This season’s TV run is starting to dry up as a number of the shows that got me through the Autumn/Winter have started to have their season finales. With the exception of 24, Fargo & Game of Thrones (all of which have relatively small episode runs at 12, 10 & 10 episodes respectively – there finales will soon creep up on us; we’re already a few episodes in now.) there’s not a great deal of stuff to keep me going until the next wave of new stuff & returning shows start to kick off, historically around September/October time.
One new show I watched with interest last year/this year was ‘The Blacklist’. I’ve watched it through to the end and, while it’s been a relatively good watch, I’m a little divided & uncertain about it now the season has concluded.
The main attraction, and the thing that has taken me back to the show week after week, has been the performances. I was always going to give this show a good go because I used to love James Spader in Boston Legal and I was glad to see him back on telly – and he’s not disappointed. The character of Raymond Reddington is deliciously performed by Spader and is a delightfully engaging watch week after week.
I’ve also been super impressed by Megan Boone and Ryan Eggold as Elizabeth and Tom Keene. I was not aware of either of these actors before the Blacklist but the performances of both have hugely enhanced my enjoyment of the show. The dynamic of their relationship as the “Is Tom a Sleeper?” storyline unfolds has been a big contributing plot point to my weekly return to the show week after week, and the way that particular plotline has ramped up and unfolded into the season finale has made for a very juicy and suitably uncomfortable watch (That scene at the end of “Milton Bobbit” when she sleeps with Tom knowing full well he is an imposter was so unsettling and played by both to perfection.)
It’s not a timid show either – there have been some scenes of unsettling violence & explosive action that have been brutal and give the show some edge. It certainly separates itself from the more pedestrian & gentle of the crime dramas that populate today’s television landscape. There’s been some pretty nasty “villain of the week” characters that stand apart from the crowd in terms of what you get on telly nowadays and the protagonists aren’t shy of pulling the trigger when the moment calls for it. It’s a bit ridiculous at times – but that’s excusable in my eyes, I’m not watching it for the realism at the end of the day, and it’s certainly has enough flashes of raw & gritty to counteract the bits if silly that come up now and again.
Why am I a bit uncertain then? Well – it’s all about this “mystery box” bullshit that seems to be sooooooo popular in contemporary TV. I’m starting to tire of this type of perpetual mystery in shows with little resolution and The Blacklist is a BIG criminal. I’m especially aggrieved now that we’ve reached the season finale and it’s become clear that there was no intention of even giving just a snippet of closure on any of the mysterious plot strings that the show is built on. The only truly new bits of info of any significance to the larger mystery are that Tom has been confirmed as a plant and we’ve seen Berlin’s face. That’s it! We’re not any clearer on Red’s mysterious past (What’s the deal with his family? Why did he leave his promising US Naval career for a life of international crime? Is his endgame as simple as eliciting the FBI’s help in defending against Berlin’s personal assault?), we don’t know who the mysterious cabal that Alan Alda’s character represents are & why they’re involved with Reddington, we’ve got no new info regarding Berlin’s motivations (why is he determined to ruin Red? How did he know to place Tom with Liz 2 years ago?), and we’re still in the dark about Red’s connection to Liz and his concern for her welfare (Is he her absent Father? If so, why would he abandon her all those years ago?)
It bloody frustrates me no end. I get why they do it (I’m a dead cert. to be watching next season) but it makes me fearful because I’ve been stung far too many times. I can think of instances of cancellation with unanswered plotlines (Flashforward? Firefly – who was Shepherd Book?), getting bored of waiting (Under the Dome – zzzzzzz) , rushed endings under the axe (Jericho And Dollhouse), silly/overinflated resolutions (BSG – wait? Are they Angels then? Heroes – is this season a parody of season one?), and inexcusably badly made, disappointing messes (LOST!!!!!!) – All built with a larger mysterious element tied into its premise somehow. This could be an example of it’s strengths being it’s own weakness as it’s success has driven the writers to stretch things out a bit – but stretch it out too much and we’re staring down another Lost. (Dammit – will that show taint the way I watch everything now?)
I worry that “the Blacklist” is going to be the next on this list and I’m struggling to reconcile that. I’m a little concerned that, while I’ve enjoyed the writing & performances and seen some cool “villain of the week” episodes that are higher quality than usual fayre, we’re a full season in with no real answers offered up in the larger story arc.
So I’m facing a dilemma: whether I want to get out now before I start to get too wound up if it fails to start resolving the mysteries that permeates the show or to have faith, give it the benefit of the doubt, and continue watching and enjoying the performances, writing and production values in the hope things unravel at a pace I’m comfortable with.
I think it’ll be the latter – you’ve got to give this things a go after all – time will tell I suppose…