When The Blacklist returned last week after its midseason break, it seemed to come back with a stronger idea of what worked. James Spader as Reddington was for the first time a legitimate badass, killing enemies and working his conniving ways without being obnoxiously condescending. The show still followed the typical criminal of the week pattern that this show clearly is patterned for, and besides a few tonal issues, even the criminal felt more interesting than in the past. However I worried that at the end of last week’s episode, with Reddington and the FBI working together once again, things might get back to boring business as usual. Unfortunately, I was right.
“The Alchemist” starts out promisingly, as we get the most exciting cold open and introduction to a villain that this show has had so far. The Alchemist is a man who, as the show tells us, uses science to transform one person into another. He helps the guilty by preying on the innocent—in other words, he takes normal people and changes how they look, inside and out, to save the scummy people he’s trying to protect. As “The Alchemist” begins, we see that the titular character has taken two innocent people hostage and made them look like a mob informant and his wife that he is protecting. The two unfortunate souls are on a crashing plane to fake the death of his two guilty associates.
This promising start in undermined when it becomes clear that The Alchemist, and apparently the show’s writers, don’t really understand the flaws in this plan. First off, The Alchemist might change everything about another person, yet keeps the people he’s trying to protect the same. So when it turns out that the two people that he murdered aren’t the mob informant and his wife, it’s easy to find the real people because, well, they haven’t changed their appearance a bit. It also probably doesn’t help that The Alchemist wants to keep his identity safe, killing anyone who knows his true identity, yet he keeps showing up to scenes of crimes and finding said people, even when they’re in police custody, so he can murder them.
But while The Alchemist starts off as a unique idea, he soon shifts into bland, afraid criminal mode. He fakes the murder of his wife and daughter and then is forced to keep them and others as hostages in a gas station. He tells Keen that he also has a list of people he’s hidden, before he’s shot. Of course, it turns out Reddington wanted this list as well and that’s why he got pushed to the front of the blacklist. Oh man, if it turns out this is the beginning to a spinoff called The Hidden List or some crap like that, I am just going to snap.
Though Reddington was given the chance last week to show just how great he can be, now he’s back to his old ways. He’s still trying to find the mole inside the FBI, while apparently the actual FBI doesn’t seem all that willing to be bothered with it. The episode ends with the reveal that it’s Agent Malik (OR IS IT??), but considering there are only like five characters who it could’ve been, it doesn’t really quite come as a shock.
While “irritating Reddington” is back, so is “hilariously melodramatic Keen family,” complaining about how Liz is too busy protecting the country to spend time with Tom. For what I believe is the first time since the pilot, Tom mentions that, oh yeah, they’re still planning on adopting a baby. Liz and Tom once again make plans to have a nice quiet dinner together discussing their future, and once again, Liz is out saving people from getting murdered. What a pain that Liz! When Tom gets rejected once again, he goes to a photo gallery with a woman named Jolene, who is clearly some type of agent with a mission to seduce Tom, but really, who the hell cares? I mean, Tom and Liz seem to have been doomed from the start. As soon as they swore in the pilot that Liz’s new job wouldn’t change her and that things would stay the same, it looked pretty clear that an end to their marriage was looming.
It’s a shame that The Blacklist showed us last week that it can be a slightly competent show with characters becoming more interesting and mysteries that are actually fun to watch. Yet in “The Alchemist,” we’re just back to the status quo—a dull and somewhat frustrating status quo. There’s still hope, but for now, the show seems fine with just sticking to what works rather than what is interesting.