The Blacklist, Season 1, Episode 12: “The Alchemist”
Written by Anthony Sparks
Directed by Vince Misiano
Airs Mondays at 10pm ET on NBC
If ever there was one word to sum up The Blacklist, that word would have to be frustrating. It’s not frustrating for the fact that it’s bad; that would be understandable and even acceptable. No, The Blacklist is frustrating because it is occasionally good and even when it’s bad, glimpses of how the show could be good shine through and that might be worse. It’s almost as if the producers are taunting its audience with a look at how things on the show could be, but probably never will.
Ready to get back to work, but unwilling to go back into the FBI due to concerns that a mole still exists within, Red (James Spader) reveals another name on The Blacklist to Keen (Megan Boone) and has decided that she is the only one in the FBI that he’ll work with now. The new name is The Alchemist (Ryan O’Nan), a criminal that uses science to fake deaths and disappear some very bad people. Meanwhile, Red continues searching for the FBI mole.
The recurring problem with Red giving Keen and the FBI names to go after is that it often feels like Red is sending just another one of his errand boys (or, in this case, girls) to take down someone because they have something he needs. More often than not, the FBI comes off as a group of total stooges that can be manipulated into doing whatever it is that Red wants. Nothing about that feels authentic to how the FBI acts in the real world. Every time it does happen on the show, it feels like they’re just being swindled by a rather good con artist, which is actually appropriate in this case, since that most closely resembles Red’s character.
Another big problem in this episode revolves around Ressler (Diego Klattenhoff). When he starts talking about his ex-fiance woes to Keen, it feels very disingenuous. Keen and Ressler have never had the type of relationship that would indicate that they can start blabbing about their personal life to each other. Those two have always felt too antagonistic to believably behave like this now. An argument could be made that since Ressler was shot, he is now a softer and more relatable individual and maybe with more build up this would be different, but here it just feels unearned.
The Blacklist most resembles that kid in school who is intelligent and could probably easily do his homework and be a straight A student, but, for whatever reason, refuses to do so and settles for being a C- student. A little more effort in a couple areas of the show, like characterization or plot logic, and it could rise to be one of NBC’s better shows, but for now all the audience can do is hope that the show will one day find its footing and settle for being a good show.