[This is a review of The Blacklist season 1, episode 15. There will be SPOILERS.]
It should be noted that while The Blacklist works to find a consistent level of interest and intrigue from week to week, the writer and producers are at least aware the power of a familiar face. The series has welcomed many a guest star since the beginning of the season, and while few have stuck around for much longer than it takes for Raymond 'Red' Reddington to spoon feed Agent Keen the necessary information she'll need to either arrest someone or justify shooting them, the presence of a recognizable star generally affords the series a sense of validation it otherwise would not have.
This time around, 'The Judge' welcomes two-time Academy Award-winning actress Diane Wiest to the show, as one of two familiar faces used to augment a rudimentary story about elaborate vigilantism taking a corrupt legal system. And while it's terrific to see Wiest in a somewhat morally complex role (or as complex as things get on The Blacklist), the show's writers and producers should be commended for pulling out all the stops and also recognizing the power that is Lance Reddick in a gigantic cowboy hat worn without the slightest hint of irony.
Known by the clever moniker of the Cowboy, Reddick's role isn't terribly involved, but the lack of spotlight shone on his Stetson-wearing investigator – because any investigator worthy of Red's attention has to at least have a visual gimmick of some kind – means that he'll likely be around for one more episode, providing the series with all sorts of gravelly-voiced intrigue and…finding of things. Next week, Red loses his car keys and the Cowboy is the only man he can turn to! Actually, this time around, Red has tasked the Cowboy with tracking down the recent travel history of Lucy Brooks, a.k.a. Joelene (Rachel Brosnahan), in the hope of figuring out what she's up to, and, of course, uncovering the truth behind her interest in Lizzie's husband, Tom.
To be quite honest, the entire episode could have consisted to Lance Reddick rummaging through dresser drawers in that Stetson and 'The Judge' probably would have been about as entertaining. Wiest brings some respectability to the role of Ruth Kipling, a woman who listens to the pleas of innocent people who have been wrongly convicted by corrupt lawyers, judges, or detectives, and repays their erroneous sentence onto the wrongdoer. The premise is very much in keeping with The Blacklist. The Judge – as Wiest's character is called – is another figure of the underworld that the FBI has zero knowledge of, but has been avenging those wrongly convicted long enough to become legendary.
This time, though, her targets are Agent Cooper and Tom Connelly, for their role in coercing a confession from a known traitor, which later results in his execution. The nonchalant manner in which the series approaches a character being sentenced to death is one of several things the show just doesn't get right, but such concerns are quickly swept aside as Red predictably swoops in to save Cooper and Connelly's lives, only to use that as leverage to get what he wants later on – which of course he refuses to elaborate on. And that's what The Blacklist excels at: teasing the progression of plot while constantly providing as little as possible, just to keep people watching. The show is the exact opposite of Rachel Brosnahan's other series, House of Cards, which is essentially all about watching how much plot and scenery Kevin Spacey can consume in the span of 13 episodes.
At least Brosnahan's Joelene manages to get a confession out of Tom that confirms Red's allegations against him. If nothing else, outing Tom as some sort of deep cover agent or assassin will put an end to the listless back-and-forth between him and Lizzie regarding their wafer-thin marriage and his incessant need to adopt a child. When it comes to procedural television series, the allusion to change can be a good thing; but in the case of The Blacklist, it's completely necessary.
The Blacklist continues in 2 weeks with 'Mako Tanida' @10pm on NBC. Check out a preview below: