Archive for category The Blacklist

Review: Mr. Kaplan Returns on ‘The Blacklist’ While Liz Looks for ‘Leonard Caul’

Liz Keen handles big decisions while Reddington fights for his life. Photo: NBC

Liz Keen (Megan Boone) handles big decisions while Reddington (James Spader) fights for his life. Photo: NBC

Caution: This review contains spoilers on “The Blacklist.”

The typically unscathed Raymond Reddington (James Spader) took a bullet to the chest in last week’s cliffhanger of “The Blacklist.” His death would mean the end of the show, but with the news of a third season, that outcome seemed unlikely. there was still plenty of suspense to keep viewers on the edge of their seats. Agent Keen’s call for help is interrupted by Dembe (Hisham Tawfiq), who gets her to dial *77. Their rescuer is none other than Mr. Kaplan, who is usually dispensed by Red to take away the dead bodies. In this case, she is at hand to gather the medical team at an empty warehouse. There’s also a sequence with a creepy fellow who has been keeping surveillance on Reddington, Liz, and Tom.

Red charges Liz with finding Leonard Caul (Ned Van Zandt), who can help with the Fulcrum. Dembe asks Liz to go to an apartment and find a metal case and a key. With Reddington out for most of the episode, Mr. Kaplan and Liz step in to fill that space. Susan Blommaert is quite brilliant as Mr. Kaplan and like Red, she is “prepared for all contingencies.” Additionally, her devotion to Red is clear despite her generally cool and calculating disposition. Megan Boone can sometimes be a hit or miss when the focus is on her. This week, however, she delivered a strong performance as Liz, making the tough, split second decisions sorely needed to protect Red after their secret locations are blown and a surgeon dies. She has to resort to assistance not from one ex this time, but two exes: predictably from Tom Keen (Ryan Eggold) and bitter surgeon, Nick (Piter Marek). Liz was proposed to by a doctor before?!

Red’s lodgings are pretty interesting, with respect to his taste in art and furnishings. As an art history major, I couldn’t help but notice Pieter de Hooch’s “Woman Hands Over Money to her Servant.” It looks like there is a child on the far right of the Dutch domestic scene. The other important image in the room is a photo of a woman with a child. There’s a bit of sun glare but a perturbed Liz certainly recognizes the individuals and snaps a photo of it.

Liz Keen (Megan Boone) looks for a special key. Credit: NBC

Liz Keen (Megan Boone) looks for a special key. Note my blue arrows. Credit: NBC

Leonard Caul was a former government operative; how surprising, yet another secret task force! He arrives soon after with a gun on Liz. Thankfully, Caul is an ally of Reddington, there to reveal the contents of the Fulcrum: information all about the dirty work of the Kabal, the organization headed by the Director, and perhaps others. If it’s as big as everyone hints, is it another blacklist? They head back to Red’s location, only to find another deadly team ready to strike. However, it’s a very strong moment for Liz, when she asks Caul to drive her to Langley to interrupt one of the Director’s (David Strathairn) meetings with the President’s staff no less. The Director, like many others, has underestimated Liz Keen. Her big stunt forces him to call off the attack on Red just in time.

While the Director may has lost this round, he and the Kabal will likely hit back in full force next week. For starters, Harold Cooper (Harry Lennix) appears to have lost an ally: soon-to-be Attorney General Tom Connolly (Reed Birney) has been tapped for the empty seat at the Kabal. Connolly’s move is rather predictable here; he’s always come off as an opportunist rather than a true friend for Harold. It may pose some problems for the team, but Harold is better off without Connolly in the end.

Aside from taking on the Kabal, Liz will probably continue her search for answers. Tom has offered to help, but things never seem straight forward with both Tom Keen and Raymond Reddington in the picture.

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TV Review: Lackluster ‘Blacklist’ with ‘The Major’

Caution: This review contains spoilers.

