Fair warning: this review is going to be positively lousy with spoilers. Which is appropriate, because this week’s episode of The Blacklist, “The Cyprus Agency” is positively lousy. While normally I save major spoilers for the end of a review to give you gentle readers time to vanish to avoid major twists, because the few salient points of “The Cyprus Agency” also rely on some knowledge of the big twist from “The Alchemist” (which, sadly, I was unable to review…suffice to say it was a middling episode), we’re going to have to jump right in. Anyway, on with the show…
Just a quick recap of my minimal criteria for a good Blacklist episode. I’m a rather forgiving audience, so all I really expect each week is a high-quality villain and maximum Red Reddington screen time. I’ve now added a third variable: minimal relationship time with Tom and Elizabeth. So, let’s get our first spoiler out of the way: “The Cyprus Agency” fulfills NONE of these, and even has the temerity to open with some adorable home-life nonsense with Tom and Elizabeth cooing over their impending adoption of a yet-to-be-born baby. In other words: we know right out of the gate that the events of this episode will derail this bit of domestic bliss, likely in the most spectacular way possible.
In short: The Cyprus Agency is a crooked adoption agency that delivers perfectly made-to-order children to adorably beaming foster parents. They’re so good at their job that they, of course, are up to no good. To be fair, the “no good” in question is horrifying to the extreme, but it’s played in such a heavy-handed “tonight, on a very special episode of The Blacklist” fashion that it will induce less sympathy and horror than eye-rolling and uncomfortable laughter. Even when Red is detailing how the Cyprus Agency operates, it’s in a deadly serious monotone, free of his usual wit…reminding the audience that this is no laughing matter.
How does the Cyprus Agency find such perfect children? By keeping tabs on exceptional young women, kidnapping them, keeping them sedated and in captivity (but also delivering chemically perfect prenatal care because…SCIENCE!), and then impregnating them. The babies are then delivered to the unwitting dupes, while any woman who manages to awaken from her chemically-induced coma is given a doctor-prescribed dose of hot lead by a dude with the most comically evil handlebar mustache seen on network television in three decades. He also drives an “unmarked panel van” that he apparently drove straight off the “Abductor’s Emporium” lot. This guy should get stopped at every third traffic light but instead has operated as the Agency’s kidnapper par excellence for years without incident.
So confident is he in his ability to skirt the boundaries of law and common sense that he continues with his abductions even when he knows that the FBI is investigating them! To answer your next question, yes, we do get the obligatory abduction-in-a-parking-garage sequence, because when we’ve hit this many cliches in such a short span, why not just go for it? It could only be better if he then tied his victims to railroad tracks while cackling madly.
Ah, but he’s not even the big bad of the episode! That is, of course, (SPOILER!) the squeaky clean head of the adoption agency. This soft-spoken, bespectacled, silver haired gentleman could only be more telegraphed as a criminal mastermind if they had put a priest’s collar on him to throw off viewer suspicion. His final reveal is beyond monstrous and vile, but his motivations are so hilariously melodramatic that it negates any real impact that the revelations about the scope of his deeds might have had, and the whole thing comes off feeling like a Lifetime original movie gone horribly wrong.
Need more? How about the revelation that Harold Cooper (the still criminally underused Harry Lennix) leaves his FBI ID card (which doubles as an access card for top secret computer records) unattended in an unlocked briefcase that light-fingered, shifty, newly eeeeevil Meera can casually boost, and then replace while his back is turned! Suddenly, Agent Cooper doesn’t look fit to be assistant director of my comic book collection, let alone an elite unit of FBI agents.
Perhaps I’ve got “The Cyprus Agency” all wrong. Perhaps it was all meant to be played for laughs. After all, in the first act, we got to see a crooked lawyer so panicked by the prospect of having to answer the FBI’s questions that he wanders into traffic and gets hit by a bus. And I don’t just mean “hit by a bus” in that you hear the screech of brakes and then the guy is toast…I mean “hit by a bus” in a manner that would make Wile E. Coyote proud.
“The Cyprus Agency” earns its single, solitary star in its final minutes, as Reddington confronts Diane at home while Gordon Lightfoot’s menacing “Sundown” plays. Normally I find The Blacklist‘s musical outros to be, at best, irritating, but here, much like the Johnny Cash tune in “The Good Samaritan Killer” it is a perfectly appropriate murder ballad. How The Blacklist could go from the near perfection of an episode like “The Good Samaritan Killer” to this utter dreck in the space of two episodes is a mystery worthy of Scooby-Doo.