Monday, October 14, 2013

REVIEW: 'The Blacklist' - Liz is Taken Captive by a Man Who Dissolves Bodies for a Living in 'The Stewmaker'

NBC's The Blacklist - Episode 1.04 The Stewmaker

While continuing her investigation into the truth about Tom, Liz testifies against drug lord, Hector Lorca (Clifton Collins, Jr.) but another witness is then abducted. Red's interest is peaked and he informs the team that the witness may have been taken by "The Stewmaker" - a man responsible for hundreds of missing and presumed dead people.

After watching "The Stewmaker," I don't really feel much of anything. Sure, the final act of the episode more than salvaged the main story. But for large portions of the hour, I ultimately did not care about anything that was happening. That's a major problem considering this was the classic hour where the heroine is captured by a bad guy and tortured until someone rescues her at the last minute. Typing that sentence out makes it all seem so cliche. And yet, that's how the chips fall in this episode.

Clifton Collins, Jr. and Tom Noonan - two great character actors - play the two bad guys the team is tracking down in this episode. Both contributed to a major structural flaw of the hour - while trying to focus on both, neither of them are developed well at all. Noonan was given the much flashier role and the episode was named after his trademark criminal. He is meticulous, a chemical genius and a lover of his family and his dog. Those are the only details the show gives him because its all they had time to give him. A sense of mystery to who this guy really is could have worked very well. But in the context where Liz is trying to stop him from killing her like he's done so many times before, it just doesn't work at all. We are suppose to get a sense of human pain and toil that this job has taken on him. But that intrigue doesn't pan out.

And some of the blame has to fall on Liz as well. That character was originally set up as a take-charge woman who can control any situation. And yet, she foolishly mishandles the investigations in every episode. She is still reluctant to trust Red's word when basically everything he has told her about the criminal stuff has been accurate. Sure, the reasons behind him reaching out to her are frustrating but that shouldn't lessen the value of the information he gives. He told her something bad would happen in court and she was confident that nothing like that could happen at all. Its naivety and that can work for a character for some time. But that doesn't make me believe that she could successfully talk the Stewmaker down from what he was doing. I do believe in that situation - no matter how much field experience she has - she would try to say the right thing to save her own life. But the hour puts so much weight on the questioning of the Stewmaker's motives. The show wants us to think she could be successful even though they haven't given us a clear example of her doing something smart and cunning.

But like everyone has been saying since this series began, James Spader is absolutely wonderful. And yes, his performance continues to be great in this less-than-stellar episode. That last act speech about the farmer changing his life to the point that he doesn't even recognize himself anymore was a very powerful and telling moment for that character. Was it Red just fabricating another story to make the Stewmaker suffer or was there more to it than that? How Spader delivered that monologue gave it that intrigue.

However, I really am loosing faith in the FBI and how they handle Red. He travels to Haiti in this episode and no one makes a big deal about it. He brushes it off to Liz by saying it's keeping up appearances. But wouldn't the FBI be monitoring his actions more closely so they could stay more in the loop of what he's doing and what his big master plan is? Additionally, not just once but twice this week - he snatches a piece of evidence. First, it's the note saying a dog hair was found on the scene. And later, he took a picture from the Stewmaker's collection of photos. Both insistences were to build up the cleverness and the mystery of that character. We are suppose to be wondering who that woman is and what she means to Red. But did they have to be that clumsy? Did Red really have to take the dog hair note out of the room in order to track Liz down? How did no one notice that that piece of evidence was missing on the board? Won't they think it's strange that one photo in the middle of the book is missing? Red is just moving about so easily. He needs to deal with some consequences - and soon.

Some more thoughts:
  • How likely is it that they left Hector Lorca out in the world just so they could revisit him later? I'm thinking that's what they were going for but failed miserably.
  • Speaking of Lorca, whoever came up with that look for the character really should be fired.
  • And in Tom news, he's out of the wheelchair. That was a really fast recovery. 
  • Also, the redacted case has something to do with the Angel Station Hotel in Boston. Guess where we're going next week?
  • I did like the direction of the hour a lot though. Especially all of the sequences that revolved around the Stewmaker. Let's just forget about that scene where someone shoots the helicopter and Lorca's men capture Liz.