The Blacklist, Season 1, Episode 9: “General Ludd”
Written by Amanda Kate Shuman
Directed by Stephen Surjik
Airs Mondays on NBC at 10pm ET
“General Ludd” can be chalked up as one of The Blacklist‘s more sub-par episodes. There is nothing remarkable or terrible about the episode as a whole. It settles for being merely serviceable, which is nothing short of disappointing. After a cargo plane is brought down by General Ludd, an anarchist organization hopes to destabilize America’s economy and essentially believes that capitalism is evil, led by Blacklister Nathaniel Wolfe (Justin Kirk), a master of disguise who has gone by a multitude of different names over the years.
The show might have been reaching for something subtextual with Nathaniel Wolfe this week, but Kirk has no weight as a villain. It’s always difficult to be the face of a group that might have very different, but centralized goals and Kirk doesn’t seem equipped to carry that load. He feels very bland throughout and even if that is the script’s fault, more needs to be offered to give the character any sort of resonance, beyond him having cryptic conversations with people and staring at others with creepy looking blonde hair. A good deal of the force from the show comes from how interesting the Blacklisters are week-to-week and this week it just fell short.
The Blacklist often times feels like that friend who attempts to tell a joke, but the other person already knows the punch line (and it isn’t very good) and just groans when their prediction is validated. The show, overall, is working towards a resolution of the mystery between Red (James Spader) and Elizaberth Keen and what their relation to each other. The popular theory amongst fans is that Red is her father and the show is making no attempt to dissuade the audience of that. In fact, the show is doing all it can to say it without actually saying, “He’s her daddy”. Going farther into crazytown, this leads one to suspect that the show is going to fake everyone out and have the reveal be something totally different. It’s unlikely at this point, but can’t be discounted quite yet. The point is: stop jerking everyone around and just let the audience know what the jig is, because it’s just about up.
James Spader is by far the strongest element of The Blacklist. Most scenes without him (which is a lot) stall out and have no energy to speak of. The show is at its best when Spader is stealing the scene from his co-stars. The problem is quickly becoming that Spader convolutes the over-arching story and that’s the last thing a show like this needs. Spader should be the golden goose and the thing that keeps people coming back for more week after week. If Spader’s character begins to make a problem for the show’s story and frustrates viewers as result, what then is bringing them back for another episode?
Right now though, The Blacklist is a fine show that will fill a viewer’s procedural quota and little more. That, plus Spader, will keep the show afloat for a while, but for how long remains to be seen.