Reddington Goes After the Major - Photo Credit: NBC

Reddington Goes After the Major – Photo Credit: NBC

Despite the mounting troubles for Agent Liz Keen (Megan Boone), last night’s episode of “The Blacklist” was rather disappointing. It seems nearly every television show throws away an entire installment in dedicating an hour to flashbacks to earlier episodes. We have yet to encounter the deus ex machina of “It was just a dream.” Liz’s secret (holding Tom Keen as prisoner) is catching up to her, as Judge Denner (John Finn) interviews her in his chamber about Reddington and later her involvement in the death of the DC Habormaster. She digs a deeper hole for herself with further lies, that she killed Tom months before the incident. Ballistic evidence emerges as well to poke holes in her testimony.

I’ve always found extended recaps to be tiresome. This one was particularly trying, as we don’t really uncover anything new on her end. We hear more about how she lost her “perfect life.” Denner is also boring, as it’s already well-established in the beginning that he is a staunch advocate of government transparency. Most of his interview sequence could have been posted on the NBC site as a webisode instead of aired on television. The most compelling aspect of “The Blacklist” has always been Raymond Reddington (James Spader), whose charisma and dangerous side do much to keep viewers both amused and on the edge of their seats all at once.

One would hope that things will get more exciting next week, as Reddington’s activities yesterday set him in a good position to get to Tom Keen (Ryan Eggold). Tom, the one man who can get Lizzie out of her bind, is busy in Germany trying to infiltrate a group focused on the weapons market. Last night we also discovered a little more about Tom, whose real name is Jacob. He was found by the “Major,” a man who cultivates young delinquents into agent-material available to do dirty work for high-paying clients. Tom was originally contracted to Reddington by the Major (Lance Henriksen), who changed gears when Berlin offered double the money. As we know full well, Red always collects from those who cross him.

Moving forward this season, two main threads are being unraveled here. The first is the story of Tom Keen and what sort of threat he still poses to Red, as his name seems to be next on the Blacklist. It’s interesting that Red hasn’t already killed Tom, given his possessive streak with Liz Keen. The other item of business is whether Denner is worth our concern, or is a threat that will be dealt with swiftly by Red’s blackmail or tactics of making “mutual arrangements.”

“The Blacklist” airs Thursday evenings on NBC at 9|8c.

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TV Review: Reddington and ‘Luther Braxton’ Battle for the Fulcrum in ‘The Blacklist’ Midseason Premiere

Liz Keen Looks for Red in Midseason Premiere of

Liz Keen Looks for Red during the Midseason Premiere of “The Blacklist.” Photo belongs to NBC.com.

“The Blacklist” returned last night after the Super Bowl, bringing an installment that is arguably one of the best this season. Reddington has been nabbed by military forces and gets transported to Blacksite, a prison where spies are tortured for intelligence. It’s not exactly a warm welcome. Unfortunately, Luther Braxton (a very convincing Ron Perlman) is about to break out, a warning that the warden ignores.

Agents Keen (Megan Boone), Ressler (Diego Klattenhoff), and Samar Navabi (Mozhan Marnò) rush in via a chopper for a rescue attempt that quickly goes sour for the latter two. Liz teams up with Red, who has assembled a team of sketchy allies to help them reach the server room. Red already knows that Braxton wants the Fulcrum, finally explained in greater detail as the file to bring down the government (juicy blackmail material). Reddington needs to maintain the appearance that he has it in order to stay alive. However, other DC agents and baddies (David Strathairn and Janel Moloney) have worked out that Red doesn’t have the Fulcrum, ordering a airstrike to blow up the Blacksite. Strathairn is quite chilling as the Director and seems to be setting himself to be the new Fitch in town (Alan Alda).

For the moment, Braxton is closer threat to Red and the others, killing hostages ruthlessly to get a code from Cooper for access to the Blacksite’s servers. Red’s counterattack is to disable the servers by overloading the pressure in the boiler room. Perlman’s coldness, brutality, and straight talk work in tandem to give him a strong presence here, yet it’s not overdone at all and serves to present Braxton as quite the threat to Red and Liz. There’s also an underlying brawn versus brains juxtaposition at first, as Braxton turns out to be an old adversary. However, we know Reddington to be extremely dangerous and violent when he’s provoked, particularly when there’s the possibility that any harm will come to Agent Keen.

