The game is back on. After a string of mostly standalone episodes, The Blacklist eased back into its season-long concerns this week. Reddington (James Spader) and Liz (Megan Boone) were back to telling half-truths and scheming against one another. Ilya (Brett Cullen) has seemingly gone into hiding. Ressler's (Diego Klattenhoff) brother emerged with ominous threats about the past. Katarina (Laila Robins) finally reappeared, to strike Red where it really hurts — by going after Dembe (Hisham Tawfiq). And to top it off, Red collapsed and fell unconscious in suspicious circumstances. Business has certainly picked up as the show turns toward the back third of the season.
The wrinkle is that most of this happened in the last seven minutes of the episode. While it was an action-packed final few moments, "Nyle Hatcher" spent most of its running time on another offbeat criminal case that ultimately didn't feel weird enough.
This week's Blacklister crafted a scheme to make money and, seemingly, get back at the one-percenters of the world by A) infiltrating accidents and crime scenes, B) extracting semen from the dead bodies of rich men, C) convincing sex workers with financial troubles to be inseminated with said Dead Man's Semen, and D) blackmail the dead men's family for money. It's perhaps the best "Step 4: Profit" meme come to life, and more importantly, the right kind of pseudo-science and pseudo-political plot that The Blacklist does well.
Yet, the execution of the story didn't have enough juice (pardon the pun). Hatcher's sad man energy wasn't particularly compelling given the degree of insanity clearly driving his actions. I mean, the man had a 2-quart coffee thermos of semen stored in a locked freezer. The big swerve at the end of the episode — that Hatcher decided to keep all the children he helped "create" over the years because he was lonely — didn't have much impact. In fact, that seemed like a decently humane action. Simultaneously very weird and not weird enough.
The episode's other primary story saw Dembe's ashram come under attack and imam kidnapped, an act eventually revealed to be Katarina's doing. Going after Dembe is perhaps the easiest way to get to Red, but perhaps Katarina had a secondary plan too: poisoning Red.
If true, that event sets up some interesting choices for Liz. She wants to work with her mother to find the truth, but will she approve of Katarina terrorizing an innocent imam, manipulating Dembe, and/or poisoning Red? And how might that impact her ongoing pursuit of whatever Ilya is hiding — or perhaps better said, covering up for Red? Once again, Liz is stuck between her desire for information and her affection for her fake dad.
That should make for good TV very soon. It's time for The Blacklist to really get back to that.
The Blacklist airs Fridays at 8/7c on NBC.