[This is a review of The Blacklist season 3, episode 6. There will be SPOILERS.]
If there was ever any question whether or not The Blacklist wanted to be taken seriously or saw itself more as a silly romp, a goofy action show with a tendency for self-seriousness, then viewers need look no further than 'Sir Crispin Glover Crandall' for the answer. The episode is just gleefully dumb at every turn. It throws everything from reclusive billionaires to frozen geniuses to chained men locked in mortal combat into the patented Blacklist story blender and hits pulverize, winding up with a delightfully pulpy concoction that's easily digestible and utterly devoid of any real nutritional value.
The episode takes the continuing adventures of Red and Liz and does pretty much what 'Djinn' did: stall for time by focusing on a one-dimensional blacklister. That means Red does a bunch of stuff that appears to have a purpose, but really just makes most of the plot completely irrelevant. But at least Red gets to do something. Liz is so inconsequential to the episode her chief concerns are telling Dembe about the number of antioxidants in a cup of tea, wearing a blouse she apparently found in an old woman's attic, and taking a nap. It all adds up to an episode that is mostly place setting, an attempt to get The Director, The Cabal, and Karakurt right where the show needs them in order to relinquish Liz from her current status as a fugitive.
Perhaps because its intentions are so clear, 'Sir Crispin Glover Crandall' decides it's going to throw caution to the wind and spend a good chunk of the hour fixated on Crandall, a paper-thin Howard Hughes analogue who flies around the world on his giant airplane – sadly not called The Frosty Goose – abducting geniuses and cryogenically freezing them to build some sort of future utopia. The first abductee the show introduces is a paper-thin Stephen Hawking analogue, in case the audience wasn't sure what level of genius the show was hoping to convey. The interplay between abductee and abductor affords Crandall plenty of time for irrelevant exposition, which reveals he's building a frozen ark, matching geniuses in male and female pairs. Red confirms this in a very Blacklist-y way, having Red say, "Someone's building an ark, Lizzie. And populating it with some of the most brilliant minds of our time." Just let the hilarity of that sink in for a minute.
As it turns out, Red needs one of Crandall's abductees, a Belgian "econometrician" named Andras Halmi, who is apparently pretty tight with The Director, but not tight enough for The Director to know that he's been turned into an econometricicle. What Red needs the frozen Halmi for is saved for later because sometimes even The Blacklist knows when its preposterous cup runneth over.
With all the wonderful silliness going on, 'Sir Crispin Glover Crandall' surprisingly finds time to explore the new working relationship between Ressler's task force and The Director. After some accusations are thrown around about the task force willfully helping Red and Liz, it's clear this arrangement isn't working out so well for either party, so they both engage in some fun office pranks, like omitting key information in a debriefing and abusing tax dollars by sending a government plane to the wrong destination. It's no stapler in Jell-O, but that's definitely a win for The Cabal in the governmental office prank war.
Ressler's not one to take a prank like that sitting down – unless the fasten seatbelt sign is illuminated, in which case he lets Agent Navabi get up from her seat to tell the pilot to turn the plane around. At any rate, Ressler's been livelier this season, and having The Director in the office has invigorated him even more. His mission seems to be less about finding, capturing, and perhaps exonerating Liz, and more about just doing whatever Red asks of him as a way of irritating his new babysitter. It's not much in terms of development for the character, but at least he gets to do more than be utterly useless in the background for a change.
The episode is so scattered that it's not until after Red confronts Crandall aboard his plane and engages him with a very Red rant about gambling, how the present is a gift (or something like that), and how stealing geniuses isn't good for the environment, that it's revealed the whole episode hinges on the heist of a single safety deposit box. This heist helps explain a completely superfluous subplot about a bad chef and an obstinate building inspector, which ends with Red using two severed thumbs (taken from Halmi's cold, dead hands) to abscond with The Director's nest egg.
Of course, it wouldn't be a gleefully dumb episode of The Blacklist if Tom weren't involved in some ultra-violent shenanigans. Tom's tomfooleries begin when he wakes up in a back alley somewhere, chained to Asher and forced to fight to the death. It's all a part of his ultra-complicated (and bloody) plan to track down Karakurt, so any kind of body count is just a means to an end. Still, despite the bloodshed, it's clear Tom is basically a good guy because he whispers sweet nothings to Asher before jabbing a knife in his neck. Tom is nothing if not a polite and genial killer for hire.
Thankfully, with the place setting complete, The Blacklist has everything it needs to get Liz off the fugitive list and off of Red's couch. As nice as those naps have been, it's time for Lizzie to get her affairs in order.
The Blacklist continues next Thursday with 'Zal Bin Hassan' @9pm on NBC. Check out a preview below:
Photos: Peter Kramer/NBC