I can’t quite decide when The Blacklist is at its absolute best. Is it when Red is pulling all the strings in his own storyline as well as with the case of the week? Or is it when the case of the week operates as a separate entity, giving Elizabeth a chance to demonstrate that she is more than just a cute bob and the living equivalent of a mystery box? This week I have to say, I think it might be the latter, which I’ll admit, is something surprising for me to admit. This week’s case-of-the-week was the strongest of the season. Not so coincidentally it was also the most out-there case-of-the-week thus far.
The show writes governmental conspiracy — and conspiracy as a whole — well. The only other show that came close to legitimizing epic covert plots on this scale was The X-Files, and X-Files was quite a long, long time ago when you really think about it. I try not to. It makes me feel old as the hills. The strangeness of the show’s reality allows for Elizabeth to be less interesting than most procedural television anchors are. The only thing interesting about Elizabeth is her secret past, and, as of tonight’s episode, whatever she keeps locked up behind that door she was glaring at while knocking back the world’s hottest bottle of beer.
Dismantling the case of the deranged psychiatrist with a key to end shooting sprees (using the unorthodox and, you know, deranged technique of driving several patients to go on shooting sprees) took up the better part of the hour. Like any strong procedural, it was a compelling case. The good doctor compulsively ripping out tufts of his own hair and the nod to the current battle over gun control being waged in our country was a funny fusion of what you might see on cable or on a NCIS. Unfortunately, the most high-stakes scene, which involved Elizabeth going undercover to try and get information from the shrink, was also the least interesting scene.
Far more compelling was watching Red fix his ex-wife’s life as both Spader and Mary-Louise Parker continued to dangle the bait of Elizabeth’s real connection to Red for the audience. “I still love James Spader,” I announced to my roommate as he and Paul Reubens (who I will never tired of in his Monk-esque portrayal of Red’s syndicate ally) abducted the dog of the woman who was sleeping with Red’s ex’s husband. It was a great explanation of who Red is in case you ever in doubt. He may divorce you, but then he will make sure your cheating husband stops cheating, and also he will give you the former mistress’s dog: It’s kindness and cunning in equal measures.
Parker as Naomi Highland (who I really want to see more, always, and forever) really pissed on Elizabeth’s parade in the best way this week. She refused point-blank to give her any insight into the past, choosing instead to remind her that Red isn’t who he seems to be. This information is both obvious to us all (even the occasionally thick Lizzie) and totally unhelpful. It definitely makes you (and by you I mean me) wonder if Naomi picked up a thing or twelve from her former life as Mrs. Reddington, whatever else she might claim to be the case.