The Blacklist: “The Decembrist”

(Episode 2.08)

TV Reviews The Blacklist
The Blacklist: “The Decembrist”

When The Blacklist began its second season, I was impressed by how much the show had evolved. Weekly crimes correlated much more with the main characters for the first time, and the show had introduced plenty of intriguing elements at the end of the first season to put Season Two in a great place. And at the beginning, it did. We were introduced to Berlin, a man who was potentially more of a threat than Reddington, and with much fewer morals holding him back. We also met Reddington’s wife, which could’ve brought a more compelling history to Reddington. Liz was in an incredibly dark place, following the supposed death of Tom. It was a great place for Season Two to begin, but as we hit “The Decembrist”—the fall finale of The Blacklist—it feels like the show is reverting back to its beginnings, which isn’t exactly where this show should be.

The two biggest problems in “The Decembrist” have to do with the handling of Tom and Berlin. Last week, Reddington proved that Berlin’s attempt at revenge had been futile, that they’d both been set up. For a few moments in “The Decembrist,” we see what a Berlin-Reddington team-up could look like, and it’s actually pretty fun. Berlin is much more of a hot-head, while Reddington is playing a mental game that takes its time to unfold. It’s a fun dynamic, one that ends as soon as it starts, when Reddington kills Berlin after getting him vodka drunk.

Also, after four months of being trapped by Liz in a boat, Tom is freed after giving information about The Decembrist. The show was setting it up so Liz would either a.) kill Tom, or b.) put him in jail. So The Blacklist decided to go for the much less interesting option c.)—it’s revealed that Tom and Reddington have been working together in some capacity, before Reddington tells the now on-the-run Tom that he should never see Liz again. I’m sure that’ll work out.

But basically what this gives us is The Blacklist back at the beginning, without a real villain to work against, and with the uncertainty of Tom. Not to mention, Zoe and Reddington’s rarely-seen wife hardly have any purpose in the show at this point. The Blacklist seems to have taken a poorly chosen U-turn.

The best possibility of an interesting future does come in the reveal that The Decembrist is actually Alan Alda’s Alan Finch. By the end of the episode, he has a bomb collar around his neck and has just enough time to tell Reddington that a whole storm of bad things is cominghis way once he dies, before Alan Alda is just a bunch of bloody pieces. At the very least, this makes Alda a worthwhile character, but c’mon Alan Alda deserved to be on a better show.

“The Decembrist” points to what The Blacklist usually does: vague answers were given to vague questions, while raising even more vague questions. The Blacklist throws tons of unnecessary plot in to give the illusion that stuff is really in motion, and exciting things are happening—but really it’s all just sort of empty. Maybe the death of these characters with potential will be a continuation of the show’s attempt at evolution in the second season, but after “The Decembrist,” it just feels like we’re back at the start again.

Ross Bonaime is a D.C.-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.

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