“We’re risking everything, for what? Another list of names?” Elizabeth Keen asks a pertinent question in the rare moment of clarity on The Blacklist. While Reddington is still ticking off members of the blacklist in order to help his cause (exonerating Keen), he’s also working in “The Djinn” to get a list of names for people in the cabal who have put Keen on the run—even though, in the past, it’s seemed like Red knows who these people are. While Keen points out that it’s ridiculous tracking down people on a list and working their way through it, this whole thing is a slight improvement for The Blacklist.
For example, in the first two seasons, the eponymous blacklist was simply a way for The Blacklist to create a group of increasingly weird criminals to hunt down. However, in going after the cabal and using the names on the list, the show links all of these random cases together in a way that at least has some heft to it.
For The Djinn—if the price is right—she can make any person’s desires come true. However, upon meeting Keen, she turns down her request for a book containing the names of past clients (including members of the cabal), because it’s not what she desires most (a husband and a kid walking through a park). On paper, The Djinn is a compelling idea, especially since it is hinted at that she can make any desire come true. But in reality, it turns out that most desires are based on a Hostel-type wish fulfillment. With the exception of Reddington’s attempts to get The Djinn’s client book, we really only see one other client—a man who wants to cannibalize a drug dealer after his drugs killed his son. This seems like a slightly wasted opportunity, when almost any wish can be fulfilled, and The Djinn is only being used to kill a drug dealer.
The Djinn’s story becomes slightly more interesting when it turns out that she’s also making this money to overtake her father’s business. The Djinn’s real name is Nasim, but was actually born Nasir. Her father forced her to get a sex change when he discovered his first-born son was gay, making Nasim ineligible to run the company. Beyond all of the atrocities that Reddington has seen, this is the first one that really pisses him off.
The best part of the episode comes from the complete idiocy of the Tom Keen story, which is so unbelievably dumb that it’s hard to not see it as parody. Tom decides he must befriend Asher Sutton, a billionaire’s son, in order to find Karakurt. This leads to Tom in a Reservoir Dogs-ish montage, refining his story to win over Asher. He creates a really obnoxious narrative, buys a cheap knockoff watch and pretends to be a high-roller to get Asher’s attention. But in the end, it’s not all Tom’s attention to detail and planning that gets him closer to Asher—it’s how many details he got wrong in his stupid story, how obvious he was at cheating while gambling and that whole bit with the New York accent. The only reason that Tom succeeds is because he ends up being shitty at his job.
“The Djinn” ends up feeling like another episode where very little matters, save for the last few moments that help push the story further along. Reddington gets The Djinn’s list of clients, he gives the book to the FBI and tears out one page that helps him get closer to the cabal. It’s not much, but at least there’s a continued cohesiveness to the season for once. A slightly more interesting criminal focus this week makes “The Djinn” a bit more compelling than usual, but the same silly plotlines, like Tom’s moronic infiltration story, continue to hold The Blacklist down.
Ross Bonaime is a D.C.-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.