[This is a review of The Blacklist season 1, episode 12. There will be SPOILERS.]
For all the pots The Blacklist has slowly simmering away, the show isn't too concerned about throwing a few more on the stove, either as a way to keep things interesting or to delay looking into the larger mysteries regarding Red's intentions with Liz, and, of course, his warnings to her about Tom. Since the series headed into the 'Anslo Garrick' storyline and introduced Alan Alda's Fitch, as well as the threat of a mole inside the FBI's blacksite from which Red operates, those once-primary concerns have been pushed into the background, no doubt so that they can become focal points when the season nears its conclusion.
One benefit to this approach of bringing in new plots and characters, or redefining them to generate intrigue, is the way it keeps the audience on their toes. So, when Red appeared in Agent Malik's apartment at the end of 'The Alchemist,' asking if she knows why he's there, to which Malik replies, "You're here to kill me…because I am the mole," that's definitely an intriguing way of ending an overstuffed episode of The Blacklist. Now, it doesn't seem likely that Red will actually kill Malik, considering the bloodletting he already engaged in during the mid-season premiere last week, which resulted in the death of his close associate Newton Phillips. Besides, with everyone else responsible for the leak ostensibly taken care of, perhaps Red plans to use Malik to lure out those in the upper echelons of whatever conspiracy the show is hinting at with Alan Alda and his supposed cabal of super criminals who want to see Red disposed of.
Like any significant reveal, Malik's apparent deception comes with its own series of questions that will require her to either become an asset and reveal them, or die to protect the answers. And just so the audience doesn't fixate too much on a mystery the show may not be willing to unravel right away, 'The Alchemist' has enough going for it on the sidelines to propel several episodes, let alone a single one about a mad scientist – er, "artist," who paints in "blood" and "saliva."
The Alchemist is certainly one of the nuttier names on the blacklist, but his methodology and obsession with his family makes for a nice enough backdrop to the baby shower that's interrupted not only by Liz and Tom's fight over her reluctance to even adopt a child, but also by the arrival of Jolene (at least that's what she says her name is, as she bears a striking resemblance to someone named Lucy, whom Red was looking into just a few episodes ago), who quickly takes a shine to Tom, after Liz is called back to work. Given Jolene's potential connection to Red, and his distrust of Tom, there's definitely something being cooked up here beyond the threat of infidelity. Perhaps Red's setting a simple honey trap, or it's an attempt to force Tom into some kind of reveal. Perhaps it's something much worse.
Ultimately, there's probably more speculative material thrown into a single episode than there needs to be, but with a show like The Blacklist, it seems to work better when all the various elements are swirling around so fast it's hard to pinpoint which one isn't working. Unless, it's Ressler and his ex-girlfriend, because unless she's some super spy that Red isn't aware of or otherwise doesn't care about, everyone can see that plot's going nowhere fast.
The Blacklist continues next Monday with 'The Cypress Agency' @10pm on NBC. Check out a preview below: