The Blacklist Review: A Whole Lot of Gray

at .  Updated at . Comments

The Blacklist took what appeared to be a case about an escaped criminal seeking revenge for his capture and twisted it into something much more complex.

The show is one of my favorites because the writers never slack off and take the easy route. Instead, they build complicated and layered stories and characters that feel authentic.

People rarely live their lives entirely in the "right" or in the "wrong." They shift along the spectrum based on their circumstances.. And, what may be wrong in one case is entirely justified in another.

Raymond Reddington was introduced as a criminal who was coming into the FBI to help them capture bad guys. While he does assist them in bringing down people on his Blacklist, he continues to work outside without any hindrance when it suits him.

Yet, he's sympathetic at the same time. That's an amazing feat.

On The Blacklist Season 1 Episode 16, the concept of right and wrong was continually at the forefront, but it was handled with an odd subtlety that showcased the characters and each of their motivations and moral codes. Mako Tanida escaped from prison and his first target was an FBI agent. He was the villain killing someone that appeared to be an innocent.

Next, Tanida headed to the United States and took out FBI Agent McGuire. He appeared to be seeking revenge against those who put him behind bars. Only that wasn't his motivation for killing the agents, instead it was personal and about family.

The FBI wrongly believed that Tanida's brother took over the criminal enterprise and then expanded it beyond what Tanida had established. Tanida's revenge killing spree was in retribution for the death of his innocent bookworm brother. Tanida not only wanted retribution for his brother's killing, but to take out the person who took over his criminal enterprise. 

Does that make Tanida's killings justified? No. Does it make them understandable? Definitely. When Audrey was killed by Tanida, she was an innocent just like Tanida's brother. Was Ressler justified in killing Tanida for her death? Makes you think, right? What is right? It's a complicated issue.

After Ressler found out the truth about his best friend, Jonica, the issue was raised again. Depending on your point of view, Jonica was just as responsible for Audrey's death and those of the other agents as Tanida. In the end, Ressler couldn't kill either Tanida or Jonica, though they both ended up dead.

Jonica killed himself rather than suffer the torture of being in prison. And, Tanida was taken out by Reddington. Both deaths provided some relief for Ressler, but neither would bring Audrey back. Ressler would have to suffer that loss forever, though it would get easier each day as Reddington wrote to him.

Ressler's observation that  his worst enemy  brought Audrey back into his life, while his best friend took her away was an insightful moment. As much as Reddington and Liz's relationship is the core of the show, I'm finding the developing connection between Reddington and Ressler to be more compelling.

Ressler spent years chasing Red, lost his fiance due to that pursuit, and hated the man. Now that they are getting to know each other personally, they have developed an unlikely connection that will only grow stronger now that they have both suffered a tragic loss of a loved one.

The final scene at the ballet cut with Ressler getting Red's message and the head in a box was beautifully tragic. A villain and a hero, but I was left feeling empathy for both of them. That's what makes The Blacklist such a  joy to watch over other procedural-like shows.

And, of course the mysteries and questions. Whoa, Tom! He's not the kind school teacher and husband that Liz believes him to be. He's quite a scary guy. And creepy, especially when he did the simple action of taking off his glasses and then putting them back on. Red definitely has a reason to be concerned for Liz.

Given the complex nature of characters, I'm not going to peg Tom as a bad guy ... yet. It's still possible that he has a good reason for what he's doing, but I doubt it.  He referenced "Berlin" as his contact, so perhaps he works for a foreign government. Or, it could just be a criminal enterprise.

Regardless, it was disturbing to see Liz get into the shower with her bloody husband. I'm not sure how she didn't see the blood, but maybe she was distracted by his embrace and kiss. Depending on how thorough their shower is, she may end up finding out when she finds blood on her own back.

From start to finish, the hour was intense and took unexpected turns. Will Liz begin to have doubts about her husband again? Or, will Tom be able to keep up the charming husband act? I'm sure Red will make sure to do everything possible to break that cover. We'll just have to keep on watching to find out.

What shocked you the most?


Editor Rating: 4.7 / 5.0
  • 4.7 / 5.0
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
User Rating:

Rating: 4.7 / 5.0 (57 Votes)

Carla Day is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter and on Google+.


1) to one of the commenters- it was the mud from burying them, not blood in the shower with Tom. 2) Does anyone think Red knows whats in the warehouse? he knows from Reddick where it is.3) It is a good question to wonder who did the bugging of the house? Fitz? That would mean that Tom doesn't work for Fitz. 4) I am inclined to believe that Tom might actually have interest in Liz because why push the adoption and act all pouty when it really wasnt' her big push?

@ abpf

If you're talking about Liz and Tom's house, that story has already been ended.


Ressler is becoming more interesting than Lizzie now. Red has a connection to Ressler and LIzzie somehow. I don't think Red is Lizzie's father. When she asked him he said no and I believe him. I don't think Tom is 100% evil because if he was Red would have taken him out a long time ago. Something is going on between Tom and Red. I think it was interesting that Tom said he knew who Red was and he has the chance to kill him when Red was sitting next to him threating him. I think Tom really loves Lizzie and really wants to have a life with her and that is why he is pushing so hard for adopt a baby. If he was just in it to kill her in the end why do all that. There are shades of grey with Tom as well as Red. One thing we know about Red: family and friends who are like family mean everything to him.


