[This is a review of The Blacklist season 1, episode 19. There will be SPOILERS.]
Too often, The Blacklist is forced to divide its time unevenly between the plotting of Elizabeth Keene's increasingly awkward and dangerous domestic situation with husband/operative Tom, and the often banal, auxiliary storyline granting the series the procedural element that gives Ressler, Cooper, and Malick something to do. Generally, then, Red falls somewhere between the two, often participating as an omniscient observer, adviser, or all-powerful Svengali, depending on how interested the episode is in advancing the story around him.
For its part, 'The Pavlovich Brothers' was touted as "the episode you cannot miss," promising some kind of interaction between Liz and Tom that would finally bring questions of what he's been up to and why to light. The confrontation between the two has been a long time coming, as the series has spent most of the season in a state of overemphasized suspense, doling out revelations piecemeal, in an effort to, among other things, establish talking points about the series via a central mystery that offers an incentive to watch beyond the procedural and titular blacklist elements.
If ever there was an episode that could have allowed the series its chance to break away from the procedural, this was it. And for the most part, The Blacklist took that opportunity and ran with it.
In that sense, a surprisingly small portion of the episode actually focuses on the titular brothers Pavlovich and the scientist they kidnapped, due to her connection to a germ warfare program that sounds like it took its name from a '70s disco outfit. Unless White Fog somehow factors into the larger storyline, the brothers' plotline is about as ancillary as can be, seeing as their principal function here briefly shifts from packaging a woman in a shipping container, to providing Red with the means to capture Tom and deliver him to Liz. Of course, all of this is before the brothers are ultimately dispatched in a shootout with Ressler and the FBI.
The Liz and Tom showdown is the centerpiece of the episode and to the writers' credit, they at least moved past the issue of the characters hiding their knowledge of one another, to outright confrontation. Liz's interrogation of her fake husband admirably takes a swing at demonstrating the effect such a grand scale deception might have on a person. But, in a manner indicative of the difficulties The Blacklist has previously had in pinpointing the emotional core of its characters, the scene bunts, resorting to Tom blankly spouting, "I was doing my job," while Liz's shakes the series to its core by revealing not only did she never like Tom's pancakes, she hates pancakes in general!
"This is an end," Red tells Liz, finding her bruised and alone, pondering Tom's insistence that he's one of the good guys. The episode may have been an ending of sorts, but it's not a conclusive one – which actually works out to be a good thing for The Blacklist, as Tom's parting gift is yet another suspense-building mystery, itself promising to reveal some truth about Red (a shocking distaste for deviled eggs, perhaps?) that will alter his mysterious relationship with Liz forever.
While the efficacy of continual suspense building in lieu of greater, more meaningful story progression likely depends on the viewer's level of engagement in the characters outside of Red (i.e., Liz and Tom), 'The Pavlovich Brothers' does at least offer one of the series' better examples of mashing its two primary elements together. We're no closer to the show demonstrating it is really about something, but one has to applaud The Blacklist for at least sticking to its guns and choosing to jump from mystery to mystery while it figures that out.
The Blacklist continues next Monday with 'The Kingmaker' @10pm on NBC. Check out a preview below: