The Blacklist Season 1 Review “The Judge”

The Blacklist Episode 15 The Judge (1)

A few days late (and definitely several dollars short), but I’m now ready to discuss this week’s episode of The Blacklist. Rain, snow, DVR playback issues, or a 12 year imprisonment could keep me from my appointed rounds.

Action thrillers are an interesting medium these days. There seems to be a few ways to go about it. You can either take it super seriously (typically not the best route), or you can embrace the inherent ridiculous of the proceedings and throw the money team at it to make it better than it needs to be. Currently in theaters people can watch how to embrace the absurdity while dressing it up in fancy clothes with Liam Neeson(s) Non-Stop. It takes a fantastically absurd premise and just throws quality people at it until it works in a fantastically absurd way. Similarly, Con-Air applied that same strategy to box office and cable repeat success. If done correctly, the absurd can be entertaining. However, too many shows and movies in recent memory are too busy trying to be dark and serious instead of entertaining and fun. Without the personalities to carry those types of shows, super serious versions of action thrillers often drown in their own solemness. The Blacklist is a show that can spin off in either direction based on the group structure of the episode. When Red is on the outskirts of a case, existing primarily through phone calls and off site meetings, the show drags because the show is trying its best to make Liz Keen the biggest buzzkill on earth (Klatenhoff’s inherent woodenness cannot be overcome by writing). As a result, tonight’s episode, which had the makings of a ridiculous good time, turned into a boring treatise about the nature of justice and how to care for other human beings imprisoned in a horse barn.

As a television viewer who appreciates absurd premises executed in wink-wink fashion, I was all-in when Red was spouting his revenge myth nonsense. If the show turns Spader loose on this episode, it could really have been dynamic. Instead, Red went off to investigate “Jolene” (more on her in a bit) and left our two downtrodden heroes to do all the leg work for the most sincere criminal on The Blacklist. Normally, I appreciate sincerity, but the ridiculous nature of the case called for someone with a bit of a different slant than two time Oscar winner Dianne Wiest. Wiest is clearly a quality actress, but this was not the right part for her, or the writing did not allow her to take the character to an interesting place. There was no explanation for what got her in this line of work, how she obtained this network of hired hands, or anything about her besides her name. I didn’t want to see more of Wiest in this role, but the setup for the villain begged for some more depth.

Instead, the depth of character belonged to Jolene. The show has hinted at something deeper for both her and Tom, but this episode brought it to the fore. If Tom’s job is to be married to Liz, then I’m not sure what operation would entail sleeping with him. It’s yet another question for the show to answer. I’m not sure who’s keeping a running tally, but we’re easily in the mid-teens by now. I would be interested to find out how many viewers of The Blacklist are invested in this larger narrative. If a lot of the audience is interested in it, then the constant teasing of various things could ultimately backfire. We’ve always known there was more to Tom then meets the eye, so the moment at the end of the episode isn’t a huge surprise. It’s merely confirmation for something we already knew was true. Once again, the network drama issues are at play here. Because they have 22 episodes to fill, the show can’t keep going back to this well. It’s either going to have to resolve it to spin it off into something else, or it’s going to have to keep teasing it. Given the way things have gone to this point, I wouldn’t expect resolution on this issue anytime soon.