Monday, March 17, 2014

REVIEW: 'The Blacklist' - A Criminal from Ressler's Past Returns for Vengeance & Tom's Motives are Revealed in 'Mako Tanida'

NBC's The Blacklist - Episode 1.16 Mako Tanida

The next target on the Blacklist is one of Red's past associates, crime lord Mako Tanida (Hoon Lee). After Tanida escapes from prison he is out for revenge. Elsewhere, Tom confronts Jolene after interfering with his mission.

"Mako Tanida" is the episode where Ressler and Tom come into better focus. Neither of them have had big character moments so far in the first season. Sure, they've had the occasional plot beats. But both of them also felt completely expendable - but then again so does everyone outside of Red. This episode digs deeper into the pasts of both characters in ways that will change them moving forward.

It was established early on that Ressler had a past with Red before the series started. And yet, that hasn't been a main sense of story for the series as it has gone throughout this season. This hour acutely remembers that shared connection and presents a villain with ties to both characters. Mako Tanida was captured by Ressler's task force tracking Red years earlier and he has just escaped prison and taking out revenge on the members of said task force. The most fascinating aspect about this criminal is the decision he presents his victims - they can stab themselves with a blade and he won't harm their families or he can just kill all of them. The story establishes friends for Ressler, right before killing all of them. And yet, it was also more fascinating than anything prior with that character as we watched him try to get his own revenge on Mako after Aubrey is killed. It brings about an even stronger connection between him and Red. That bond of understanding should inform their interactions moving forward. Plus seeing him use Mako's own tactics on his comrade who betrayed the unit was a nice thematic concluding point. I ultimately had no clue how that situation would resolve itself. That was exciting even though the outcome was clearly done to keep Ressler a part of the show.

Elsewhere, Tom finally got to be the shady guy that the show wanted him to be from the beginning. Before the reveal that Liz is his target at the end of the last episode, the show said over and over that he's not who he appears to be but whenever Tom popped up on the screen he was a nice guy. It was a dichotomy that never really worked well. So, this "villainous" turn is a much better thing for Ryan Eggold's performance as well as my interest level in that character. It doesn't quite give enough answers to many things but it does effectively click the ideas of Red's distrust in him much better.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Mako Tanida" was directed by Michael Watkins from a teleplay by John Eisendrath, Jon Bokenkamp, Patrick Massett & John Zinman and story by Joe Carnahan.
  • I guess Rachel Brosnahan and Lance Reddick can go do better things now, right?
  • And yet, Tom literally has blood on his hands! How could Liz not see that? Also why would he wait until he got home to clean the blood off of him?
  • Also, by bringing Tom and Ressler to the forefront, Liz is not a major component in this hour. She's there to talk Ressler out of shooting the guy but that's about it this week.
  • The ballet performance was simply another eccentricity of Red's that will probably have some more thematic importance later in the season once we learn more about his family.