The Blacklist Review: A Whole Lot of Gray

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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?

Mako Tanida Review

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

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