So what would you
do if you’re on the run from the authorities? What would you do to disappear?
Well, tonight on The Blacklist, you’ve got your answer-
how about a man that can take your DNA and transplant it into someone else’s
DNA, with the other person getting killed? Since the other person has your DNA,
the authorities will be fooled into thinking it’s really you that had been offed, when in reality you’ll be watching the
news laughing at those incompetent fools before crying all the way to bank once
you realize how much you paid for this endeavour.
…but hey…what’s the
price of freedom?
The episode begins
with The Alchemist doing his work. He’s got some busty blonde in his sights,
and it looks like they’re going to have a fun time…but what’s this? She’s going to pass out? Dude…she’s totally into
you, taking advantage of her when she’s unconscious just isn’t cool. Of course,
sex isn’t The Alchemist’s goal- he needs a body where he can transplant DNA to,
and this bodacious blonde seems just the right fit.
After the blonde
passes out, we cut to a scene where she’s wearing some hideous
Dalmatian-inspired dress (that’s the best way I could describe it), complete
with really pale skin, some thick lips and jet black hair. Oh, and she just
happens to be on a jetliner, with some dude she’s never met before.
Understandably, she’s delighted at this occurrence (before anyone raises a
quibble, yes that is sarcasm). This man, too, is wondering what the heck is
going on, since he’s been transformed into some guy with tattoos (didn’t know
The Alchemist was a tattoo artist too) and much tanner skin than he’s
accustomed to. However, before the two erstwhile lovebirds can realize what’s
going on, they meet The Alchemist, who’s taken- presumably- the aircraft’s only
parachute and launched himself out of the plane. We then pan to the lady
screaming, the man being dragged out of the plane by the wind created by the
door being open aloft and the pilots hunched over their chairs, presumably
dead. We then see the cockpit window showing the ground getting ever so closer,
leaving little to the imagination about what’s going to happen to that poor
Of course, the
savvy viewer will wonder why neither of the two doomed passengers ever thinks
to try to grab control of the plane or why the aircraft seems to have just one
parachute (how did that pass Federal Aviation Association standards?)…but then
we’re reminded that this is a television show and any pretense of realism was
shown the minute we turned it on.
Anyway, we then cut
to the scene where the Federal Bureau of Incompetents (because the FBI on this
show display the average intelligence and awareness of your local village
idiot) brief each other over coffee and copious amounts of donuts (okay, I’m
exaggerating…there are no donuts) about the plane crash, revealing that the
pair that died were really mobsters that have been FBI fugitives for years! The
viewer knows better (and, presumably, the viewer also knows that hiring someone
like The Alchemist seems useless since there’s no way the FBI in this universe
could catch anything other than a cold), so who’s going to be the one to show
the FBI what’s really going on?
Raymond “Red” Reddington. The only person on this show that seems to have any
kind of clue about what’s going on, and maybe the only character that makes
this show worthwhile…but, I digress.
We first see Red
meeting with his “people” still trying to find the mole that led Anslo Garrick
to the FBI headquarters back in November, with Red pulling up garbage bags upon
garbage bags of shredded FBI documents, and, in a classic Red move, he gets his
cronies to open each of those bags and piece every last one of those documents
together. Red’s minions are understandably overjoyed at this task, but Red isn’t
too concerned about their feelings toward the project- he, too, is worried
about The Alchemist.
So he meets with
Elizabeth Keen inside of a Church and…wait, is he wearing a kippah? So does
that mean that Red is a religious man? Or does his arrogance know no bounds in
that he believes he’s some kind of “servant” to the LORD in that by targeting all
these criminals on “The Blacklist” he’s doing God’s work? Time will tell us…or,
as I predict, this whole sequence will be forgotten and four years down the
road it will all be contradicted. I don’t trust the writers of this show to be
good enough to remember such details down the road when inside their own
episodes they miss a lot of details…but hopefully I’m wrong.
