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THE BLACKLIST: Secrets and Lies Take Center Stage in “The Caretaker”

By on February 26, 2016
The Blacklist

Pictured: James Spader as Red Reddington -- (Photo by: Virginia Sherwood/NBC)

By Kai Greenwell

Last night’s episodes of The Blacklist wasted no time getting into the action as a US official is murdered by the Chinese and Red informs the team it was revenge over information leaked by The Caretaker, this week’s blacklister. For generations his family have been trusted to keep secrets for governments, companies and individuals, but now he has incorrectly leaked a secret and many, including Red, are worried.

Tom approaches the woman who left him for dead looking for peace – he won’t go after her and the Major if they leave him alone. After a quick fight, Tom leaves with no answer and she checks in with a mysterious someone to see what the plan is going forward.

Liz visits a man she met earlier in the season who knew of her mother. He claimed not to know any more than he had already told her but asked her to deliver a letter to his estranged daughter for him. Liz finds his daughter and hands her the letter only to have it handed back – she isn’t estranged with her father, the letter was for Liz, to covertly give her the information she needed.

Red seemed genuinely concerned at the dangers of the Caretaker failing his duties, and uses his unique resources to help the team locate him. As it turns out, the Caretaker’s daughter has been kidnapped and he is being blackmailed into revealing secrets in place of a ransom. However, the kidnapping is a ruse, his daughter had herself kidnapped in order to force her father into dismantling his business. After the dust has settled Red pressures Harold into borrowing the Caretaker’s ledger so he can find and destroy something he left for Liz a long time ago.

Red’s increasing lack of self-awareness regarding Liz is getting quite repetitive and formulaic. Several weeks in a row he has put his foot in his mouth, to be partially forgiven and then reoffend shortly afterwards. This is obviously building towards something grand and in Reddington fashion, the ends might justify the means, but the means are getting a bit boring.

The team continued to provide levity this week. Harold’s you-go-girl outburst was unexpected and the increasing Aram/Ressler/Navabi tensions continue to provide great back-and-forths that have been one of the only things keeping the last few episodes fresh.

Contrastingly, Dembe was well used again. His minimal dialogue serves to add extra emphasis to the times he does talk, here showing his unwavering loyalty but open disappointment in Reddington.

Tom meanwhile is repeatedly striking out at any attempt at damage control, so much so he should really start taking backup or informing Liz where he’s headed. The woman was either on the phone to the Major, or out of well-earned paranoia – Reddington, so it seems that punching, elbowing and gunfights are in Tom’s immediate future. With the fighting seeming so certain, it’s only the outcome left uncertain. Either Tom continues his (starting to become routine), narrow survival of every encounter, or the show will pull the old bait and switch when Liz inevitably gets kidnapped, and as she is rescued and her baby no longer in jeopardy, Tom is quickly and surprisingly removed from the equation.

The blacklister didn’t really see much screen time again this week. He was introduced as a cool concept, which then quickly became a rather generic – and perhaps done on The Blacklist before? –  ‘find the kidnap victim before the deadline’ plot, capped with a ‘stop the bomb’ chapter.  The result felt rushed rather than fast paced and didn’t bring anything original to the show.

Forgive Me Not

There was a joyous lack of children this week. A very brief exchange between Red and Liz and then we were free to continue the episode without every other sentence being about children. The theme this week was forgiveness, and while it was less smothering than the past few episodes use of kids, it was still very clumsily handled.

Liz forgives Tom, Liz doesn’t forgive Red but tells him nothing is unforgivable, Navabi won’t forgive Ressler, Aram forces Ressler to apologise and Navabi forgives him, Liz meets Old Man who talks about forgiveness, Old Man’s daughter never forgave him, Liz meets daughter, she had forgiven Old Man, Red steps over the line again and Liz says some things are unforgivable.

Some of these moments were touching and some were funny, but regardless, they were too frequent. The subtler, or perhaps just slower paced, character interactions and relationship developments of the start of the season are gone, and instead the show is heading down a path to Arrow territory, where characters manically flicker back and forth between loving, hating, respecting and despising each other each week. The Blacklist has only just started down this path, hopefully they can turn around before the point of no return.

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