The Blacklist, Season 1, Episode 16: “Mako Tanida”
Written by John Eisendrath, Patrick Massett, and John Zinman
Directed by Michael Watkins
Airs Mondays at 10pm ET on NBC
A major complaint often lobbed at The Blacklist is its seeming ignorance on its own progressing story and its frustrating attempt to give the audience just enough to keep them coming back for the next week, which irritates its viewers more than it actually intrigues them. Compare that to a show like Lost, a show that habitually denied its audience satisfying answers, was able to get away with that, for the most part, because the characters and the story itself were so fascinating that it almost didn’t matter that there were things no one understood, because those supplemental elements were enough to make up for it. The Blacklist doesn’t have that; it just has James Spader in the lead.
Only in episodes like “Mako Tanida”, where some of the haziness, specifically regarding Tom Keen (Ryan Eggold), is cleared up enough that it’s not a totally grating experience. Combine our increasing knowledge on just who Tom is, outside of being Liz Keen’s (Megan Boone) husband- a mystery the show has been teasing since the first episode- and Liz being pushed mainly to the foreground of this episode and it’s enough to make “Mako Tanida” one of the show’s most watchable episodes. That might not sound like real high praise, but compared to some of the show’s other episodes, which teetered very closely to being actually terrible and were mostly eye-roll inducing.
True, the show didn’t entirely spell out what was happening with Tom or who he worked for, despite how easy it would’ve been to reveal that, what we got was far more than we had and that demonstrates that perhaps the show is on some sort of course-correction. Granted, one of the reasons the episode works so well is mainly due to Liz’s absence through most of it and that likely won’t last considering she’s one of two leads on the show.
Another surprising way the episode gets right is its large focus on Ressler (Diego Klattenhoff) and his search for justice after an escaped Japanese gang leader murders his old partners along with his girlfriend, Audrey. Ressler, a character that has often felt exceptionally flat and boring in the past really owns the screen this week and the credit for that has to go to Klattenhoff, who has finally found a good rhythm with the character that resolutely works. For most of the season, we’ve seen Ressler as this very bottled up character that pretty much just growls and speaks within one octave. This week, we got to see the ways that grief has started to mess him up inside and the relatable desire he now has for retribution.
The Blacklist is still a far from perfect show, but it seems to understand the groove it has made of itself and it seems to working. Hopefully it can keep this up going forward.