Over the last week or so, I’ve been catching up on another of NBC’s shows about tracking down mysterious monsters—Hannibal—and by doing so, The Blacklist has become all the more laughable. Besides the fact that the style and acting of Hannibal is far superior to The Blacklist in every way, The Blacklist could learn so much from the simple structure of Hannibal to make it effective and not come off as silly as it does in “The Kingmaker.”
I’ve said this over and over this season, but The Blacklist has no idea how to combine its two stories each week. The best dramas can meld these two together, as Hannibal does, by integrating elements of the weekly story with an overall arc, or at the very least have the weekly story expound on the larger arc’s themes. Hell, even Scrubs did that. It’s just common sense. But this week, we get three stories, none of which really have anything to do with each other.
A man nicknamed The Kingmaker has the ability to do just as his name implies, to make leaders out of people by manipulating the world around him. For example, in this episode, he creates a car accident to help a state assemblyman gain favor in the public when his wife dies. He then kills a senator so that the assemblyman will easily be able to move into that position. Yet this all couldn’t have less to do with Elizabeth, Reddington or anyone else in the series. It comes off as just a way to fill up the hour slot.
It’s not even like The Kingmaker is even a threat to anyone or anything we care about. Back to Hannibal—that show creates villains who are threatening, even terrifying, and are sewn into the fabric of the show, with each element becoming integral to the character and understanding them. With The Blacklist, nothing is essential; nothing really matters. In fact, The Kingmaker is actually unintentionally funny. He’s a neat freak, which does sort of explain his need to control the world around him, yet for no reason whatsoever, he just sniffs the air oddly every time he’s on screen. If anything, he should be called The Sniffler, because he’s more effective doing that than at making leaders in this episode.
But let’s get to what should matter and yet still doesn’t, the stories of Elizabeth and Reddington. We finally see that in the lockbox Elizabeth opened last week, there was a picture of Reddington visiting her father’s hospital room in Nebraska. After some police work that takes far too long, she discovers Reddington was actually in her father’s room when he died. Reddington admits to killing her father due to the amount of pain he was in, but Elizabeth claims that they’re done with each other. But there’s really no stakes at all to Elizabeth saying that, especially since every week it feels like she’s done with Reddington’s antics … until the episode needs her to be un-done with him.
Reddington’s story is even more boring, as he’s battling with The Shady Group of People Featuring Alan Alda For Some Reason, who drop their support of him. Reddington has some information that could tear this group apart, but also an enemy he needs to deal with that wants him to lose everything. Oh, I bet Elizabeth will decide she wants to be friends with him again just when he needs help!
With two episodes left of The Blacklist this season, it looks like the show is going to try and pull all these random loose ends together and have everything try to make sense, but there’s no way. About 75% of The Blacklist so far has felt like wasting time while it tries to figure out what it wants to do, and about 100% of The Blacklist is just so generic and not trying hard enough, it’s tough to really care. There is the potential for The Blacklist to figure out how to make its premise work in its second season and to learn how to combine everything in a stronger way, like other shows on its own network have, but at this point, it feels like The Blacklist is just running down the clock to even more disappointment in its season finale.
Ross Bonaime is a D.C.-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.