The Blacklist: Season 4, Episode 5 - "The Lindquist Concern (No. 105)"

Anthony Merino

Creator Jon Bokenkamp doesn't kill the ancillary characters, he just guts them of everything that makes them interesting.

The Blacklist

Airtime: Thursdays, 10pm
Cast: James Spader, Adam Godley, Megan Boone, Amir Arison, Mozhan Marnò, Annie Heise
Subtitle: Season 4, Episode 5 - "The Lindquist Concern"
Network: NBC
Air date: 2016-10-20

Still absurd, but at least not boring...

Each week, the audience is introduced to one more baddie on Raymond "Red" Reddington's (James Spader) "blacklist": criminals so secret even the government doesn't know they exist. More often than not, the blacklister is related to one of the series overarching plotlines. Currently, The Blacklist faces the problem of this element of the show becoming either predictable or unrealistic.

In the start of the episode, Red informs FBI agent Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone) about the "The Lindquist Concern": a confederacy of baddies that go about faking suicides of geniuses and stealing their uber-top-secret-classified inventions. It turns out that Silas Gouldsberry (Adam Godley) kills geniuses because he is one, and he knows what it's like to have his great idea squandered. Killing these geniuses was only a necessary aspect of his diabolical plan to release all of these great but dangerous inventions to the world. Now, that process has as much to do with linear thought as Simone Biles's floor routine has to do with walking in a straight line, yet the absurdity, complexity, and weirdness of Godley's Gouldsberry was one of the better aspects of the episode.

Unfortunately, the episode ends with yet another timer on a countdown, a well the creators have gone to way too many times. It's gotten to the point that whenever I see a clock counting down on The Blacklist, I can almost write the next few minutes myself: someone will explain how the world will blow up and be devastated, followed by computer geek and knower-of-all-things electronic Agent Aram Mojtabai (Amir Arison) pulling a Scottie (James Doohan) and explaining just how impossible the problem is before having a Dr. House (Hugh Laurie) genius epiphany and devising a solution, which is exactly what happens.

Creator Jon Bokenkamp has two relationship triangles playing out this season. The first is the warped codependency triangle between Red, Liz, and Alexander Kirk (Ulrich Thomsen). For the first three years of the series, Red has been a paternal mentor to Lizzy. He has a few flaws, like being a sociopathic killer, killing her adopted father, finding a manwhore spy to seduce and marry her, compulsively lying to her, and transparently using both her and the FBI to enrich himself. You know, small things.

Kirk seems to be competing with Red, trying to develop a paternal relationship with Liz. He illustrates his affection through kidnapping her and her child and then keeping the child. He also gratuitously kills a man right in front of her. Again, not the best foundation for a long term nurturing relationship, but the quantity of red flags that Agent Elizabeth Keen can overlook is staggering.

At the end of the episode, she, one more time, confronts Red with her moral outrage, which is as predictable as the ticking clock scenario. I lost count how many times Liz has told Red that she no longer trusts him. Lizzy, being an emotional yo yo, always ends up batting her eyes at her mentor/daddy crush, regardless of what she says.

The other is the actual romantic triangle between Agent Mojtabai, sexy ex-Mossad sultry Samar Navabi (Mozhan Marnò), and his new flame Elise (Annie Heise). Writers Jon Bokenkamp and Dawn DeNoon immediately test their audience's gullibility by having Elise Face-timing Aram because his dishwasher was erupting with bubbles. So, a fairly new girlfriend connecting though an online open platform to talk to her new squeeze who works in the hub of an ultra-secret FBI unit apparently just happens in the land of The Blacklist. While several equally absurd things happen in this episode, this ends up being the most irritating aspect of the storyline.

There are two main problems with this story arc. First, it seems pretty clear that Elise is going to turn out to be a villain or spy. If for no other reason, The Blacklist is shockingly like the animated series Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!. Once I figured out that whomever showed up at the beginning of the episode -- unless they were a guest celebrity voice -- would end up being the episode's baddy, I lost interest in the show. Like Scooby Doo, Bokenkamp populates The Blacklist with characters who, if they have any screentime at all, are either part of the FBI team, one of Red's vast array of assistants, or a baddie. Nothing is worse than a suspense show in which you see the surprise twist episodes before it happens.

