As much as I like serialized story-telling, and as much as I do tweet length reviews of episodes, I almost never blog about an individual episode if it’s not a premiere (series or season) or a finale (series). It takes too much time, and while I love the idea of being able to do full recaps and analysis of episodes for maybe a single series, it isn’t in the cards anytime soon.
But last night’s episode of the Blacklist is surprisingly bad. Season 1 was awesome, and James Spader did a great turn as the master criminal turned FBI helper Raymond Reddington. “I will speak only with Elizabeth Keen” was a fantastic premise. Season 2 was weird, as it dealt with Keen getting close to Reddington but on the run from the evil Cabal. They are now in Season 3, they’re pretty much guaranteed a Season 4, and they are gearing up for the new spin-off, Blacklist: Redemption.
And maybe that infamous Season 3 slump has hit, or they’re busy working on the spin-off. But while the acting was fine for the episode, and it bopped along at a good pace, my internal editor couldn’t help but notice some glaring, overarching, beyond-the-pale flaws.
The episode is entitled the Forecaster, and basically it is a double-entendre where someone is “forecasting deaths”, and it works as a nickname for the eventual bad guy who is a stock broker/investor.
The episode opens with the cliché of Liz and Tom setting up house in their new apartment, which by the way, looks a lot like her OLD apartment, with only slightly different layout. It implied in the show it was new and different, but wasn’t entirely clear. Plus last week she was living in a warehouse because there were bad people still out there, this week there are no concerns and she can live anywhere normally. Umm, okay.
They have a scene where basically Liz says the standard lines about having a normal life, and then she opens up the door to find a diorama of a crime scene. It was obvious there was a punchline to her statements of a normal life, and it was telegraphed almost in slow motion.
Now the diorama is the key to the episode — someone has left it on her doorstep, maybe a killer taunting her to catch him. And it is supposed to be uber creepy. Except it looks like a kid’s bad artwork. Dioramas were a bit creepy when it was 10 years ago on the original CSI, now not so much.
Liz takes it into the FBI — carrying it herself into the office. No call for a forensics team to come check it out, she’ll just carry it in. Aram compliments her on her artwork, like it makes any sense for her to be doing a diorama of anything. Stupidest response ever. A second diorama shows up later, and Tom chases the person out of the building. Leaving the baby alone in the apartment. Literally, he gets all the way to the street and is starting to chase them before he thinks, “Oh, right, Alice is alone in the apartment.” 20 minutes after the viewer had the same thought. Actually they had it before he even left the apartment door…if he had stopped at the door, it would have been a good scene. Maybe the stairs. Nope, he went all the way out of the building and started down the street. Okay.
FBI saves the second victim, figures out who left the diorama, goes to confront them. Turns out she isn’t a taunting killer, she’s the mother of a 9yo girl who is having some sort of visions of the crimes. In great detail. Right down to the coffee cup on the table in one scene. Plus of course all the visions going back two years of 42 separate crimes, again in stunning detail, including people hanging out of windows and dropping babies to the ground.
The team investigates and realizes the girl has a special hearing aid, and what is really happening is that she’s hearing the killers on the phone planning the crimes. And she’s drawing it and doing dioramas.
Which is fine. Except she has details that the killers wouldn’t know until it happened — like how they fell, that the victim was carrying a special mug that she sat on a table, that babies would fall out of a building on fire, the way an accident scene would look between a train and a bus. Plus, it turns out the killer is basically doing it on contract — the big baddie is telling the assassin what to do. Again, they wouldn’t be discussing all the basic steps of how exactly to do the kill (not only is it unrealistic, it violates every “suspension of disbelief” for TV too). So the girl wouldn’t have as much detail as she does. No way, no how.
The bad guy has a mole on the inside…so they know the FBI is on to them, and it is a little girl with the info. The story implies they got it from the cops, but the cops wouldn’t know, the FBI wouldn’t tell them that detail. Whatever. The team patches into the frequency the killers are using, the assassin sees Liz looking at him with binoculars and knows Liz must be standing in the apartment of the girl, so he rushes over and kidnaps her. Why? No idea. He should have just killed her and moved on. Nope he’s kidnapping her. How does the FBI stop him? They turn up the volume on their own broadcast so that her hearing aid will hurt her and she’ll end up screaming out where she is. Right…so we hurt the kid to find out where she is, while also risking that the killer will now just kill her rather than kidnap her. Perfectly logical.
Fast-forward to another scene, and the mother is freaking out. She says, “I tried to do this anonymously, etc.”. Except she didn’t. The year before, she went to the POLICE and told them what was happening. So she didn’t try to do it anonymously to protect her daughter from the baddies. That’s why the baddies know who she is. Oh, yeah, they know, but the way the assassin figures it out is by seeing Liz.
Plus, at this point, the assassin appears both Jason Bourne-ruthless and smart, and then entirely dependant upon his boss to tell him what to do.
The denouement comes at a building where the baddie inside is going to crash an elevator and kill someone. So, Liz and Ressler arrive at a building, Liz goes in with the tactical team, and Ressler gets a brilliant idea. He goes to the building across the street and goes up to a floor directly across from where the killer is. Now, bear in mind he had to cross the street, enter a different building having no idea where he’s going, climb to the SAME level as the killer. Liz only had to go up the same distance in a building she had some guidance for. But Ressler beats the team to the same level. Ressler sees someone doing something across the street, through a dirty window, looks like welding or something, so Ressler pulls out his gun, breaks the window and SHOOTS BLINDLY into the other room. And there’s blood splatter back on the window. Why back? No idea. Why a lot of splatter at a pistol shot of over 50 feet? No idea. Why would he shoot having no idea what he’s shooting at, just guessing it’s the bad guy? No idea. But it “saves the day” sort of (actually Liz breaks in and hits the emergency stop on the elevator).
Meanwhile, the boss is getting away, and no one ever mentions the mole. And they got the bonus of hurting a kid, so there’s that. Yet let’s all celebrate.
Elsewhere in the episode, Reddington is doing some sort of complicated dance with a businessman who killed Reddington’s friend. Reddington is pitting the number 2 against the boss, and the boss against the number 2, all leading up to them trying to kill each other. And then Reddington kills the winner of that battle. Why bother? He got nothing out of the dance, it was just stupid theatre, really. And at the end, Liz sees the two new cleaners leaving. Later, Dengbe tells her that they were cleaners…Liz’s reaction? Oh, Reddington is punishing his former cleaner, Mr. Caplan, by using new cleaners. That’s her reaction. Dengbe just told her, and she’s an FBI AGENT AGAIN, that Reddington needed to have cleaners clean the apartment of at least one dead body, one she knows nothing about or why Reddington would have had to kill anyone this time (previous times she wasn’t happy about it but she knew why he was doing certain things), and her only reaction is to ignore that Reddington has killed someone else and ask if he’s punishing the former cleaner?
Good lord. How did I even give it 2 stars? Sure the pace and acting were fine, but blech for the rest.