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The Blacklist, Ep. 1.03, “Wujing” moves the show in the right direction, but not fast enough

The Blacklist, Ep. 1.03, “Wujing” moves the show in the right direction, but not fast enough

The Blacklist - Season 1

The Blacklist Season 1, Episode 4 “Wujing”
Written by Lukas Reiter
Directed by Michael Watkins
Airs on Mondays at 10 PM ET on NBC

“Wujing” attempts to to make the Arrow-esque concept of bringing down a list of bad guys a tad bit more interesting with Reddington (James Spader) being approached by an associate of the intelligence community’s urban legend Wujing (The Dark Knight‘s Chin Han) to decipher a CIA transmission that would allow the Chinese to identify an American spy and then take him out. Meanwhile, Keen (Megan Boone) takes a closer look at Tom (Ryan Eggold).

The Blacklist is a show that so often rides the border between mediocrity and being a quality hour of television that it’s enough to make someone bash their head repeatedly into the wall. In fact, it wouldn’t take much for The Blacklist to become actually good. Making the dialogue a teeny bit less wooden would certainly be a start. Having the week-by-week cases resemble something within the vicinity of a compelling narrative. At the very least it could be engaging, but the fact that continues to frustrate is that the cases aren’t interesting. As a viewer, there’s nothing about these cases that might indicate that this is something you ought to be watching.

Things aren’t completely hopeless for The Blacklist though, because it is moving in the right direction. I noted last week that it needs to start unveiling the guiding mystery behind the show, i.e. Reddington’s hidden connection with Keen. While “Wujing” may not have come right out and detailed what exactly the connection there is, the show at least gives us a hint, a little something to wet our beaks and discuss amongst ourselves until it’s all laid bare.

Back to terrible things. A big problem remains Diego Klattenhoff, aka Agent Ressler. Ressler as a character is still horribly two-dimensional with no sign in sight of growth. He’s made only worse (which shouldn’t seem possible) by Klattenhoff’s bland performance. It’s as if he only knows how to just stand or ridiculously overact. There’s no in-between for him and when he’s not doing that, he’s fulfilling the show’s action quota, because clearly it would just be a disaster if Keen had something cool to do. The lead female protagonist fighting? Get out of here, you silly person.

It seemed at first that The Blacklist would  have some pretty interesting directors, such as Joe Carnahan in “Pilot”, but the prestige has certainly gone down with each passing episode. This week we are treated to Michael Watkins, someone who has made his rounds about the television landscape, most notably on Justified and The X-Files. He’s a fairly competent director and is able to stage scenes rather effectively. Watkins isn’t a visual powerhouse, though. To that point, does it even matter if The Blacklist is visually impressive? Visuals compliment the quality shown on screen, they can’t save an episode with larger problems. Breaking Bad, for example, had incredible visuals at the foreground while consistently delivering compelling episodes. The same can’t be said of The Blacklist.

Overall, The Blacklist is still a young show trying to desperately to find itself. The tone is still being established and still determining what type of show it wants for itself. It’s (im)perfectly fine for the moment, but the show really needs to get there quick.

Drew Koenig