The Blacklist, Season 1, Episode 2, “The Freelancer”
Written by Joe Bokenkamp
Directed by Jace Alexander
Airs Mondays at 10pm EST on NBC
The Blacklist‘s second episode, “The Freelancer” ponders whether or not the FBI should be trusting Reddington (obviously they shouldn’t) as he continues to claim knowledge on terrorists worldwide that American intelligence aren’t even aware exist. Warning that a nefarious contractor known as “The Freelancer” is planning an assassination attempt, the FBI begrudgingly accepts his terms for immunity and personal security, two associates from Red’s criminal-laced past, along with former CIA agent Meera Malik (Parminder Nagra).
“The Freelancer”, with the assistance of some upbeat musical assistance, points out more than once that the The Blacklist‘s most engaging and fun character is none other than James Spader himself, Raymond Reddington. This isn’t shocking news by any stretch of the imagination. No matter how good the rest of your cast is, if you have James Spader at the forefront, everyone else falls off to the side. The Blacklist is working in the direction of fixing that problem with the addition of some potentially interesting security types, but it’s just not there yet. If the show is going to survive, though, it needs to add some characters that we actually care about. The only thing currently making Elizabeth Keen an interesting is the mystery surrounding her connection with Red and who her husband, Tom, really is. Eventually that fuel for Keen is going to run dry and then what?
As mentioned, the mystery surrounding Keen and Red’s currently unknown relationship is one of the elements of the show fueling its momentum, but it more than once offers potential foreshadowing, or flat-out teasing the audience into giving them exactly what they think the mystery is. In one instance, Red offers Keen the possibility in a Montreal diner to pretend like she’s his daughter, a much theorized possibility for The Blacklist. In another moment, Keen out right asks Red if he knew her parents, which is clearly another possibility. Either way, progress needs to happen on this front very soon if the producers want it to still be an enticing reason for people to check back in with the show down the line.
A big roadblock for the show is the ongoing knowledge that Red was, and continues to be, someone that the FBI simply cannot trust. No reason exists why the FBI should trust this man. It’s clear to the point of being a window that Red is playing both sides and, yet, they let him out of his cage and allow him to play with others. It’s not that he has loyalty to one side or another; Reddington is an equal opportunity double-crosser. Like his relationship with Keen, The Blacklist is gonna need to lay out Red’s motivations out on a table and soon.
One way that The Blacklist has taken a clear drop since its premiere is its directing. Directed by Jace Alexander this week, he’s not as strong at directing action as last week’s Joe Carnahan. It seems that Alexander is a student of the Paul Greengrass school of directing which is that a chase scene looks practically incomprehensible and downright coherent in Alexander’s hands. Thankfully, not much of the episode is spent dealing with action and more with quieter conversational that Alexander does know how to stage well.
Hope still remains for The Blacklist, but it just hasn’t found its footing yet, putting it into an awkward spot that’s frustrating for all involved.
– Drew Koenig