The Blacklist, Season 1, Episode 6: “Gina Zanetakos”
Written by Wendy West
Directed by Adam Arkin
Airs Mondays at 10pm ET on NBC
Last week’s “The Courier” ended with Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone) being confronted by her husband Tom (Ryan Eggold) over a box filled with guns and fake passports, The Bourne Identity style. Tom thinks the box is hers (or is feigning ignorance) and Elizabeth thinks the box is his. Adding to her suspicion, Elizabeth also wonders if Tom is responsible for the murder of a Russian agent. Logically there’s only one reasonable course of action: take it to the FBI. While Tom is busy being interrogated by resident CIA operative Meera Malik (Parminder Nagra), Keen is somehow still allowed to work and is directed by Red (James Spader) to Gina Zanetakos (Margarita Levieva), a Blacklister that is connected to Tom and his current predicament.
The Blacklist looked for a couple episodes there like it might rise above its substandard start and become something actually substantial. Instead, the show has reverted back to internal mysteries that will likely never make any amount of sense, regardless of how much time is spent on an explanations. The mysteries the show is choosing to highlight are simply uninteresting and give the sense that Joe Bokencamp and co. aren’t all that sure what story they want to be telling, at least right now. Only time will tell, but by the time the show gets to a compelling point in Tom’s mystery, anyone who might have cared will probably already have checked out in every way that matters. There’s nothing inherently wrong with exploring a character-based mystery. Every show needs some of this, even if it’s in the tiniest of proportions. What The Blacklist is doing here goes beyond that. It’s as if the writers and producers are constantly saying, “What do you think is going on over there? Pretty interesting, right?” The show wants the audience to care about all of this , but they’ve never given the audience any reason to care. There’s no invested interest in whatever is going on with Tom or the people monitoring Elizabeth and Tom’s house. Even the mystery behind Red’s motives is beginning to become overplayed at this point and more muddled as the episodes go on.
The Blacklister this week, Gina Zanetakos, is at least interesting. Maybe not enough to save the episode, but certainly enough to make it intriguing. Zanetakos being a corporate terrorist is something fairly unexplored in procedurals and it’s interesting to boot. Most terrorists commit terrible crimes for an ideologue or for religious reasons, but Zanetakos does it just so a company can earn a buck or sink a competitor. As despicable as something like a suicide bomber is, there’s a motive there that can almost be understood. It’s still terrible, but one can understand the thinking behind it. Zanetakos would explode a dirty bomb in Texas for no other reason than the money she’d get paid for doing so, making her all the more reprehensible than your typical terrorist. Similarly, all of the Blacklisters so far are people who take the normal act of terrorism and kick it up another notch in the wretched department. It seems that the show will continue upward in that way.
The Blacklist isn’t a bad show. Its writing isn’t terrible, the acting isn’t bad (although unremarkable outside of Spader), and the characters are actually decent. That’s why when the show has episodes as underwhelming as this one that it’s all the more frustrating. It could be quite good. Great is probably out of reach for this show, at least at the moment, but it could definitely reach good. Not enough of the pieces are clicking into place right now though, and that’s nothing other than a crying shame.