If it wasn't clear from last week's premiere, James Spader's portrayal of Raymond 'Red' Reddington is reason enough to give The Blacklist a chance. The charismatic man of mystery claimed by the end of 'The Freelancer' that "the F.B.I. works for him now," and he couldn't be more right.
The Blacklist may be disguising itself as a "terrorist of the week show," yet the series displays much more bravado than your run of the mill procedural. With his new immunity deal approved by the government, Red is willing to help the Bureau fight terrorism, but only on his terms. Red's detour to Montreal with Liz highlighted the series' superb writing from creator/executive producer Jon Bokenkamp.
As Red and Liz conversed over cocktails, you could see their relationship building, if ever so subtly. She's drawn to him, even if she doubts his motives, and it was nice to see Red drop the "you could be my daughter" line, due to the fact that many have speculated on the mysteries of Lizzy's father. Perhaps that was Bokenkamp's attempt to inform the viewer to not assume anything too quickly?
Either way, Liz's profile of Red was one of the standout scenes from this week's episode. Megan Boone's confidence in her role is even more impressive than it was in the premiere. The young actress is standing toe-to-toe with Spader in every scene and holds her own impressively.
From their conversation in Montreal, Red hinted at Liz's past being important and asked if she comprehends who she truly is. The mystery behind Red's Blacklist and the connection it has with Agent Keen's past are stories worth exploring, but it's their evolving relationship that keeps this series' heart beating. Sure, 'The Freelancer' has it's moments of thrilling chases and bone-shatering interrogations, but the strength of the show continues to be its two leading actors.
With the leads firmly in place, the series introduced us to some interesting new characters this week. Firstly, the lovely C.I.A. agent Margot Malik (Parminda Nagra), whom Red refers to as "Attractive, but treacherous." Reddington also brought in two of his own henchmen, which should balance out the new team nicely. The human trafficker posing as an activist was an enjoyable twist, but again, the national security threats were backdrops to the more interesting story of why Reddington is so interested in Agent Keen.
'The Freelancer' builds on the strong premiere by focusing on character development, before delving into the "case of the week" scenario. Near to the episode's conclusion, Red asked Lizzy what she plans on doing concerning her husband Tom and his double-life. The montage that followed showed us that for now, she is content with burying the secret. While watching her husband share his intimate thoughts about his wife to the adoption people, it appears that Liz is content with having a loving husband no matter what he's hiding.
Bokenkamp wraps up this week's episode by showing the viewer that Liz's assessment of Red at the restaurant in Montreal was correct. He's a man that is just as comfortable in a noodle house as he is in a French bistro, but does he "really" know any of the men he's laughing with? Will Agent Keen become his one true friend as the season progresses? We'll just have to wait and see.
The Blacklist continues with 'Wujing' next Monday @10pm on NBC.