The Blacklist 1.02 "The Freelancer" Review

A tv review article by: Natalie Amato

Ready for round two? The second episode of The Blacklist aired this week and as expected, the plot thickens.

The episode begins with the FBI transporting Raymond “Red” Reddington via ship from a holding cell in a detention centre, to the FBI building where Cooper, Keen and Ressler had him held in last week's episode. I'm not certain if this is meant to suggest that Reddington is being held at a Guantanamo like centre, but once again, I expect this is intended to portray how dangerous a threat the FBI believes Reddington to be.

The episode then cuts to a montage of separate interviews of Assistant Director Harold Cooper, Elizabeth Keen, and Reddington. While Reddington and Keen are asked a series of questions about a suspected previous relationship, Cooper attempts to convince the Criminal Justice Division of Main Justice that Reddington is useful enough to the FBI to warrant accepting his request for immunity.

While ignoring most of the questions he is asked, Reddington reveals that there will be an incident at the Decatur Industrial Park at eleven that morning. Agent Donald Ressler and a team of field agents are sent to the location to investigate. Just as Ressler is about to pack up and return back to the FBI, a passenger train headed towards the field team derails. When Reddington is once again interviewed about the incident, he discloses that the train wreck was not an accident but rather the assassination of a councilwoman from Albany who happened to be a passenger.

Before revealing any more information, Reddinngton demands to speak with Keen, who is brought in to uncover more about the incident.  Finally, Reddington discloses that the man behind the assassination, as well as other premeditated catastrophes, is known as “the freelancer.” Reddington claims he can contact the freelancer by travelling to a restaurant in Montreal.

Keen accompanies Reddington to the restaurant where he makes contact.  This scene seemed incredibly ridiculous and unrealistic to me. Reddington escapes FBI custody only to return within minutes, again showing their incompetence. Never mind the fact that a man wearing an FBI jacket flailing a gun on foreign soil at a French waiter in a public restaurant would likely end in political scandal on the cover of a newspaper. Anyway, while at the restaurant, Reddington manages to discover the next victim of the freelancer, Floriana Campo (Isabella Rossellini), a human rights activist.

At this point it is determined by the Criminal Justice Division that the information Reddington possesses is worth accepting the immunity deal. Three new characters are introduced as his protection. Agent Margot Malik (Parminder Nagra), Dembe, and Luli Zeng.

While at Campo's fundraiser, Reddington and an FBI team spot the freelancer, who is then captured by Ressler. Through some crafty physical means of persuasion by Agent Malik, he reveals that he was actually hired by Reddington. When Ressler passes this information on to Keen she rushes back to the hotel room where Reddington is alone with Campo but too late. Apparently a barbiturate cocktail had been slipped into Campo's drink at the party. Before she dies Reddington reveals that while Campo was saving girls from sexual slavery she was also profiting from capturing and selling them.

I really like that this episode is focused more on the development of Keen's character, her marriage, and her relationship with Reddington. In the pilot, Keen found a box of money, passports, and a gun underneath her dining room floorboards, supposedly belonging to her husband. Through this episode the viewer can see her internal conflict with what to do about the situation, once again creating sympathy and creating a character the viewer can relate to.  Although Reddington had suggested that she may not know everything about her husband, she now suspects that it's possible he had the box put there. While discussing the matter with him he claims she has two options: the first, to turn her husband in and the second, to confront him. Reddington then suggests she has a third option. By the end of the episode it is fairly clear to the viewer she has taken the third option and chosen not to turn her husband in or confront him but rather to continue with the charade in order to discover more about the box. 

As for Keen and Reddington's relationship, during the initial montage there are a few things to note. Through the interrogation, while Reddington is asked many questions, there are only a few he actually answers. One of them is “Have you ever had personal contact with Elizabeth Keen?” He responds “No.” Agent Donald Ressler exclaims from behind the hidden mirror “He's lying.” But even without Ressler's interjection, it is fairly obvious to the viewer that Reddington isn't being truthful in the awkward way he answers and avoids eye contact. Furthermore, at the end of the barrage of questions Keen is asked “...and have you been truthful to the best of your knowledge?” The camera rests on Keen at this point but no answer is given, leaving the viewer with the impression that she is also hiding something. After the incident occurs, Reddington is once again questioned about the train wreck and while avoiding answering, he says “If you had any idea how far I've travelled to see you Lizzie,” once again implying a former encounter or relationship between Keen and Reddington.

While at the restaurant Reddington suggests a backstory and creates one in which Keen is his girlfriend. Her response is “Absolutely not.” He then says, “Fine, you can be my daughter.” The backstory is never actually needed but it begs some questions. He also requests that Keen profile him. Through the entire discussion, the sense that Keen is important to Reddington is reinforced by the way he interacts with her, as well as by Keen herself, and her assessment of him. Right before Reddington takes off he asks Keen, “What if I were to tell you that all the things you've come to believe about yourself are lies?” putting into question her childhood, her relationship with her parents, and even more so her relationship with her husband.

I'll admit that while this episode further develops the plot and characters, it left me confused about inconsistencies and unfinished events. Why does the FBI take such comically extreme measures to confine Reddington only to let him escape again, this time in a public city on foreign soil? Hopefully with Reddington's immunity deal, these FBI screw ups and inconsistencies will be altogether removed from the show. Also, what about the train wreck? Was Reddington behind it? Was he involved? Or did he simply just possess information about it? Finally, one of the last scenes is Reddington and Keen having a heart to heart on a pier bench. The conversation is consistent with the story but the setting is not. Why are they on a pier presumably just chilling? This situation or how they arrived at it makes no sense to me.

Perhaps these questions will be answered next time. As for me, I'll see you next week.

 Natalie Amato is a ninja cappuccino-slinging barista by day, undercover freelancing graphic designer, photographer, and writer by night (...and sometimes during the day). 

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