From the beginning, The Blacklist has been about the relationship between Liz and Reddington and what exactly they both want from each other. Yet in this third season, Liz has been less of a character and more of a MacGuffin, attempting to move the plot forward without her actually doing anything. “Sir Crispin Crandall” is another episode in a string of episodes that doesn’t really give Liz anything to do, as she becomes more and more like a glorified assistant to Reddington.
The various plots of “Sir Crispin Crandall” utilize Liz more as a tool, than an actual character. With the main plot here, Reddington attempts to blackmail The Director as leverage to get Liz exonerated, or in Tom’s weird little diversions—he goes way too far in his own quest to exonerate Liz. But what exactly is Liz doing? Occasionally checking on Dembe’s bandages or giving compliments to Reddington. She’s gone from being understandably skeptical with plenty of questions for Reddington, into becoming a full-blown believer that Reddington is a brilliant genius, and the show feels lesser for this reductive move with her character.
“Sir Crispin Crandall” allows The Blacklist to get into the wacky mind frame it sometimes moves into, where everything is just batshit insane. Crandall is a reclusive billionaire who lives on a plane that is constantly flying, having landed only 30 times in three years. There’s evidence that Crandall has been kidnapping some of the world’s greatest minds in an attempt to cryogenically freeze them and create a sort of new arc for the upcoming destruction of the world. It’s all borderline Bond villain fare, and once again begs the question: if they’re just discovering this about Crandall now, why exactly has his name been on the blacklist this whole time?
But Crandall is just the holder of the far more important Andras Halmi, one of The Director’s most trusted associates. Having willfully been frozen by Crandall, The Director and Reddington begin a race to get to Halmi before the other one. This is made all the more confusing by the recent decision to have the CIA and the FBI work together, which just turns Navabi and Ressler into pawns for this game as well. In the end, of course Reddington gets to Halmi first and breaks off both of the thumbs that he needs to open The Director’s safety deposit box—which just so happens to apparently be in a bank with the worst security ever. Don’t have a key? No problem, just burrow in from the other side of the wall!
The Director has been skimming millions of dollars from the Cabal and now that Reddington has the money and the evidence, he tries and fails at using this as leverage to get The Director to exonerate Liz. Since this episode-wasting plan didn’t work, Reddington vows to continue his dismantling of the Cabal, until he brings this whole damn thing down on him.
Not to be outdone in the craziness of his own story, Tom gets captured by the Russians and is forced into a fight to the death with his newfound friend Asher Sutton. Of course Tom ends up having to kill Sutton, which brings him directly to Karakurt—exactly what Tom wanted. It’s insane how easy it has been for Tom to get to Karakurt, but doesn’t it seem like it would’ve been easier if Tom had gone undercover as a street boxer, since that looks like it also would have had the same effect? And who knows, maybe even fewer people would’ve died for the sake of Tom trying to win Liz’s love again?
Since Reddington’s plan fails—even when he does succeed—we see just how very little “Sir Crispin Crandall” actually matters, and it ends up feeling like The Blacklist was just wasting time with another crazy plot. Sometimes these crazy plots can work, but this week’s doesn’t have the right balance—relying on twists and turns rather than focusing on how delightfully over-the-top, villainous and ridiculous Crandall is (just look at that name!). As The Blacklist heads into the oncoming midseason finale, it’s clear this show is spinning its wheels and dragging its plots out, all while turning the majority of the characters into pawns for Reddington’s increasingly dull games.
Ross Bonaime is a D.C.-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.