Ever since The Blacklist’s premiere, the show has been throwing its audience little pieces of clues that should fit into the larger puzzle, yet don’t add up. As we near the end of the first season, The Blacklist is desperately trying to make these different elements coalesce into something that will give the illusion this has been the big picture all along, but it’s really just the show scrambling to make anything at all make sense. We get a team from the beginning of the season who were just faceless goons until this episode, a music box that makes an appearance just to point out that it wasn’t forgotten and a key that was a loose thread the show seemed to forget about months ago until this mad dash for closure by season’s end. This entire season of The Blacklist has been a mess, and now the show is finally having to deal with the wreck it created.
“The Pavlovich Brothers” is such a strange episode of The Blacklist because it does something I’ve wanted this show to do since the beginning—tying the weekly story into the overall story—but does it in an incredibly awkward way. The Pavlovich Brothers, or the aforementioned guys who stole the general’s daughter on a bridge at the beginning of the season, reappear in D.C. to extract a Chinese scientist who has inside knowledge of a germ warfare program. Yet while they’re in town, Reddington seemingly hires them to also capture Tom Keen, who has ran from Elizabeth since she knows who he is now, and deliver him back home. It’s like Reddington just said to the Pavlovich brothers they should do some freelancing work while they’re in town, you know, just for the heck of it and a few extra bucks?
With Tom out in the open now, The Blacklist tries to throw out some action sequences, but just fails miserably at them. First, we get a chase between Tom and the Pavlovich brothers, with incredibly bad angles and spastic editing that only points out the awful directing choices. Even funnier is the Mustang commercial that airs after this scene in which Ryan Eggold describes Tom in a way that hints that he’s watching a completely different show, before advertising for Ford.
Then later on, we finally get the showdown we’ve all been waiting for between Tom and Elizabeth, and of course, it’s disappointing. The two fight in their former home together, and it comes off like a really crappy Bourne film, but with more unnecessary shaky cam, before he leaves saying he’s one of the good guys and that Reddington is the true villain. Yeah, I believe that the guy who lied to Elizabeth for two years and planted himself in her life to spy on her is being more honest than the guy who slightly helps Elizabeth on a weekly basis, even if it is incredibly vague.
Maybe the most egregious failure of The Blacklist lies in the flipside to the question it’s created: Why does everyone care so desperately about Elizabeth Keen? Sometimes it’s almost like even the characters don’t know. Reddington refuses to tell Elizabeth their connection, and even when she interrogates Tom, he doesn’t even know, either. I mean, we don’t even have any clue why Tom was even watching her in the first place. The audience knows the bare minimum of what we need to know, and it’s not the interesting part. So, why should we, the audience, care about Keen?
Once again, the episode ends with a moment so vague, Reddington would giggle with glee, as she does what Tom instructed, taking the key she found months ago to open a lockbox that apparently has information on Reddington. We get yet another ending where we see a character reacting to yet another piece to this puzzle before the credits hit. We’re still having clues thrown at us, even when the ones we do have aren’t close to compelling in the first place.
I’ll give The Blacklist some credit though; it is trying meld the weekly and larger stories into one, but it’s disastrously done here. But with that, we’re still getting red herrings and unnecessary plot diversions and Reddington talking about braless calculus tutors and guys who fix water pumps, for some reason. The Blacklist has thrown in too many elements that just don’t matter, while refusing to give us enough so that we have a reason to still care.
Ross Bonaime is a D.C.-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.