This is most apparent in the show’s handling of it’s antagonist. An counter-cultural artist vaguely in the mold of Banksy, Drexel (Daniel London) takes his work to the next level by killing people to make political statements. What kind of political statements, you might wonder to yourself. We know Drexel wants to fight the system, but the episode never actually explains why he wants to fight it, much less what finds so revolting about it. One gets the impression that like it’s villain (and for that matter, too many of the hipster types he is meant to lampoon), the show is more interested in the optics of anti-establishment ideology than any real consideration of it.
Tellingly, a good chunk of time is spent on a subplot about leaked NSA technology, suggesting that even the showrunners realized Drexel wasn’t strong enough of an enemy to hold audiences’ attention, much less carry the plot forward. While it ties in nicely to the superficially revolutionary themes of the program, it really only feels like it connects to Drexel’s storyline because the script explicitly tells viewers it does. It’s not a bad subplot, with Agents Donald Ressler (Diego Klattenhoff) and Samar Navabi (Mozhan Marno) getting some excellent scenes and dialogue together, but it just feels like padding to make sure the episode comes in on time.
Part of the reason Ressler and Navabi get so much screen-time is Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone) is mostly out of the picture, still trying to get her life outside of the FBI together. Not helping matters is that her partner and former husband Tom (Ryan Eggold) has been hospitalized after being gravely wounded during a jewelry store heist. Liz is devastated that Tom is in danger, but she is equally devastated that he jeopardized their chances at a normal life. It also plays into the hands of Raymond Reddington (James Spader), who uses it as evidence that Tom is too dangerous for Liz to stay with. As much as Liz dreads Reddington, she seems to come around to his way of thinking by the end of the episode. Whether this will lead to a full reconciliation between the two remains to be seen in future episodes of The Blacklist.
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