One of the worst episodes. Ressler shoots Tanido associate in the hospital, kidnaps Tanido, and is ready to kill his ex best friend, and NOTHING is done to him? Cooper runs a really stupid agency here Also the death scene of Audrey was telegraphed from her blooding her head on an unbroken glass window in the car to her just walking up to the fight between Ressler and Tanido. The writers could have simply got Tanido to attack and kill her at the condo - anything would have been better than that dumb death Next keen figures out Jonica is running Tanido's organization in less than a minute but the FBI could not figure that out for 5 years? Keen is one of the smartest and stupidest characters in the show I really like Red always being ahead of everyone else in this show, but killing Tanido was a bit too easy. Too many times the story caters to building Red's reputation without explaining how he gets the simple things done I was big fan of this show when it began but too many liberties are being taken to move the story without ANY consequences for ANY characters
Tom's story finally got interesting but my enthusiasm is starting to die for this show.
Some might say this episode was one of the best - I say it was one of the worst

Derek st john

This first season of "The Blacklist" is a bit like a chess game: moving pieces around and aligning forces together. Last week Red freed Cooper from execution--and maybe won him over...if only as a lesser-of-evils ally. Now that Red has (brutally, gorily) executed the man who killed Ressler's love, the FBI man is ripe for coming over to Red's team, too. Shifting gears to the Tom/Liz relationship: the show is positioning Tom as a long-term villain (or maybe, a Villain-with-Benefits), and Liz & Ressler as partners at work and in bed. If this show lasts more than four seasons (and I hope it does) it might morph into a "Team Red"/Criminal Minds show. Think about it!

@ Derek St. John

I don't think Liz and Ressler will end up together........Ressler doesn't trust her yet...........

Derek st john
@ Terrie

Ressler offered to "rough up" Tom for Liz, when she was making another excuse to Tom for failing to be with him. And, Liz was sensitive to Ressler's feelings for Audrey--forcing him to leave the office to keep a date with Audrey, rather than staying with Liz, when she was in the dumps. Both of which are signs that they "care" for each other. And, now that they are (almost) both "free" of their external love interests, that caring will grow to more intimate affection for each other. Male/female partner hook-ups are very common in law enforcement--yes, it's that old Freudian sex-and-aggression combo! Trust me: Keen & Ressler is going to happen!


I loved this episode. It wasn't as great as the Anslo episodes but it was up there. I think they need to have less of Lizzie interacting with Red and more Ressler -- their scenes were great. In fact, less Lizzie is what made this episode better. I always thought Tom was a waste of a character and now this development is making him more interesting but I would still like to see him go away. I just don't like him or his story line at all. It seemed to me that Red sending the head in the box and completing the revenge on behalf of Ressler was a gift in order to keep Ressler from following Red's dark path. In some ways, Red seems to have a respect for Ressler (regardless of the jokes at his expense) and likes him. His warning to Ressler and the subsequent head should give Ressler an even deeper insight into the man who is supposed to be his greatest enemy. No matter what Red does for Lizzie and how much he warns her she treats him like dirt -- never learns. It seems that Ressler at least has a begrudging respect for Red and this episode shows a common bond. He is developing into a better character than Lizzie.


I was not surprised by Ressler being gifted by Red with the head-in-the-box since he was the one who suggested it (although when he said it he thought that it would be Red's desire). Red's comment at that point was interesting. Tanida had his revenge and I think that being delivered to Ressler would fit his honor system as an apology for killing the fiance. Tanida's mission was all about Honor and having killed the first two agents when they were innocent fit in with the head gift (assuming that Red told him what would be done). Note that he did not blame them for capturing him.

@ BobR

Tanida taunted Ressler about how long it took for Audry to bleed out. So, no, I don't think he would think it was karma to have his head served to Ressler.
He really should be walking with a 'House' like linp, his leg was massively damaged in that bubble with Red.


Liz has slipped- she began the series as a superstar and is now a bit player. Her inability to see through Tom's cover is always surprising. Can't imagine Liz and Ressler ending up together- it would be like rebound squared. And I think Ressler would have capped Tanida if Liz and the others hadn't shown up. Jonica as turncoat was too transparent. Why didn't everyone fire on Ressler while he was pumping off six shots or so?


So who was watching Tom & Liz's house (camera's) ? And who is Tom working for, he said there has been no contact for over a year…?
I hate Tom…

@ shazzz

The guy watching their house was working for Fitch. He was taken down in the mid season finale.


Everybody keeps saying Liz is Red's daughter -------- I'm still not buying it........that would be too easy and too predictable. I do agree James Spader carries the show and the other characters are weak............. Kinda had an inkling from the get go that Tom was bad news.......but what is his end game? He's been with Liz for years now so it would make no sense for him to just kill her.......I don't think that is his end game........but I don't know what is.

@ Terrie

I agree that Red isn't Liz's father, but I believe he knows who her father is. Also, I think Tom's endgame is the death of Red, because I think that Tom's working for Fitch, and, since Red mentioned a war coming, I think Fitch wants Tom to kill Red to swing the war in his favor.

@ PatrickC

Interesting theory that could turn out to be exactly what happens..........

@ Terrie

You heard it right here, on TV Fanatic.

Sarah silva

This was a good episode!
I think Ressler is now on team Red.
I knew Audrey was a goner when her head hit the window and there was all that blood from her head, however she was really dead once she was shot. This is just another step towards Ressler and Elizabeth getting together.
I had a feeling Tom would hurt Jolene but not kill her, however Cowboy was right when he told Jolene that Tom was going to kill them both.
I find it interesting that Tom was calling Elizabeth his wife during that scene, I would think he would have call her by name. I think Tom really cares for her even though he wanted Jolene to think all she was, was his target.
I was surprised to find out Jonica was bad. I am glad that Ressler did not kill him and Tanida did what was called the honorable thing and killed himself.
The ending with Red watching the ballet and remembering his daughter was interesting.

Tags: ,