The Blacklist returned triumphantly to NBC for a second season. The show wasted no time reminding viewers why it is one of the best shows on television.
The following is a review. This is your obligatory spoiler warning.
Red Reddington is back. Spader set the tone immediately, reminding fans quickly that Reddington is always in charge even when the situation seems dire. As the show opens with Red tied up in the floorboard of a jeep that is in a firefight with a military vehicle hot in tow. As Red comes to, he is obviously bored with the situation and seems to be getting tired of the whole process.
Turns out, Red was there to make a point. He was “captured” and delivered to the man he needed to talk to. After getting the name he came looking for, and his hat, he was off and we had our next name on The Blacklist.
The writers did a great job with this episode weaving a single story into the setting for the season. At each turn, viewers discovered something more that will keep them coming back for more. All the while, Red continued to pursue Lord Baltimore and Lizzy closed the gap.
Lizzy has her own branch of story going on as well. We are reminded that Tom was injured but his body was not recovered. By the end of this episode, we see that Lizzy has been granted an annulment of the marriage. When asked why she will be keeping her husband’s name despite the annulment, Lizzy shares that her husband was using an alias so the name was not his in the first place. Presumably, Lizzy is laying claim to the name being her own and will use it to help her find herself in the mess of a life she has led. Before the show wraps for the night, we see Lizzy sporting a new, shorter haircut to further the idea that she is starting fresh.
While Lord Baltimore was revealed, and played masterfully by Kristen Ritter, the stage was set for the ultimate showdown with Berlin. Lord Baltimore may have been captured but Berlin achieved what he set out for, capturing Red’s ex-wife. Mary Louise-Paker seems to have joined the show for a recurring role as that ex-wife, Naomi Highland. Unfortunately, Red’s motivation to further engage with Berlin is encouraged by the arrival of Naomi’s fingers in a package. A phone call from Berlin lets Red know that he intends to send Naomi back to Red one piece at a time.
Meanwhile, viewers are also clued in to the return of Harold Cooper to the director position. Cooper, who was injured last year, was set to retire and spend time with his family before Red paid him a visit. Red gifts Cooper with a thumb drive containing the only copy of an incident he and Cooper share and demands Cooper return to work. To further push Cooper into what he wants, Red lets him know that he is aware of what the doctors found while working on Cooper and he wouldn’t want that information to leak out. Viewers are left in the dark as to the secret.
All the while, Agent Ressler is obviously struggling with his own issues based on all the events of last season. While Lizzy is pushing him to reach out to talk to the agency psychiatrist, he seems content just talking to her. The psychiatrist confronts him by the end of the episode, threatening suspension, just to be aggressively brushed off by Ressler. By the end of the show, we see Ressler in his home reaching for a bottle of undefined pills.
Throughout the episode, we see someone spying on Lizzy wherever she goes. It is easy to assume that the person is Lord Baltimore, until we see that person again after Lord Baltimore’s capture. Someone is taking a key interest in Lizzy’s constant moving around and reinvention of herself.
So now we know that Red has an ex-wife that is being held captive by Berlin, Cooper has a secret that Red knows and is being blackmailed into returning to work, Ressler is dealing with his own demons and may be relying on pills to help ease the pain, Lizzy has claimed Tom’s name as her own since it was fictitious in the first place and someone is keeping a very close eye on Lizzy despite her best efforts to disappear.
What is truly amazing about The Blacklist is that it accurately weaves all these stories into an hour without losing the viewer. It lays the groundwork for a season full of dramatic stories intertwined into the overarching theme of the show. If there was any drawback, it may be that fans may have lost sight of the biggest mystery the show has established to date: why is Red so interested in Lizzy?
The acting remains superb. Kristen Ritter’s portrayal of Rowan Mills was expertly crafted. Remember Ritter from her role as Jane Margolis in Breaking Bad? Her work here in a guest star role almost stole the show. That’s saying something for a show that was full of such great work.
Spader is always on as Red and this episode was no different. From his disenchanted approach to the situation at the open to his obviously emotional response to the situation surrounding his ex-wife, Spader continues to draw nothing but praise.
Any show that is going to give you Mary Louise-Parker for multiple episodes is going to improve simply from her presence. Her work on Weeds was outstanding, even if the material was a bit off some days. Her arrival to The Blacklist simply deepens an already strong cast.
Megan Boone, Amir Arison, Harry Lennix and Diego Klattenhoff continue to provide the show with emotional and precise acting that truly engages you with their characters. Boone can express every emotion Lizzy is feeling with just her eyes. You feel the pain Ressler is dealing with from Klattenhoff’s delivery. Arison continues to grow in his role. Lennix provides a stoic approach to Harold Cooper that plays so well among the other characters.
The Blacklist airs every Monday on NBC. If you are not watching, you are missing one of the best shows on television today.