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THE BLACKLIST Review: The Vehm Prove to be Perfect Blacklist Villains

By on January 29, 2016
The Blacklist

Pictured: (l-r) Megan Boone as Liz Keen, Ryan Eggold as Tom Keen -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC)

By Kai Greenwell

Last night’s episode of The Blacklist marked the welcome return of the weekly blacklister with the team trying to stop the Vehm, a reborn cult of religious fanatics who abduct and gruesomely kill suspected paedophiles.

The episode also sees Liz battling with the decision of whether to keep her baby or give it up for adoption. While Reddington reminds her of how dangerous her life has become, Tom works hard to convince her they can move and have a normal life.

Meanwhile, the Vehm are being duped into killing money launderers in order to thin out competition for their leader. Reddington informs the Vehm of their betrayal and gives them their former leader to kill. When Navabi and Liz confront him about his death, he tells them he too wanted the leaders operation to fund their upcoming war against the Cabal.

Red’s Mysterious Past

It’s well established that Red is a villain but his past remains mysterious. Given the grandiose picture that he and, everyone actually, has painted of him, it would be hard to successfully have Red remain as a dynamic character with one big flashback or anecdote telling us why he became the Raymond Reddington he is today. Rather, short and infrequent scenes like his killing of Liz’s attacker reveal smaller fragments of his character and could keep doing so for the foreseeable future without pigeonholing him into having a one dimensional motive. While he does essentially reveal how he started down this path, by naively idolising the life of an outlaw, the rest remains fittingly unknown.

Why the Vehm are the Perfect Blacklist Villains

No need for mincing words; the Vehm were cool. Borrowing Gotham’s Anthony Carrigan (Victor Zsasz) was a great casting choice. While he may be unfortunately typecasting himself as the single-minded, creepy killer, he plays that role with aplomb. It could be argued that the Vehm weren’t entirely evil, just an extreme form of vigilantism. With this in mind they fit in very well with The Blacklist’s love of the morally grey and continuing theme of power being abused.

Balancing the Scales

Whenever there is a particularly dark subject matter, and this week definitely qualified as that, the show balances the scale with comedic moments. This week was full of them as Dembe finally went against Reddington in order to save his ears from some god awful singing, Navabi telling Ressler he sucks in bed and Aram and Cooper’s bonding moment. The Blacklist avoids the trappings of inserting comedic elements into drama and instead creates a very consistent tone across a season, instead of one jarringly dark episode sitting alone.

Tom Vs Red Vs Liz’s Need For Control Over Her Own Destiny

The difference between survival and living is a well fleshed out subject in television, most heavily discussed in AMC’s The Walking Dead. The Blacklist sees Liz fighting for one while having completely lost the other, and with the Cabal licking their wounds the show moves to her reclaiming that life.

Red has survival covered. At this rate he’s a few decisions away from locking Liz in his old bombproof box and patting himself on the back for his obvious genius. His need for control over everything, from Liz’s furniture to her neighbours, further separates the two concepts and quickly will do more harm than good.

Tom’s contrastingly naïve optimism is beginning to get frustrating. Admittedly that’s the point and so it’s not bad writing per ce, just effective writing of an annoying character trait. In a show centred on the transformation of character, his dropping anchor at this point doesn’t bode well for him. His suggestion to move is probably the most rational decision on the show, but it’s a tried and tested failure at convincing anyone. A fresh strategy would not go amiss.

What Liz needs most in her life is control, but with no one realising this and both Tom and Red presuming that there is only room for one murderously loyal psychopath in her life, the chances of Liz reacquiring that zest for life aren’t good.

The Blacklist continues Thursdays on NBC.

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