In the end of “Wujing,” the third episode of The Blacklist, James Spader’s Reddington answers a question posited by Elizabeth Keen with an incredibly vague answer. When she asks why he has picked her to be his constant partner, he responds “because of your father.” Reddington knows he’s being coy, not giving all of the information he could be giving Keen, then follows it up with “I share your frustration.” Yet the blank stare and seeming disinterest doesn’t match the fear and worry in Keen’s face. He realizes he’s being frustrating, but has no idea just how frustrating he truly is.
I’ve mentioned before that the writers of The Blacklist are essentially personified in Reddington, but never before has that seemed as obvious as it does here. They have the answers that we want and don’t have any desire to share them any time too soon. But the answers they do give aren’t compelling in any way. They’re teasing us with mysteries that aren’t that compelling and presenting us with material they think should blow minds, but it holds no weight whatsoever.
For quite some time, NBC has been trying to get into the antihero drama, sometimes succeeding, but on The Blacklist it’s missing two crucial elements. First, those shows with antihero leads have characters worth following. Reddington is quickly going from mysterious to irritating, and Keen has little to do other than sit by and wonder what her involvement with Reddington is and silently ponder what secrets her husband is keeping from her. There are plenty of supporting characters who have been introduced in the first two episodes, but they’re so bland and given barely anything to do, they just feel like pawns in a boring chess game.
But secondly, the actions of the antihero should actually have consequences. When Tony Soprano whacked a guy, Walter White went further into darkness or Don Draper made a bad drunk decision, sooner or later there would be a consequence to the action. In every episode of The Blacklist, Reddington has acted on his own accord, even though he’s supposed to be working with the FBI, yet absolutely no consequences have come his way. Even in “Wujing” when he murders a guy so that his and Keen’s cover isn’t blown, he’s apparently allowed to go his own way with no questioning at all.
“Wujing” starts off promisingly, with a Chinese group assassinating a CIA member (to Filter’s “Hey Man Nice Shot” of course), then cutting off his hand to gain access to the operative’s computer. Well, whoops, that doesn’t work, so their leader Wujing calls in Reddington to decrypt the information they need. But for some reason throughout this show, the FBI doesn’t pull the reins on Reddington in any way, letting him do as he pleases without ever having to answer for his choices. So basically all of America’s security is in the hands of Michael Scott’s replacement?
“Wujing” concludes with two shots that are supposed to shock the audience it seems, but just don’t have any weight. For his work with Wujing, Reddington receives payment—payment that for some reason the FBI doesn’t even look into—as its suspenseful reveal show that it’s…a six-digit number. Well, alright. Then at Keen’s house, her friends have thrown her and her husband a party for his homecoming. She knows that he isn’t telling her the truth, and has known this since the beginning of the show, but when he addresses that she might not be able to tell him everything in their relationship, she awkwardly stands up in the middle of her party to stand still, looking shocked at nothing, as we fade out to see that she is being watched. But this isn’t shocking at all, since earlier in the episode, we saw these same people breaking into her house and putting in surveillance equipment!
The Blacklist keeps acting like it has all these fascinating cards up its sleeve, but it never shows them. Three episodes in, the mysteries that the show is holding out on aren’t worth tuning in each week to solve, and the things it does reveal mean absolutely nothing to the viewer. After getting picked up for an entire season last week, The Blacklist really needs to put together a plan to make this show worth watching before people see that once the sleeves are pulled up, there’s nothing there.