Monday, January 27, 2014

REVIEW: 'The Blacklist' Investigates an Adoption Agency as Red & Meera Team Up in 'The Cyprus Agency'

NBC's The Blacklist - Episode 1.13 The Cyprus Agency

After a recent spate of abductions of babies from their mothers, Red informs Liz that the "Cyprus Agency" is the illegal adoption organization responsible. Coincidentally, Liz and Tom contemplate adoption of their own which fuels Liz to track down the organization's CEO (Campbell Scott).

Family has been a huge part of The Blacklist during the first half of its debut season. One third of the Blacklisters are motivated or caught because of their attachment to their family - the Stewmaker, Frederick Barnes, the Good Samaritan Killer, the Alchemist, etc. The show really hasn't been subtle in that regard either - frequently juxtaposing the criminal's family lives with Liz's own ambitions with motherhood. That forthright quality becomes even more apparant - and thusly broad - when the FBI tackles its first criminal organization - an adoption agency called The Cyprus Agency. The only way the show could have been less subtle with this is if the Cyprus Agency was also the organization Liz and Tom were using to have a baby. Fortunately that does not occur. Instead we get an hour with the FBI investigate an organization that really isn't that exciting.

I've come to understand The Blacklist as a slightly above-average investigative procedural. The most crucial aspect of what The Blacklist is trying to do is in the casting of its Blacklist criminals each week. In that respect, the show has done quite well in finding character actors that make a memorable impression with their sick-and-twisted way of operating their criminal businesses. "The Cyprus Agency" doesn't really have that same kind of flashy villain the team is frantically trying to track down. Yes, people's lives are still in danger and there's a chase sequence with gunplay and the team is able to save the women before any further harm comes their way. It just feels like the show flying on auto-pilot. It felt like a lot of time was spent on investigating this organization and yet there also wasn't enough time spent getting me to understand those villains or why this would mean so much to Liz - in that it would change her mind completely about adopting with Tom.

So when the main plot is less than special, the subplots better bring something of interest. Branching Red's relationships with the other members of the main cast seems like a very smart thing to do. Him holding Meera at gunpoint at the close of "The Alchemist" was a strong moment - one that I hoped would help further develop that character. Unfortunately, we don't immediate pick up from that moment - because Red has to go exposited the main plot to Liz. And simply there wasn't enough time spent on their interactions and how each one could be helpful to the other. She points him in the direction of Jane Alexander's Diane - who it turns out has been a villainous character all along. That's a twist the probably should have been explored further but it was the episode highlight - because Red shoots her and they still have a conversation for awhile. It closes the episode once again with the idea of family - she knew the truth about what happened to Red's but he assumes someone else will know too. Hopefully, when the show returns things can get much more coherent as it heads towards the conclusion of its first season.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Cyprus Agency" was written by Lukas Reiter and directed by Michael Watkins.
  • The stupidity of the main case can basically be summed up in that parking garage scene where Liz and Ressler fail to rescue the girl when she is literally in the parked van right next to them. Plus, they didn't even try to shoot the wheels.
  • Mr. Kaplan made a brief return appearance at the end. She's a fan favorite and the show knows it. Hoping for more appearances like that in the future.
  • Last week, I didn't even recognize Tom's new female friend as the person Red was searching for on the FBI's ViCAP database - until the behind-the-scenes video NBC released pointed it out. That's even when it was included on the "Previously On..." segment. She pops up again for a second and I still just hate it.
  • Apparently, Meera has a daughter. Who knew? That's actually a serious question.
  • That's it for The Blacklist until February 24. Such a weird note to go into a month hiatus. But hey, it will get promotion during the Olympics and return with The Voice lead-in, so there's absolutely nothing to worry about.