The Blacklist: The Endling (No. 44) Review
The Blacklist: Season 5, Episode 4: The Endling (No. 44) emphasizes the tragic backstory of its antagonist to the detriment of any sense of menace they might have possessed .
In the wide, wide world of Blacklisters, Nirah Ahmad (Poorna Jagannathan) is nowhere near the worst. While others like Greyson Blaise are memorable for how bland they are, she has the advantage of a compelling motive: her son, the titular Endling of the program, is dying, and she needs a heart transplant from someone who shares the same rare blood type as him to save his life. Far from being tacked on as a post-hoc explanation as to why she does what she does, Ahmad’s backstory informs her performance throughout the story, with Jagannathan exhibiting a pained vulnerability that few of her fellow rogues have displayed.
The downside of this is that the show’s attempt to humanize Ahmad is too effective and basically makes it hard to accept her as a villain. There are any number of great villains with tragic backgrounds – heck, the series itself revolves around one in the form of Red (James Spader) – but they work precisely because the qualities that make audiences empathize with them do not cancel out the ones that make viewers fear them. Ahmad may brandish a gun and even set off a bomb, but she doesn’t come across as dangerous so much as desperate.
Another thing Ahmad has going against her is the format of the program: at just over forty minutes, a single episode of The Blacklist is far too short for a character like her to receive the nuanced treatment she deserves. Perhaps if it were a film or even a miniseries then it would be easier for her to make a bigger impression, but sadly it’s not.
All that being said, the episode has a pretty solid action scene. Ressler (Diego Klattenhoff) and Navabi (Mozhan Marno) narrowly being blown to pieces by the aforementioned bomb, but are blown back by the explosion. To portray the disruptive effect of the bomb, the scene is shot in slo-mo and the audio is silenced save for the sound of the explosion ringing in the characters’ ears and the background music. It kind of comes out of nowhere, but that only makes it more of a novelty, and a welcome one at that.
In short, The Endling is a promising entry that has some real strengths like a strong guest performance and active editing but is unable to leverage them into a classic episode. Fortunately, there’s still plenty of time for The Blacklist to make more of those.
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