The Blacklist continues to spiral downward as the series passes the halfway mark of season two.
Let’s bitch it out…
Thus far, S2 of The Blacklist has been a major disappointment, bordering on disaster. S1 was far from perfect, but at least the questions about Tom’s (an unseen Ryan Eggold) allegiance and the mystery of Lizzie’s (Megan Boone) relationship with Red (James Spader) carried many of the lesser episodes. We’re now halfway through the second season and all we’ve gotten is the lacklustre resolution of the Berlin storyline and the beyond-disappointing Super Bowl twofer (I II). At this point The Blacklist is dangerously close to blowing all of the goodwill it generated last season. Episodes like ‘The Kenyon Family’ are symptomatic of the show’s failures.
Let me be blunt: I didn’t care about anything that happened in this episode. There were no saving graces – it was literally 42 minutes of filler, packed with characters that we’ll never see again, failure to abide by the rules of continuity and filled with even more instances of Lizzie acting like an uber-bitch than usual. Even the reliably enjoyable Spader seemed to phone this one in. In lieu of wasting my time (and yours) administering a legitimate review, here are the five biggest complaints I continue to have about the show:
- Case of the Week: Longtime readers of the site know that I have an aversion to procedural episodes. That doesn’t mean that I can’t find pleasure in them, however (I look forward to both The Good Wife and Elementary each week despite the fact that both shows regularly feature one-off court and murder cases). ‘The Kenyon Family’, on the other hand, is representative of the worst approach to the case of the week format; it is simultaneously boring and unimportant. The polygamist cult storyline is an overly familiar storyline from countless other shows and movies and, most problematically, The Blacklist makes no effort to do anything new or different to distinguish it. Nothing that happens on that mountain has any impact and these events will never be discussed again. It’s the equivalent of watching 40 minutes that simply don’t matter. The cherry on top is that there’s literally nothing worth highlighting here: no memorable guest star, no interesting commentary and no significant character development. It is just fluff.
- Where is the mythology? One of the reasons that procedural shows are so popular is because they allow audiences to dip in and out without being completely thrown off by continuing storylines (compare the accessibility of late seasons of Lost compared to long-running procedurals like NCIS, CSI and many CBS comedies). My issue with The Blacklist this season is that it rarely contains any mythology. The Super Bowl episodes barely contained any information aside from the reference to the Fulcrum and the fire from Lizzie’s childhood. Granted those episodes were intended to draw in new audiences, but two weeks later there have been barely any new developments. I mean, a substantial portion of this episode is Red verbally sparring with the weird guy from the DMV! WHO CARES?!
- Lack of continuity: The Blacklist exists in a bubble, so there’s no sense of time passing between episodes (it could be as little as a few days or as long as months – we simply don’t know). What bothers me most about the latest spate of episodes is the extreme lack of lasting effects on characters. It’s not unusual to hit the reset button because it would be extremely dull to watch these agents spend weeks recovering from injuries sustained on their missions, but ‘The Kenyon Family’ has two distinct instances of implausibility: Samar (Mozhan Marnò) was nearly killed two episodes ago in the Super Bowl two-parter, yet she has no residual wounds or issues. And within this episode, Ressler (Diego Klattenhoff) is dragged behind a motorcycle through the forest and suffers exactly zero injuries. The show has no stakes – anything that happens to these characters is completely forgotten by the next episode.
- Lack of characterization: But wait, you might be thinking – what about Harold’s (Harry Lennix) illness? The director of the task force was quietly diagnosed with some kind of cancer back near the start of the season and this episode’s C-plot examines his efforts to get into an experimental drug trial. But that’s not development because we don’t have any investment in his health. Despite admiring Lennix (mostly from his time as an actual character on Dollhouse) Harold Cooper leaves me completely cold. Who is he? Why do we care whether he lives or dies? He and the other task force members – all save Lizzie – remain one-dimensional figures that exist solely to walk through the procedural motions. It’s hard to get excited about the show when 75% of the cast could be jettisoned out the airlock with virtually no impact (prime example: Meera and Samar are basically the exact same character. They shouldn’t be interchangeable!)
- Lizzie: Anyone who has read these reviews also knows that my hate for Megan Boone’s Lizzie seemingly knows no bounds. I don’t dislike the actress, but there’s something about the combination of her acting choices and the writing of the character that I find immensely off-putting. Her actions in the last batch of episodes make her seem like a petulant, spoiled bitch and since the show rests entirely on the interplay between her and Red (because it has no other worthwhile characters) the show’s main selling point is a complete slog now. Lizzie was the weak link in the first season because she was naive, foolish and passive and yet somehow this new abrasive, entitled version of the character is worse. I never thought I was yearn for the return of S1 Lizzie and yet here we are!
Your turn: are you feeling The Blacklist this season? Have the Super Bowl and beyond episodes been weaker than usual? Is there anything redeeming about Lizzie? Do you care about any of the supporting cast? Do you care about the Fulcrum or any other aspect of the show’s supposed mythology? Sound off below.
I’ll give the show one more chance next week, but this could be the beginning of the end of the coverage for this show unless something very unexpected occurs.
The Blacklist airs Thursdays at 9pm EST on NBC. Maybe the return of Tom will return the show to its former (semi) glory?