For all its mysterious posturing and shadowy factions, The Blacklist is at the core a procedural. Oftentimes the episodes that focus more on one-off cases are better than the "mythology" episodes. This is especially true when the show travels into speculative sci-fi stories that play like a low-calorie version of Fringe. This week's episode utilized all those elements. It was a mostly standalone task force affair, beyond Red (James Spader) trying to pack his jury with sympathetic citizens. The case involved murderous bugs that were attacking humans from the inside thanks to a mad entomologist. It even featured your favorite perfect stranger and mine, Mark Linn-Baker. Unfortunately, those disparate elements didn't quite come together to make an effective episode. "General Shiro" was the first effort of the season that felt like filler.
Of course, the bugs were creepy. Bugs are always creepy. Beatles pouring out of people's throats? Tremendously unsettling. The most honest version of this recap is probably just BUGS BUGS B U G S.
And of course, Linn-Baker was great as the jilted scientist hoping to prove that insects could fight back against the most destructive force Earth has ever seen: humans. The Blacklist trots out political messaging like this from time to time, but it didn't really go anywhere here. As usual, Linn-Baker's character was framed as both villainous and deranged. Any reference to government or corporate culpability in the planet's decimation of insect and plant life was muted by the normal machinations of a broadcast TV crime drama.
Elsewhere, the episode moved the ongoing Red court case forward through the aforementioned jury selection process. However, the tête-à-tête between Red and Sima (Ken Leung) didn't have as much zip here, mostly because of the rapid-fire editing between potential jury members. The one wrinkle was Glen's attempted jury manipulation, which ultimately backfired because, well, Glen can't help but run his mouth.
More than anything, it felt like the show was marking time to get to the more compelling material to come with the actual trial. Most of the task force is likely to be called to the stand. That could be fun, right?
Meanwhile, Liz (Megan Boone) and Dembe (Hisham Tawfiq) had a charged conversation in what was the episode's true standout moment. While Dembe is clearly loyal to Red above all else, he's also expressed that his mentor should come clean to his fake daughter. With Red trapped in a cell, there's room to explore the Liz-Dembe pairing, and for Liz to try to work Dembe into revealing parts of the "everything" he knows. This episode needed more of them, but hopefully future episodes will go that direction.
The Blacklist airs Fridays at 9/8c on NBC.