Between this week’s episode, “The Courier,” and last week’s “The Stewmaker,” it seems like The Blacklist is trying best to embrace its craziness. By reveling in how weird it can get—most notably with the Blacklist criminals—the show should be getting more enjoyable, but instead the show’s villains are hardly even characters, but rather strange ideas with no deeper purpose.
The Courier here is a middleman between criminals who will kill both parties if things don’t go as planned. But The Courier’s quirk is that he can’t feel pain, and due to his father using him for dogfights as a kid, this includes emotional pain as well. The Courier uses his lack of feeling in order to hide different things inside his body, just as hiding data in a newly created knife wound.
But The Courier is little more than what his name implies. He’s a way of delivery, and for the writers of The Blacklist, he’s simply just the personification of an idea that they heard of and thought they’d throw in, because why not? This lack of depth is a major problem in The Blacklist, not just with villains but with the entire cast as well. For example Red’s entourage of assistants, who we rarely ever see, have become nothing more than a way to throw in exposition. We see this with his assistant Grey (SKINNY PETE!!!), who pops up just to give a little more background into who Red is, but it’s handled so sloppily, it’s embarrassing.
I’ve always felt that with a character-of-the-week type of show, the character introduced and dismissed within the week should give some glimpse into the larger story at hand or at least work as a metaphor for that story. The Blacklist is doing better at handling that, as Elizabeth’s husband Tom discovers that the secrets he hid barely under the surface have finally come out in the open. “The Courier” ends with Elizabeth and Tom both deciding they need to have a talk about the mysterious box of Tom’s, with the surveillance guy who loves apples watching the couple.
There’s also an NSA analyst who’s buried alive in a freezer, a farmer’s market shootout and an unpublished writer’s house that Red is hanging out at and drinking his booze, but really none of this is likely going to matter at all in the future, so why bother?
But since The Blacklist has so little character, the only character that really matters is Red, who has evolved slightly since the premiere. Maybe I’m just being won over by James Spader’s creepy charms, but he does seem like he’s slowly becoming more human and less self-involved. It’s clear he cares for Elizabeth for probably obvious reasons and his interactions with her have become some of the best moments of the show. But it’s still impossible to overlook the silliness of the Red character, especially when the show is just laughing off the handful of prosecution-free murders he’s committed in only five weeks.
The Blacklist is slowly finding a way to make its show work in a less-frustrating and more watchable way since the pilot, but it still has a long way to go before it’s even a good show.