Not only was a strong cast in play for the evening, but the episode brought great focus to the things that make “The Blacklist” a compelling and addictive show. James Spader shines again as Reddington, switching effortlessly between the two extremes that viewers may be so familiar with but of which never come across as old. First, there’s charming Red as he tells yet another bizarre tale (the vase thief) to entertain Lizzy while his temporary henchmen examine the boiler. But Red also reminds us that he’s still a monster, as he delves into the metaphor of the cave fish that have become blind and hideous in the dark. It’s fully revealed when he comes swinging with the big gun to save Liz, who is almost certainly the ray of light shining in his dark cave, to continue with the imagery.

It’s rather astonishing how much “The Blacklist” teases out in hints. Braxton is more than just brawn; he’s made a careful study of Reddington and recognizes at the end how important Liz is. According to Red, she is the key to getting the Fulcrum. But from Braxton’s words, “She was there,” referring perhaps to the incident of the fire, we may get closer to the answers when “The Blacklist” airs a new episode this Thursday. Oh, and what a cliffhanger that was with the airstrike looming! Overall, “Luther Braxton” brought an intriguing chapter for viewers new and old to enjoy, setting up a few good points for followup in the second part and other ensuing installments.

“The Blacklist” airs on Thursday evenings at 9|8c on NBC.

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TV Review: Red, Berlin, and ‘The Decembrist’ Square Off in ‘The Blacklist’ Mid-Season Finale

Caution: This review contains spoilers.

In the mid-season finale of “The Blacklist,” Reddington (James Spader) and Berlin (Peter Stomare) team up (temporarily) to go out after “the Decembrist.” It opens up with the family reunion between Berlin and his daughter, Zoe D’Antonio (Scottie Thompson). Unfortunately, it’s just as heartwarming as the one earlier in this season between Red and Naomi Hyland (Mary Louise-Parker).

Meanwhile, there’s a montage of how Tom (Ryan Eggold) came to be in that locked room, his recovery, and subsequent interrogations. Agent Keen’s (Megan Boone) questions to him go off in various directions, even so far as asking about the guests at their wedding. Liz seems to think herself in position of power over the situation; however, eventually Tom’s imprisonment would come to light and cause things to spiral out of control. Even if Agent Keen is a darker character and has started employing some of Red’s methods (such calling Mr. Kaplan) this season, she is certainly not in the same class as Raymond Reddington. Read the rest of this entry »

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TV Review: One Step Closer to Answers in ‘The Blacklist’

Caution: This review contains spoilers.

During this week’s episode, Reddington (James Spader) helps Agents Keen (Megan Boone) and Ressler (Diego Klattenhoff) in their pursuit of Dr. James Covington (Ron Cephas Jones). Covington handles a black market for organ transplants, paying death examiners to supply him with fresh organs. The beginning is rather gross with the death of Paul Wyatt (John Nielsen), whose heart has been cut out. An interview with the widow reveals that transplant clients aren’t merely buying the organs, they pay an annual fee to rent them! If the client can’t pay the rent, then he or she will be subjected to a repossession of the worst kind.

Lizzy and Ressler set a trap for one of Covington’s agents and engage in a car chase, resulting in a messy ending. Many of the clients are of disreputable trades, so it is easy for Reddington to saunter into a bar and interrupt the lunch of Bernard Babbitt, a drug syndicate leader. It’s quite chilling when you realize he’s induced a heart attack on Babbit with his own paramedics standing by.

At transplant center, it is clear that Covington uses the shady transplants to fund a more important cause: using experimental treatments to save children’s lives. He’s caught in the middle of a procedure that Lizzy permits him to finish. Ressler is upset that Lizzy sees some value in Covington’s operations. One wonders if Lizzy is slipping, given her paranoia, uses of aliases, and living in hotels.

There’s also a side story with Red, who weeds out a traitor after setting a trap with Mr. Vargas (Paul Reubens), who could easily resemble Spock with that haircut. Even more intriguing is the reappearance of Mary-Louise Parker as Red’s wife, Naomi Hyland. Next week’s promo suggests that Lizzy might be their daughter, which adds a disturbing angle to the dream sequence at the beginning of the episode. Throwing in a bit of the Electra Complex there? At the very least, it’ll be nice to finally have some answers!

‘The Blacklist’ airs on Monday evenings on NBC at 10|9c.

