Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Short Take: The Blacklist, Season 1, Episode 12: "The Alchemist"

This review was originally published on Pol Culture.

"The Alchemist," directed by Vince Misiano from a teleplay by Anthony Sparks, shows The Blacklist in its idle mode, and that's not an entertaining one. This episode incrementally advances Reddington (James Spader)'s story while having Keen (Megan Boone) track down the villain of the week. The bad guy this time out is a former genetics researcher (Ryan O'Nan) who enables his über-criminal clientéle to fake their deaths and begin new identities. He knows the authorities need corpses to close their books. So, in order to deceive the forensic investigators, he uses his expertise to fake DNA traces and other markers on murdered stand-ins. The plotting Sparks gives the pursuit lacks twists and suspense. Reddington, on the other hand, is still trying to get to the bottom of the treachery that led to the mayhem of the "Anslo Garrick" two-parter. He found the mole in his operation in the previous episode, and now he's after the one in the FBI's. Producer Jon Bokenkamp has again decided not to treat the turncoat's identity as a mystery with which to tease the viewer. We know that Reddington's looking, we see him with his private cadre of hacker-investigators, and then we find out who the mole is. It's not very engaging, and apart from a amusing bit about real-life Wikileaks mastermind Julian Assange, Spader's lines lack their usual zing. The episode is further brought down by the time spent on Keen and fellow agent Ressler (Diego Klattenhoff)'s respective private soap operas. Ressler finds out his ex-fiancée has ditched her current one because of renewed interest in him, and Keen's marital issues go to a new level when her husband takes an interest in a woman who introduced herself to him at a party. The latter is part of a greater conspiracy, and the first probably is, too, but the supporting characters just aren't compelling enough to make this material of interest. The show is at its best when Spader's Reddington is center stage, and episodes like this one are just marking time.

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