Anyhow, Red meets
with Keen and explains to her that The Alchemist has ways of manipulating DNA
and the teeth of his murder victims so that they can appear to be the fugitives
he’s trying to hide. Red doesn’t delve into the process much, only describing
some kind of process where one’s blood is substituted for another person’s
blood, which seems a bit iffy a proposition if you ask me, but for the sake of
entertainment, I let it go.
This leads to the
FBI to realize their mobsters are really still alive, so they fly out to Hungary
(where the mobster lives) in an effort to catch him. They do that, but for some
mysterious reason, decide that locating his wife isn’t important (despite her
being a wanted woman too). We see the wife- in what must be the worst Hungarian
accent I’ve ever heard (note to the director: the Hungarians have absolutely no relation to the Slavs (e.g. Russians,
Poles, etc.)- they’re more closely related to the Turks, so a Turkish accent
would have been much better)- confronting The Alchemist, understandably asking
him how, despite his work, the FBI found her husband. The Alchemist decides he
doesn’t have time for the wife’s questions and shoots her dead, which makes him
look to be rather rash in his judgements making one wonder how he had the
patience to transform all of his victims…but, again, I digress.
We then see the
husband in FBI custody, talking with Donald Ressler. Ressler, as is par for the
course in the FBI, is getting nowhere with the husband, who promptly asks to
speak to his wife and his lawyer. A frustrated Ressler relents, giving way to
the husband’s lawy…wait, what’s this? Is
The Alchemist pretending to be the husband’s lawyer? The husband isn’t
fooled, but The Alchemist doesn’t flinch- the husband, in a panic, asks for one
of The Alchemist’s nicotine gums, which The Alchemist is only too happy to give
him. It’s revealed that this gum was really a poison (which raises the question
about how The Alchemist can manufacture twelve identical gum pieces and the gum package in time to meet with
the mobster husband), and the husband falls dead. It’s here that The Alchemist
beats an escape somehow.
Normally, I’d say
this is another case of FBI tomfoolery but in this instance it is justified-
The Alchemist likely has forged documents allowing him to fake being a lawyer
and since the situation really doesn’t call for a thorough background check,
The Alchemist can slip by undetected. Still doesn’t excuse the other errors the
FBI seems to make on a routine basis on this show, but at least for once one of
their mistakes is an understandable one.
Meanwhile, back at
the FBI headquarters, the investigation on who the murdered victims really are
reveals that the blonde (identified through bone marrow records, which casts
further doubt that this “blood exchange” method of The Alchemist could really
work) met The Alchemist through a dating website. The FBI’s resident technical
analyst, Aram Mojtabi, explains that although the dating profile doesn’t reveal
his actual name, it reveals his actual face, which is forwarded to the agents
Ressler sees that
the “lawyer” he let in was really The Alchemist, but it’s too late- the deed is
already done. The team then digs a little bit more into The Alchemist’s online
alias, revealing that he’s really an estranged father to a daughter and a wife
that seems awfully terrified of him. The kicker? The daughter, a young girl,
just recently got diagnosed with diabetes, which you can bet will come back up
once the show is finished.
Despite this nugget
of info, Keen and Ressler don’t find much, digging through The Alchemist’s lab
but finding nothing but a sheet of plastic paper with some random numbers on
it. That’s either crafty of our criminal, or sloppy. I go with the latter-
clearly this guy isn’t meticulousness enough to bother cleaning his lab out
thoroughly, since you’d think a serial number (as that’s what the sheet of
paper clearly is) would be something important to keep hidden.
Then again, maybe
our Alchemist is savvy, since our
hapless agents run around in circles in their minds trying to figure out what
the numbers mean- we hear Ressler posit that these could be part of a bank
account serial number. Seriously Ressler? How’d you get your badge? Since when
is a bank account serial number
printed on a white, plastic-coated, strip of paper in thick black font?
