In a season all about Liz gaining tidbits of information just to run into roadblocks, this week's episode pushed the story toward its upcoming conclusion in a significant way. Liz finally learned — really, she remembered — that Ian Garvey is Damascus, and the man who murdered Tom.
On one hand, that's big news! Megan Boone has done a great job of personifying the changes in Liz's behavior to the point where a showdown between her and Tom's killer actually feels like a momentous occurrence and not another box to tick on the way to the season finale.
On the other hand, the end result — with Liz simply seeing Garvey in the street and subsequently remembering his role in Tom's murder — didn't exactly land with authority, and the path it took to get there was even more disappointing.
The Blacklist squandered the goodwill built up in the mid-season premiere with a stretch of okay-to-solid episodes featuring a lazy plot about turning the cop Singleton investigating Liz, only for Garvey to kill him here. The audience already knew that Garvey was a step ahead of Singleton, limiting any real impact the latter's death could have had. Singleton died to A.) make Garvey look smarter than Liz and B.) create that moment where Liz "figured it out."
We could tease that further. If this was how the show wanted to reveal Garvey to Liz, what was the true point of the time jump? It's totally fine to use that device for dramatic effect, but if it isn't going to have a real effect on the characters or the supposed mysteries, the ultimate result is, well, emptiness. That's not good storytelling, especially in the aftermath of a strong string of episodes for a lead character that experienced major trauma. Or a particularly great way to waste a really good performance from Boone, who even in this episode elevated material below her pointed work.
The bright side to all this is that The Blacklist has yo-yoed like this all season, and that it is, on the average, quite strong this season. The show has its masters to serve as a nominal procedural with a big James Spader performance at the center and at least 22 hours to fill. As the plot gets closer to the climax, it should narrow the focus to Liz, Red, and Garvey in a meaningful way. After five years of this stuff, Megan Boone has proven she's up to the task and, at worst, deserves material worthy of her performance.
The Blacklist airs Wednesday at 8/7c on NBC.