased about similar concepts for the finales of Seinfeld or The X-Files. But at least those episodes had a lot to reflect on. This show was barely closing out its second season. Fans couldn’t possibly be pleased with such a non-story.
1 Best: "Ian Garvey (No. 13)" - 9.4
The mystery of the suitcase and whose remains were in it, generated a surprising amount of story. Red’s warnings never deterred Tom, and his utter determination ultimately costs him dearly. It was hard to see that character go, although there were indications that might have allowed fans to brace for it. But Tom’s death is absolutely fitting, sending him out in the only way possible — defending his loved ones against overwhelming odds. What is especially heartbreaking is that Tom’s death is so drawn out. Attempts to rescue him slowly fail, and the reveal after Liz wakes from her coma is the most dramatic possible delivery. It’s a creative, impressive, sincere piece of writing, and deserving of its crowning rank.