It turns out the main character of The Blacklist did not receive the death penalty by lethal injection. Who would have guessed?
With the shadow of Reddington's (James Spader) execution hanging over, last week's episode played like a culmination of sorts — for individual relationships and for The Blacklist's Season 6 storylines. The moments shared between Red and both Harold (Harry Lennix) and Liz (Megan Boone) gave the show an emotional heft it rarely achieves, to the point where even the newfound attention paid to a corrupt U.S. president couldn't drag the hour down.
But The Blacklist has to move forward from last week's cliffhanger, and from those wrenching conversations between key characters. Although there will surely be continued emotional fallout from Red's time in prison, the conclusion of the two-part "Bastien Moreau" leaned far more on the conspiracies and the cabals than the first part.
Presidential involvement in the show's long-running shadow group gives the show a new antagonist and promises to inch Red closer to heroic territory. The show's challenge is making the moments along the way feel dramatic when it's operating in well-treaded territory for shows like this. If this episode is any indication of what the back half of the season looks like, it might be a long march toward the White House.
It's disappointing but understandable that the show would move past Reddington in jail and/or on death row. That's an untenable situation for a show that was recently renewed for another season. Little moments in this episode — namely Red's confident declaration that he, in fact, knew nothing about the assassination attempt he claimed to hold secret intel on — illustrated what The Blacklist gains from having its lead character out of prison and in the mix with everyone else. Bringing the proverbial band back together is great.
What the show gave up to produce those moments, and to move into a new phase of the story, is not great.
The handling of Liz's so-called investigation into Red's identity and her parents has been baffling. There's parsing out pieces of a story to fit the 22-episode season and there's this troubling approach. Liz's motivations have gotten all mixed up, and only so much of that can be attributed to her legitimate connection to her fake father. In fact, her current decision to punt on the investigation would have been more powerful had the show committed to exploring the investigation more in the first place. Given the absolute certainty that the thread returns in some form — whether through a reveal that Liz was working Red and Ressler all along or a more earnest recommitment — the show has made Liz look silly yet again.
Meanwhile, the conspiracy angle has been given extra juice with the White House involvement. Yet the president and his aide aren't real characters, but monologuing evil cutouts for Red and the task force to eventually push over. There's no outcome that could hold real weight or impact the characters that the show truly cares about. If the task force takes down the president then, well, there's another season and so the cabal will reconfigure just enough to continue to pester. That evolution has already been established as fundamental to the cabal; why wouldn't it happen again?
Shows like this tend to believe that raising the stakes to the White House creates for more compelling TV. That's almost never the case. Dossiers, lists, jump drives — all those MacGuffins don't help either. It's simply frustrating to see the capabilities of The Blacklist in part one of "Bastien Moreau." Too often, the show wants to be the version visible in part two.
The Blacklist airs Fridays at 9/8c on NBC.