It takes Red- who
seems to know crime fighting a lot better than the people actually tasked with crime fighting- reminding Keen about her job
as a profiler (which she should have some mastery over after five months on the
job) to figure out what the audience already knows. Since The Alchemist is a “lab
rat” according to Keen, that serial number is part of a serial number for a
microscope The Alchemist bought, which is evidence enough to get an arrest
warrant out for him.
The Alchemist is
already planning his next move, having invited a young blonde woman out for a “casting
call” that we all know is fake. This woman, showing her superior intellect,
thinks it’s a wonderful idea to take a ride from a man who only informs her
that the call has been relocated- she does nothing to verify that this man
actually works for the studio that
she’s supposed to be auditioning for.
another question- did the actress not drive
to the event? Why couldn’t she use her own car to get to the new location?)
woman is on the gurney, affixed with black hair, pale skin and drugged beyond
recognition. We then cut to a scene where the aspiring actress is found dead
next to a body of a young girl, both shot. This time, Ressler and Keen know
right away exactly what’s going on- The Alchemist has kidnapped his family and
is on the run- so they try desperately to find him before it’s too late.
How do they find
him? Remember when I said the diabetes diagnosis would come in handy later?
Well, Aram, ever the intrepid one, informs us that the daughter’s insulin pump
has a radio transmitter on it, useful for if it ever gets lost. They use it to
locate the family, who stopped at a gas station just outside of town. The
result is a standoff with the SWAT team and the now cornered Alchemist, and
despite Keen trying to intervene and negotiate the peaceful surrender of The
Alchemist, the SWAT team still manages to shoot the criminal in the back. It’s
still possible that The Alchemist could live through the bullet wound, though,
so perhaps not everything is lost for Keen.
Keen manages to get
a list of all the criminals The Alchemist made “disappear”, which she passes on
to Red. Red, without looking at the list, puts it into his pocket, which
surprises Keen. Red informs her that he’ll have a look at it later, but right
now he has “some business to take care of”.
It’s here where we
see Meera Malik, alone in a room with Red. Red’s men had figured her out to be
the mole based on piecing together the documents the FBI discarded, and Malik
believes that Red is meeting her to kill her. The episode ends before we find
out her fate.
Another side story
in this episode sees Keen’s husband- Tom- get frustrated with Liz’s lack of
commitment to the marriage, starting to take things into his own hands. During
a baby shower where Liz reveals that she won’t take maternity leave- which,
despite agreeing to it, is a sign for Tom that Liz isn’t interested in the
marriage, a notion that gets Liz understandably upset- Tom meets “Jolene” (an
alias for a person we saw earlier was someone Red was keeping tabs on), who tells
him that the two of them need some “spice” in the marriage. She tells him about
a photography exhibit where an artist takes pictures of married men while she
has sex with them, which Tom founds outrageous. Tom is intrigued by this woman,
so, despite his insistence that a photography exhibit isn’t a thing the Keens
would go out for, he tries to make Liz go to this exhibit anyway. Liz promises
another idea for a date, but, after several failed attempts to have that date-
because of her work- Tom decides to go to the exhibit alone, and the storyline
ends with Liz bringing home Chinese takeout to an empty house.
Part of this side
story has Ressler reconnecting with his estranged fiancé, with his coming to
terms with her impending marriage to another man. He can’t stand the thought of
them together but he doesn’t want to be selfish, so he tells her that he’s
happy for her. However, in a twist that gives Ressler a happy ending, his
estranged fiancé tells him that ever since she saw him in the hospital she
couldn’t stop thinking about him, so she ended the engagement with the other
man. Ressler is flummoxed but delighted, and the two of them proceed to have a
very weak material to work with, Diego Klattenoff did very well as Agent
Ressler. He’s come a long way since the pilot where he was wooden and stiff, as
tonight he brought out the emotional nuances that brought his character to
life. If only he could get some decent writing.
