Of course, given the game-changing events of last week’s episode, perhaps this shift in tone wasn’t as unforeseeable as one might have thought. Like viewers, Raymond Reddington (James Spader) is still reeling from the shocking death of Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone). Trying to make sense of the woman he loved like a daughter’s death, he interrogates Nik Korpal (Piter Marek) about what went wrong after Liz gave birth. Terrified for his life, Korpal explains there was nothing he could do and it is left ambiguous as to whether Red killed the hapless doctor for this tragic turn of events.
Whatever course of action Red took, it didn’t bring him any peace, as he wanders in a dazed stupor trying to make sense of what happened and what will follow. This sojourn is an intensely personal experience for Red, so much so that none of his cronies, not even his bodyguard and series fixture Dembe (Hisham Tawfiq), accompany him. In fact, with the exception of brief flashbacks showing Liz and Tom Keen (Ryan Eggold), not one of the program’s regulars appears in the episode.
The relatively sparse cast complements the unusual pace of the episode, which moves at a rate unlike any other in the show’s history. Whereas a typical Blacklist episode can be thought of as a runaway passenger train taking all on board for the ride of their lives, this one more closely resembles an aimless freight train, ominously lumbering towards God knows where. There are extended periods where nothing is said, with the only cues as to how viewers should feel being the often morose soundtrack and the expressions of Red and the few people he interacts with over the course of the show make. The only perceivable warmth surfaces when Red comes across a mysterious woman (Lotte Verbeek) who he narrowly prevents from committing suicide before confiding his growing issues with her. As he learns more about her, however, he realizes that they share more in common than emotional distress.
Throw in some gloomy lighting and impressive camerawork, and you’ve got the first episode of The Blacklist that transcends it’s small-screen boundaries and displays some truly cinematic quality. While the death of Elizabeth Keen will continue to hang over the program like it does for Red, last night’s show proves that The Blacklist will not only continue, but reach new creative heights as well.
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