The second irritation was that this particular plotline offers a sort of high school-era, passive aggressive pettiness to it. Last year, both Agent Mojtabai and Navabi were given pretty interesting backstories. They flirted like adults, and betrayed each other like adults. Each, in their own way, was actually developing some complexity to their characters. There was even a sense that with Liz dead, they could form the series' central romantic conflict.

Then season four happened. The devolution of their characters is disheartening for two reasons. First, human sexuality is complex, confusing, and sometimes difficult, but Agent Mojtabai and Navabi are grown, smart adults. We can assume that Mojtabai isn't a virgin, and we're certain that Navabi is not. Second, each had so much potential. Mojtabai was actually developing into a character that broke type. Of all the main characters, he's the most cerebral. The four other major male leads play on different types of testosterone-poisoned alpha-maleness: Red has that kind of predatory, vampiric charm; Agent Ressler (Diego Klattenhoff) has that potty trained to a metronome straight-laced, ex-football jock thing down; Tom Keen is the pouting bad-boy; and FBI Director Harold Cooper (Harry Lennix) is played as a kind of institutional paternal alpha male. Season four seems to return to the premise that any man who's not as obsessed with machismo as these four has to be a romantic loser.

As for Agent Mojtabai, her character looked to be groomed for a much bigger part in the series. All of last year, she had a kind of ethical nihilism that was far more in-tune and sympathetic to Reddington than to the FBI. She was also the only person in the regular ensemble Red seemed to respect, and the series seemed to be laying the ground work for her becoming one of Red's lieutenants, all of which seems forgotten in season four. For a series obsessed with keeping its core characters alive, they certainly don't seem to have any reservations about gutting them of them of anything interesting.

Despite its absurdities, this week's episode was a pretty reasonable bounce back to last week's mess. Its flaws didn’t keep it from being at least mildly entertaining. I'll take what I can get at this point.


In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Editor's Note: Originally published 30 July 2014.

10. “Bedlam in Belgium”
(Flick of the Switch, 1983)

This is a massively underrated barnstormer from the boys off the much-maligned (unfairly, I think) Flick of the Switch. The album was missing Mutt Lange, but the Youngs did have his very capable engineer, Tony Platt, as co-producer in the studio at Compass Point in the Bahamas. Tony’s a real pro. I think he did a perfectly fine job on this album, which also features the slamming “Nervous Shakedown”.

But what I find most interesting about “Bedlam in Belgium” is that it’s based on a fracas that broke out on stage in Kontich, Belgium, in 1977, involving Bon Scott, the rest of the band, and the local authorities. AC/DC had violated a noise curfew and things got hairy.

Yet Brian Johnson, more than half a decade later, wrote the lyrics with such insight; almost as if he was the one getting walloped by the Belgian police: He gave me a crack in the back with his gun / Hurt me so bad I could feel the blood run. Cracking lyrics, Bon-esque. Unfortunately for Brian, he was removed from lyric-writing duties from The Razors Edge (1990) onwards. All songs up to and including 2008’s Black Ice are Young/Young compositions.

Who’ll be writing the songs on the new album AC/DC has been working on in Vancouver? AC/DC fans can’t wait to hear them. Nor can I.

9. “Spellbound”
(For Those About to Rock We Salute You, 1981)

"Spellbound" really stands as a lasting monument to the genius of Mutt Lange, a man whose finely tuned ear and attention to detail filed the rough edges of Vanda & Young–era AC/DC and turned this commercially underperforming band for Atlantic Records into one of the biggest in the world. On “Spellbound” AC/DC sounds truly majestic. Lange just amplifies their natural power an extra notch. It’s crisp sounding, laden with dynamics and just awesome when Angus launches into his solo.

“Spellbound” is the closer on For Those About to Rock We Salute You, the last album Lange did with AC/DC, so chronologically it’s a significant song; it marks the end of an important era. For Those About to Rock was an unhappy experience for a lot of people. There was a lot of blood being spilled behind the scenes. It went to number one in the US but commercially was a massive disappointment after the performance of Back in Black. Much of the blame lies at the feet of Atlantic Records, then under Doug Morris, who made the decision to exhume an album they’d shelved in 1976, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, and release it in-between Back in Black and For Those About to Rock.

In the book Phil Carson, who signed AC/DC to Atlantic, calls it “one of the most crass decisions ever made by a record-company executive” and believes it undermined sales of For Those About to Rock.