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TV Review: ‘The Blacklist’ Crafts a Horrifying Recipe in ‘The Stewmaker’

Reddington’s (James Spader) next master criminal on “The Blacklist” is a creepy serial killer who is aptly named “The Stewmaker.” It’s worth emphasizing just how creepy and disturbing the Stewmaker/Stanley Cornish (Tom Noonan) is. A veritable master of disguises, this contracted killer drugs his victims and uses the “perfect” recipe of chemicals to kill. His routine also involves taking a photo and preserving a tooth in a jar as a trophy of his conquest. In his own words, he’s transferring energy and “converting” people back to nature.

To backtrack a little, Agent Keen (Megan Boone) is providing a key witness in a bust against Hector Lorca (Clifton Collins Jr.); the witnesses set to testify against the drug lord always disappear, which drops his cases and keeps him a free man. Reddington tells Keen that “something will happen,” because Lorca has reached out to him for a new identity and passage to another country. The witness is indeed kidnapped after one of the jurors is poisoned. Reddington remains unmoved by Keen’s pleas for help as he’s only interested in the big game, until the crime scene clues point to the Stewmaker.

Unfortunately, Lorca’s transfer to a high security prison is interrupted, leaving Agent Keen in the hands of the Stewmaker. It also forces Agent Ressler (Diego Klattenhoff) and Reddington to work together (for a few minutes) to save Agent Keen. Ressler finds Stanley’s wife and son while Reddington hones in on the dog’s tracking device in the hills of Maryland. Agent Keen is injected by a drug that will induce temporary paralysis but keep her conscious. Luckily for her, Reddington arrives in time to save the day before Keen is subjected to the boiling chemicals.

As in the second episode, Reddington is not above killing his targets. He voices Keen’s thought that maybe the serial killer can change and rehabilitate. However, he promptly disposes of the Stewmaker in the very chemical bath originally intended for Agent Keen. Even though Reddington had the “decency” to position Keen so that she cannot see his actions, the experience still comes off as harrowing for her and for us. “You’re a monster,” she tells him later. “How can you live with that?” Reddington responds, “By saving your life.” Here is yet another instance of Red’s devotion to Keen, a connection the series will undoubtedly continue to tease out for viewers. He gives her Stanley’s binder of victims, but not before he removes the photo of a woman. Who was the woman in the photograph?

Out of the four episodes thus far, three of the targets have died, thereby escaping apprehension by the FBI. Two have died at the very hands of Reddington, which is very telling about his sense of justice. It also begs the question why he bothers involving the FBI, whose initial tactics entail an attempt at making an arrest. What is Reddington’s ultimate goal with his Blacklist?

“The Blacklist” airs Monday evenings at 10|9c on NBC.

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TV Review: ‘Blacklist’ Fizzles with ‘Wujing’

This week on “The Blacklist,” Reddington (James Spader) and Agent Keen (Megan Boone) handle deciphering encrypted messages for Wujing, a dangerous Chinese mastermind. After two episodes of plot twists and fast-paced action, last night seems like a bit of a letdown. We’re only thrown a couple of crumbs in the way of mysterious developments. Firstly, a group of men install some cameras in Keen’s apartment to put her under surveillance. The apparent ringleader is a man with an apple. The second tidbit comes when Keen asks Red why he chose her; he admits it has to do with her father.

Everything else follows a rather predictable and humdrum path. The FBI and CIA have a link to the Chinese systems through Keen, allowing them to see Wujing’s next target at the same time. There is a race by both sides to reach Henry Cho, an architect and private citizen, who passed off building plans for the CIA. Wujing drops off Keen and Red before he is arrested by the FBI. Plots revolving around spies and government secrets like these seem a bit overdone nowadays, particularly in the aftermath of WikiLeaks and Snowden headlines. Hopefully, we will see Reddington return to offering spectacular and unusual targets on his Blacklist.

To be fair, there were memorable moments. Spader always shines as Reddington and he switches from smugness to serious at the drop of a hat within a scene. We also see the extent of Red’s devotion to Keen when he kills the scapegoat Wujing mistakes as the security breach. Red explains he will do anything to keep Agent Keen alive. That brings us back to one of the central questions, whether the Blacklist is Red’s only objective.

“The Blacklist” airs Monday evenings on NBC at 10|9c.

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