-Amir Arison was
again his quirky self as Aram Mojtabi, proof that he should promoted to series
again, was excellent, as his ability to humanize what must be the world’s most
vile criminal amazes me. What really shone for me tonight was the kippah, and
here’s hoping the show doesn’t shy away from the religious reference- there’s
so much narrative potential in having Red be a devout religious follower
because it opens so many new perspectives onto the character
-Ryan O’Nan did a
good job as The Alchemist, making him smarmy but purposeful as well. You could
tell that, despite his questionable morals, The Alchemist still had human
motivations, and that was to eventually rebuild his life and rebuild his family
-I did like,
despite the fact that “Elizabeth Keen places work over her family” is a clichéd
storyline (but, unfortunately, way
too common in real life), at least we’ve got an interesting variation on it.
Tom is obviously going to stray from Liz, but this won’t be some random affair-
Jolene wants something from him, if not from Liz as well, and I’m curious to
find out what that is.
-Also, given the
above, it’s great to see a law enforcement worker- Ressler- reconnect with his
significant other, instead of losing it as so often happens in shows like this.
At least The Blacklist shows that it
wants to give its characters happiness, even if it is just fleeting.
-Spader, for all
his good works, wasn’t featured that much in this episode, which is a shame.
Red is really the only reason this show is a hit, and while I like that Keen and
Ressler got more of a spotlight tonight, the show cannot forget what drives it.
-Usually, I like
Elizabeth Keen because Megan Boone brings out the nuances in her character and
makes her a lot more rounded than the writing makes her out to be. However,
tonight Boone was flat and it showed. Since Boone and Klattenoff were expected
to carry the load tonight, Boone’s average performance was noticeable,
derailing the episode a bit. The frustrating part is that both actors have
shown that they can rise to the occasion if need be, so hopefully the next time
Red gets a reduced role in the episode (which hopefully won’t be for a while)
they’ll be up to the task
-I wonder about the
mechanics of the crime on tonight’s show. While I do know that DNA can be
manufactured and altered, I’m not sure the way The Alchemist does it would work
in real life. While I get that he doesn’t likely care about the survival of the
substitute, simply substituting someone’s blood for someone else’s blood would
cause noticeable complications in the skin (if they have the wrong blood type)
and would likely be counteracted by the new blood created by the bone marrow,
creating more complications physically. While I appreciate the fact the show at
least tried to explain the crime, this may have been a case where “less is more”,
with the explanation for how it works being some kind of “novel” project only
The Alchemist knows how it works, especially considering that, story-wise, The
Alchemist’s motivations were far more interesting
-The bumbling FBI…yeah,
this criticism is getting old, but how many times must I suspend my disbelief
watching people who are supposedly educated make the dumbest of mistakes? The
FBI doesn’t have to be the one solving the crimes, but it would be nice to know
that, every now and then, they display the competency that is expected with a
job like theirs
-Still not sold on
Ryan Eggold’s participation. Tom Keen always seemed to be nothing more than a
peripheral character on the show, and, up until now, his presence really didn’t
add much to the episodes. Having said that, now that he’s got a meaty storyline
to follow, I’m willing to give him a chance to see what he can do on the
-Meera Malik: I don’t
like the thought that she’ll be offed, so I’m hoping she gets the Aram
treatment and we find out that she’s been framed too, since she’s too good a
character (and Parminder Nagra too good an actress) to discontinue. However, if
the show does go that route, I hope Malik leads to the real mole, because I’m
not sure how much more misdirection I can take.
The Verdict: B-
It was a good
episode, all things considered. A lot of kinks still need to get worked out, as
the writing is still subpar but, at least, the staff have still shown to be
competent enough to have a “sum of its parts” be entertaining despite its
flaws. I do also like the narrative potential of Tom-Jolene and it’s great
that, for once, someone in law enforcement is reconnecting with their significant
other instead of losing them, and, with Malik being involved, the Red vs. the
U.S. government arc seems to be in full swing, so there’s lots to look forward
to on the second half of the season.
Labels: TV Ratings