Season 2, Episode 8
Air Date: Monday, November 10, 2014, 10/9c on NBC
“What were you told and who did the telling?” – Reddington
“The Decembrist” opens with a flashback showing events relating to Tom (Ryan Eggold) and his gunshot wound, which, at the time, appeared to have killed him. The scene then cuts to the present as Agent Keen (Megan Boone) continues to struggle over what to do with him. Tom has been her prisoner illegally for the last four months.
Keen’s interrogation of Tom could have been more interesting had “The Decembrist” been this season’s premiere instead of episode eight. With all the teasing about Tom over the last few episodes, most of The Blacklist’s fans had already filled in many of the blanks. The intel Tom provides isn’t enough to justify dragging things out for so long. Part of the problem falls on the network for excessively hyping the secret behind the door (Tom), even suggesting hashtags for fans to use on social media.
I kept waiting for the story line to go somewhere but it didn’t, and I ended up very disappointed. Just when it appeared the writers were giving us some interesting drama — like Reddington (James Spader) discovering Keen has been lying to him about Tom — the story fizzles and goes nowhere. Even when Agent Ressler (Diego Klattenhoff) enters the mix, the story fails to take shape. Ressler’s scenes, in particular, seem out of place and I found myself rewinding my DVR because I thought I had missed something.
Don’t get me wrong, Eggold gives a wonderful performance in “The Decembrist,” especially when Tom tries to get inside Keen’s head to manipulate her actions. Nevertheless, it seems like the writers have been lost the entire season as to what to do with Tom and wrap up his story line way too quickly and without any meaningful substance. At the end of “The Decembrist,” Tom simply walks away, hopefully never to be seen again. Frankly, with the way this season has been handled, I wish Tom had stayed as dead as it appeared after the season one finale.
All season I’ve expressed my disappointment over the handling of the show’s guest stars, particularly Peter Stormare who plays the ruthless killer Berlin. Instead of allowing Stormare to create the kind of role he’s known for, it seems the writers merely counted on the audience’s knowledge of the myriad of disturbing characters he’s played throughout his career. It’s as if Stormare’s name as a guest star, and a couple of small scenes, were adequate enough for them instead of giving him the material to work with in order to create another classic antagonist.
Thankfully, the writers finally give Stormare more to work with in “The Decembrist” and in doing so, create a midseason finale that suddenly becomes much more interesting to watch as Berlin and Reddington form an unlikely alliance.
The collaboration between the two enemies sets up a thrilling cat and mouse game as the two have the same goal but very different motives and agendas. This is the first time in the series I felt a protagonist could go head to head with Reddington as an equal. This is the Stormare I have been waiting all season to see.
Berlin’s scenes with his daughter Zoe (Scottie Thompson) are especially well written and place Berlin in more of a sympathetic light. Stormare gives his best performance of the season as Berlin tries to comprehend the recent turn of events and makes an attempt to reconcile with his estranged daughter. While still an unpleasant bad guy, the method behind Berlin’s madness becomes evident, causing me to feel sorry for him. The only question is why did it take so long for the writers to develop the character?
When it turns out the “Decembrist” is none other than the Assistant Director of National Intelligence Alan Fitch (Alan Alda), all bets are off. Fitch has some very interesting ties to Reddington and the revelation that Fitch is the one who created the war between Reddington and Berlin is one of the more shocking twists of not only of the episode, but the season as well.
Alda gives an intense performance as his fate rests in Berlin’s hands. My heart was racing as Fitch and Reddington conduct some business for the final time. Despite Fitch’s untimely and brutal demise, I hope the writers find a way to bring Alda back, perhaps through flashbacks, so the audience can get a better understanding of the relationship between Fitch and Reddington.
“The Decembrist” isn’t a bad episode, it simply came at the wrong time in the season. Many of the season’s plots have felt like a stall tactic as the writers attempted to figure out what direction to take the show. Combined with wasted guest star opportunities, the second season of The Blacklist has failed to recapture the magic it had during season one.
The best part about “The Decembrist” is that the slate has been wiped clean and the groundwork for the second half of the season has been laid out. Hopefully, the writers will be able to regroup and return next February with some fresh ideas.
Tweet me @Staffaroadtrip or leave a comment below to let me know what you think about “The Decembrist.”
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All photos © 2014 NBC Universal, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
© 2014, Greg Staffa. All rights reserved.
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