The Blacklist 1.07 "Frederick Barnes"

A tv review article by: Natalie Amato

The episode begins with Frederick Barnes, this episode’s villain, infecting a subway car full of innocents with a weaponized disease, killing 37 people. As usual, Raymond Reddington (James Spader) offers his services to help the case. He informs Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone) who the suspect is, and the search begins from there. Frederick Barnes (Robert Sean Leonard) is a former government defense research scientist, or as Reddington refers to him “a savant of government-sanctioned mass killing.”

Keen and Donald Ressler (Diego Klattenhoff) visit a former lab partner of Barnes’ only to discover she had an extramarital affair with him that resulted in a pregnancy. When questioned, she reveals to Keen that the child from that affair suffers from the same rare disease which Barnes has been weaponizing.

Reddington then visits another contact (David Zayas), manipulating him to help further the case. He meets this contact in Cuba about acquiring Strontium 90, a nuclear waste product, which has been found on scene at the mass killings. Through this contact, the location of Barnes is found.

While Keen and Ressler are pursuing Barnes, he is in the process of orchestrating another attack on a courthouse in Texas. There, a woman with a natural immunity is discovered. Barnes, disguised as a nurse, finds her in hospital and performs bone marrow tests on her so that he can create a cure for his son.  I won't give away the ending for you (in detail) but let’s just say the good guys prevail and Barnes is taken down.

What I liked about this episode.

Robert Sean Leonard. I honestly believe that Leonard is one of the most underrated actors working today. If you’ve never seen Swing Kids or Dead Poets Society then please go watch them. Both are brilliant films and Leonard, even as young man, was capable of captivating an audience.

As for this episode, he doesn’t disappoint. Leonard has a very innocent, convincing and trustworthy face. Even though his character is committing horrible acts, as a viewer you still find him sympathetic. He isn’t simply a cold-blooded killer. He has a motive, a reason. On some level you feel that he’s justified because he’s trying to save the life of his son. I think there are many actors out there who would have simply portrayed this character as a soulless psychopath, but Leonard goes a step further and portrays not simply a villain, but a human being who’s been driven to the brink.

What I didn’t like.

In an episode containing James Spader and Robert Sean Leonard it’s a travesty that there was no direct dialogue between the two. Both are such phenomenal actors and it only could have added to the intensity and caliber of the episode.

Also, although I enjoyed Leonard’s appearance on The Blacklist, I think that it is unfortunate the writers killed off his character within a single episode, especially when there are so many possible routes they could have taken. For example, the fact that Leonard and Spader had no direct conversation could have been drawn out between multiple episodes and could have eventually climaxed in a direct meeting. Perhaps the two could have a convoluted history, like Reddington has with half the characters already introduced.  In my opinion, although I can’t criticize the performance Leonard gave on the show, (again, he did a great job) I still think it’s a potential waste on the creators' parts to have access to such a talent and not fully utilize it.

As per the usual, Reddington and Keen’s relationship seems to be at a standstill this episode. Keen no longer trusts Reddington because of the drama and discoveries from last episode, which involved the “framing” of her husband (yet to be determined). She draws a line in their relationship stating that it ends in the professional realm. As for Keen and her husband, all is back to normal, although I feel that this separate story line hasn’t yet run its course. 

Also, the eerie men who have been watching Keen’s house played no part in this episode.  There wasn’t even a mention of them. I’m dying to know who these guys are, whether they’re working for Reddington, and what their role is in the series.  As much as I enjoy speculating, I really wish they’d get on with it and give us more to go on. I have a feeling this may be drawn out until the season finale … or maybe I’m completely wrong and everything will be explained in the next episode. With this show it’s hard to tell.

Finally, I’m not entirely sure what was with the house scene. Reddington has Luli purchase a house for twice the asking price at the end of the episode only to have Dembe blow it up. WTF? Reddington talks about the having a past in this house. It could potentially be where his family lived -- at least that’s what seems to be implied. However, I somehow wonder if Keen is in any way connected. Just a feeling.

Until 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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