The Blacklist: Miss Rebecca Thrall (No. 76) Review
The Blacklist: Season 5, Episode 3: Miss Rebecca Thrall (No. 76) attempts to tackle a controversial topic but plays it too safe to say anything really profound.
Since its start 5 years ago, The Blacklist has never been one to shy away from current events. Episodes like General Ludd and The Vehm addressed Occupy Wall Street and sexual abuse within the Catholic Church respectively, while more general issues like crime and terrorism have always informed the program’s story and approach. The keyword, however, is “informed”, as these elements are mostly used to advance the plot rather than be explored for their own sake.
Thus, it really shouldn’t be a surprise that the show went this route with its take on police brutality. NBC was undoubtedly mindful of the backlash they could receive if they mishandled the topic, and it definitely shows in the program’s careful approach. When discussing an unlawful police shooting, Cooper (Harry Lennix) makes it a point to say that good cops hate that such events happen as much as the next person because they reflect poorly on the law enforcement community as a whole and make it harder for them to do their jobs. That Cooper is more disturbed by the fact that the reputation of law enforcement officers is damaged by fatal police shootings than the fact that innocent people die will rub some the wrong way, but we understand the place he’s coming from as an LEO himself.
The problem with this measured approach is that, as with most cases where you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one. Law and order conservatives will be outraged at the episode’s central premise of police killing people for personal gain, and socially conscious progressives will be incensed with the conspicuous decision to not mention race in the context of the program. In fact, the one black victim in the show not only survives but is targeted by a female black officer, a quiet but clear aversion of the infamous “white cop-black victim” narrative so prevalent in social discourse.
In a way, it’s almost a shame that the episode’s premise was used for The Blacklist because it feels like a movie or even a miniseries would be a more appropriate venue for a subject as fraught with nuance as extrajudicial killings. This isn’t a dig at the episode – for what it’s worth, it’s quite good – or series as a whole, but rather a comment about its need to either stick to its guns and go all the way when it tries to get topical or go home, so to speak.
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