Spader’s ‘Blacklist’ Ditches Cops And Robbers Formula

The Blacklist continued to chop away at its third season last Thursday with episode five, “Arioch Cain.” The episode was monumentally exciting … if you bought into the premise that Elizabeth Keen (played by Megan Boone)—arguably the show’s most central character—was actually in danger of getting taken out by random assassins. Which, in all honesty, was just not going to happen, given that the whole point of this season is to show Keen’s quest to clear her name after being framed for heinous acts of terrorism. With the drama surrounding FBI criminal informant Raymond Reddington (the wonderful James Spader) and his dealings with traitorous associates and uncharacteristic narrow escapes from the claws of the enemy, the shows still elicits some jaw-dropping reveals that maintain the show’s tradition of striking audiences with the unexpected.

This week’s episode took a slight detour from the show’s usual premise of conveniently exploring relevant world issues through the eyes of a semi-procedural crime drama. Instead of focusing on diverse issues ranging from bioweapons to GMO’s to psychological experiments gone wrong, this week’s plot vehicle came in the form of the “Darknet”—the deepest, darkest corner of the Internet. So in contrast to the show’s usual tendency to bring up complex questions of morality and modern society, viewers were bombarded with a lot of technobabble, resulting in a hollowness that took away from the human drama of the episode. Granted, issues concerning cybersecurity are becoming increasingly relevant in a world bent on going paperless, but the episode’s use of it in the context of unbridled public vigilantism raised an eyebrow or two at the somewhat irrational storyline.

Many of the season’s intense myriad of plot complications boiled over this week, making room for the furthering of the storyline featuring the pervasive and malevolent organization, “The Cabal” in future episodes. After a few weeks of drama getting crammed into episodes like a can of sardines, however, the resolution of some of these storylines ended in a hailstorm of conveniently-timed gunfire. This did not exactly deliver the anticipated shocking resolution of problems that have plagued the show’s main characters to the point of paranoia.

Really, all this resolution did was bring the show back right where it started the season out, which is having FBI Agent Ressler (Diego Klattenhoff) chase down his former partner Keen, while she and Reddington try to take down The Cabal themselves. This sort of circuitous storytelling is to be expected to some degree, however, as the show has a full 22-episode season over which to stretch out the plot, and this method of writing allows the series to have more cohesive seasons.

Even with its notable flaws, the show’s amazing cast, including Spader, Boone, and Ryan Eggold (who plays Tom Keen), made the fairly predictable plot of the episode turn out to be immensely entertaining. Viewers were still startled by intense action sequences and chases, and left in suspense of how Keen and Reddington would stay ahead of their FBI and hit men pursuers. There was also the detached yet mysterious side mission of Keen, Elizabeth’s super-spy ex-husband, that caused viewers to question exactly how his storyline will tie into helping Elizabeth clear her name.

While this detached storyline could be viewed as a weakness of the show’s writing, it could also be drawing attention back to that all-important human drama that pulls audiences into the story. Really, Tom is functioning as that character that viewers hope succeeds, even though his success in winning the good graces of Elizabeth will entail his performance of some pretty dastardly deeds (such as the episode’s disturbing closing scene of a street thug’s cold, bloody corpse crammed into the trunk of Tom’s car… yikes).

Although last week’s episode gave a lot of screen time to temporary plot developments, one can bet the farm that large numbers of viewers will be glued to their TVs on Thursday night to see The Blacklist’s beloved characters continue to fight for matters of global and personal justice. In a sea of television shows centered around themes of crime and personal discord, The Blacklist continues to make good on its promise to viewers of an hour of thrilling and thought-provoking television, even if a handful of its plot twists occasionally give viewers a sense of deja vu.

Featured Image By Sony Pictures Television