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The Blacklist: Freelancer

I’ve been trying to figure out why “The Blacklist” is so compelling. Obviously, it’s a good show. We know that because it’s already been picked up for a full season. These days, that doesn’t happen that often. Only the best shows with the best cast and writing and production crew get that honor. Networks can’t afford to push a less than stellar show.

But mainly – for me and anyone else I’ve talked to about it – the real draw is James Spader. This guy is an amazing actor who is both smarmy and cool at the same time.

Or as Reel Life With Jane writer Vera Marie Badertscher put it: “Spader is just the guy you love to hate. Unfortunately, I think he’s limited in the types of roles he can do, but seeing him switch from the deadly menacing to roaring with laughter is a delight.”

“The Blacklist” also has great music (helmed by James Levine), including this episode’s starter, the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil” (one of the most-used songs in movies and TV because, well, it can’t be beat).

The episode begins with Red being taken out of the facility in chains and taking a lie detector test. He’s questioned about Elizabeth and her husband Tom, who teaches fourth grade and who might not be who he says he is.

Then, a most excellent action-thriller scene. A train comes barreling down the tracks, goes off the rails and spins out of control on its side. But Red, as usual, has some answers. He predicts an impending catastrophe, rooted by the work of an assassin, called “The Freelancer.”

Together, Liz and Red go undercover to prevent his next target, Floriana Campo (Isabella Rossellini) from being killed. She’s not who she says she is either. Turns out, she’s not helping to bring sex traffickers to justice. She IS a sex trafficker. Who’d have guessed it?! And of course, Red has prior dealings with her. In fact, she offered to make him a partner.

Elsewhere, Ressler and newly re-hired CIA agent, Meera Malik (Parminder Nagra – great addition to the cast), who’s been added to Red’s private security detail, keep an eye on them from a distance. Meanwhile, Liz considers what she should do next concerning Tom and the mysterious box she found hidden under the floorboards.

In fact, because Red puts suspicion in her head, she puts the box back in the floorboards and goes about her business. When she watched Tom’s flash drive, where he’s talking about her in the adoption interview, did she cry because his comments were so sweet? Or because she saw something fake in them?

And just how DOES Red seem to know everything even while he’s held in a secure cell? No email, no phone, no nothing. Does he have a chip implanted in his head where he receives intel?

I loved Liz’s profile of him, when he asked her to tell him. “You’re comfortable with a glass of scotch, or sleeping in a cave with rebels. Tight bonds can make you vulnerable so you’re careful not to have any. That’s why you’re so conflicted about me. You need me, and you hate that about yourself because it makes you vulnerable.”

And he replies with, “What if I were to tell you that all the things you’ve come to believe about yourself are a lie?” Hmmm… shades of “Alias”?

And even when he COULD get away – like his disappearing act through the kitchen of the restaurant in this episode – he shows back up. Why?! Maybe he’s got nowhere else to go.

Your thoughts on this episode of “The Blacklist”?

3 COMMENTS

  1. Love this show because it keeps me guessing. I’m whiplashed between thinking that Red is totally evil to thinking he’s using all the bad guys in a plot to destroy them, because he’s actually a good guy. It’s the ambivalence felt about Michael and his final arch-enemy in Burn Notice.

    Goes way beyond “Who Done It?” to “Who IS he?”

    • I think it’s the mark of a great actor when you can’t figure out if their character is good or bad. I know your recent “Rants” column was about Breaking Bad, but that’s one of the things that was so intriguing about Walter White. We couldn’t figure out whether to cheer for him or wish for his demise.

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