The Blacklist 1.04 "The Stewmaker" Review

A tv review article by: Natalie Amato

Week four! The speculation continues. This episode begins by introducing the viewers to this week's criminal focus, “The Stewmaker” (Tom Noonan), a man who disposes of human bodies by making them disappear via toxic chemicals.  It also begins with a discussion between Donald Ressler (Diego Klattenhoff) and Assistant Director Harold Cooper (Harry Lennix) discussing Elizabeth Keen’s continuous search for information about a case involving the ballistic information she had assessed in the last episode. Cooper orders Ressler to keep an eye on Keen (Megan Boone) at the courthouse where she is trying to put away a Mexican drug dealer Hector Lorca (Clifton Collins Jr.).

Just as Keen and Ressler are preparing for court, Meera Malik (Parminder Nagra) informs them that Raymond Reddington (James Spader) wants to speak with Keen alone. They meet briefly and Reddington warns Keen. “Something is going to happen Lizzie. I don’t think you’re going to have a very good day in court at all.”

The court session is cut short when a juror has a heart attack.  The witness for the prosecution is escorted quickly into the custody of supposed U.S. Marshals who are really working with Lorca. He disappears. A later scene shows The Stewmaker dumping the witness’s body into a tub and pouring chemicals over him to dissolve the body.

The FBI is later called to the hotel room but nothing is found there. Reddington realizes the Stewmaker is in town and out of sheer interest becomes involved with the case.

Before transporting Lorca into Homeland Security custody, an attack is staged and Keen is kidnapped by Lorca’s people and taken to the Stewmaker.

While discussing options, Cooper and Ressler suspect Reddington of  having an involvement with Keen’s capture. He has a meeting scheduled with Lorca to deliver a new identity to him. His response is likely my favorite line from the show thus far. “Your witness is dead, you lost Lorca, and he took agent Keen.  I would say my meeting with Lorca might be the equivalent to you falling on your ass and landing in a pile of Christmas.”

Eventually Ressler, Malik and Reddington acquire the location of agent Keen. After a couple hours of torture and paralysis Reddington rescues her just in time from the Stewmaker who meets a fitting demise at the hands of Reddington.

First things first, Keen has not let go of her concerns and suspicions about her husband’s potential secret life. Her search for answers continues this week when she lies to sneak herself into possession of classified documents storage trying to find info on the redacted ballistics report she received last week. She finds a box with a date and location on it: “Angel Station, June 23, 2012” but doesn’t have time to search through it before she is almost discovered.

Later, while reading through files involving the ballistics report she discovers that the date from the box was during a trip to Boston with her husband. At the end of the episode, after the ordeal with the Stewmaker, her husband surprises her with a three-day trip back to the same location: Angel Station Hotel. No doubt this vacation will lead to more information in upcoming episodes but more likely endless questions and possibly even Reddington’s connection with this mystery. Of course, this is just speculation.

Keen’s husband also accuses her of having tells, which leads me to believe in some way he knows she’s been lying to him, and could possibly even know that she is currently researching his past. Only time will tell.

One thing I’ve noticed is that we haven’t seen much of Assistant Director Harold Cooper. Other than the brief scenes where he and Ressler discuss Keen and her prying search for information, Cooper doesn’t make many appearances. I’m curious to see what they do with his character in the future. Harry Lennix is a fantastic actor who can easily play the hero or the villain and I’m anxious to see which way they play his character with Reddington.

As for Ressler, his character finally becomes multidimensional this episode and displays a sympathetic side. While I still see the likelihood of conflict and disagreements between Ressler and Keen in the future of this series, this episode definitely displays a different side of Ressler. Although he’s spent much of his time criticizing Keen in the past, he becomes gentle and sympathizes with her after the kidnapping allowing her to cry without criticism or judgment. To an extent he is even protective of her in regards to Reddington.

Reddington too displays a softer side in this episode. While still keeping his secrets close, he shows real concern for Keen. Reddington is the first to find Keen with the Stewmaker. After subduing the Stewmaker he gently places Keen’s paralyzed legs into the wheelchair she is sitting in, reassures her she will be all right, even pats her lovingly on the head and moves her so she doesn’t have to see the Stewmaker meet his demise. Although after the ordeal Keen calls Reddington a “Monster,” to the viewer it is apparent that for the first time in the series she not only feels relieved to see Reddington, but may have actually placed trust in him, if only for a fleeting second.

Additionally, more questions are created about Reddington and Keen’s separate pasts, but also about where they intersect. Reddington gives a rather deep and lengthy speech about a supposed farmer who loses everything and becomes the monster he lost it to, clearly talking about himself. Furthermore, he removes a picture of a young girl dated 1979 from the binder that the Stewmaker kept his victim’s pictures in.  From a shot of the image of this poor helpless girl, the camera moves to a shot of a tired and stunned Keen with the same blank expression on her face, encouraging the viewer to question and speculate what this foreshadowing means for the show.

Personally, this is my favorite episode so far. I love the suspense and I enjoy the hints to each character’s past and potential connections. The only down side is that Harold Cooper has yet to play much of a role. But who knows, maybe next week will be the week his character moves toward hero or villain . . . or both.

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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