8. “Down Payment Blues”
(Powerage, 1978)

This is one of the best songs off Powerage -- perhaps the high point of Bon Scott as a lyricist -- but also significant for its connection to “Back in Black”. There are key lines in it: Sitting in my Cadillac / Listening to my radio / Suzy baby get on in / Tell me where she wanna go / I'm living in a nightmare / She's looking like a wet dream / I got myself a Cadillac / But I can't afford the gasoline.

Bon loved writing about Cadillacs. He mentions them in “Rocker” off the Australian version of TNT and the international release of Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap: Got slicked black hair / Skin tight jeans / Cadillac car and a teenage dream.

Then you get to “Back in Black”. Bon’s dead but the lyrics have this spooky connection to “Down Payment Blues”: Back in the back / Of a Cadillac / Number one with a bullet, I’m a power pack.

Why was Brian singing about riding around in Cadillacs? He’d just joined AC/DC, wasn’t earning a lot and was on his best behavior. Bon had a reason to be singing about money. He was writing all the songs and just had a breakthrough album with Highway to Hell. Which begs the question: Could Bon also have written or part written the lyrics to “Back in Black”?

Bon’s late mother Isa said in 2006: “The last time we saw him was Christmas ’79, two months before he died. [Bon] told me he was working on the Back in Black album and that that was going to be it; that he was going to be a millionaire.”

7. “You Shook Me All Night Long”
(Back in Black, 1980)

Everyone knows and loves this song; it’s played everywhere. Shania Twain and Celine Dion have covered it. It’s one of AC/DC’s standbys. But who wrote it?

Former Mötley Crüe manager Doug Thaler is convinced Bon Scott, who’d passed away before the album was recorded, being replaced by Brian Johnson, wrote the lyrics. In fact he told me, “You can bet your life that Bon Scott wrote the lyrics to ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’.” That’s a pretty strong statement from a guy who used to be AC/DC’s American booking agent and knew the band intimately. I look into this claim in some depth in the book and draw my own conclusions.

I’m convinced Bon wrote it. In my opinion only Bon would have written a line like “She told me to come but I was already there.” Brian never matched the verve or wit of Bon in his lyrics and it’s why I think so much of AC/DC’s mid-'80s output suffers even when the guitar work of the Youngs was as good as it ever was.

But what’s also really interesting about this song in light of the recent hullabaloo over Taurus and Led Zeppelin is how much the opening guitar riff sounds similar to Head East’s “Never Been Any Reason”. I didn’t know a hell of a lot about Head East before I started working on this book, but came across “Never Been Any Reason” in the process of doing my research and was blown away when I heard it for the first time. AC/DC opened for Head East in Milwaukee in 1977. So the two bands crossed paths.

6. “Rock ’N’ Roll Damnation”
(Powerage, 1978)

It’s hard to get my head around the fact Mick Wall, the British rock writer and author of AC/DC: Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be, called this “a two-bit piece of head-bopping guff.” Not sure what track he was listening to when he wrote that -- maybe he was having a bad day -- but for me it’s one of the last of AC/DC’s classic boogie tracks and probably the best.

Mark Evans loves it almost as much as he loves “Highway to Hell". It has everything you want in an AC/DC song plus shakers, tambourines and handclaps, a real Motown touch that George Young and Harry Vanda brought to bear on the recording. They did something similar with the John Paul Young hit “Love Is in the Air”. Percussion was an underlying feature of many early AC/DC songs. This one really grooves. I never get tired of hearing it.

“Rock ’n’ Roll Damnation” was AC/DC’s first hit in the UK charts and a lot of the credit has to go to Michael Klenfner, best known as the fat guy with the moustache who stops Jake and Elwood backstage in the final reel of The Blues Brothers and offers them a recording contract. He was senior vice-president at Atlantic at the time, and insisted the band go back and record a radio-worthy single after they delivered the first cut of Powerage to New York.

Michael was a real champion of AC/DC behind the scenes at Atlantic, and never got the recognition he was due while he was still alive (he passed away in 2009). He ended up having a falling out with Atlantic president Jerry Greenberg over the choice of producer for Highway to Hell and got fired. But it was Klenfner who arguably did more for the band than anyone else while they were at Atlantic. His story deserves to be known by the fans.

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