Television

The Blacklist: Season 3, Episode 13 – "Alistair Pitt (No. 103)"

Anthony Merino

A nice bounce back week for The Blacklist, although it still has a way to go to regain its mojo.


The Blacklist

Airtime: Thursdays, 9pm
Cast: James Spader, Tony Shalhoub, Stephanie Szostak, Megan Boone, Mozhan Marnò, Ryan Eggold, Margarita Levieva
Subtitle: Season 3, Episode 13 – "Alistair Pitt (No. 103)"
Network: NBC
Air date: 2016-02-04
Amazon

Every week, The Blacklist expects us to treat our disbelief like a puppy being trained. For an hour, it gets put in a kennel so we can enjoy the drama. This week's episode was no different. This was one of the season's most conventional episodes. The producers do what many prime time programs do in this situation: bring in an A-list actor as a guest star, then, pile on the subplots, so that there’s enough going on for the shortest of viewer’s attention spans. The results were mixed. There were moments that were hard to tolerate, and some that were excellent.

This week’s episode "Alistair Pitt (No. 103)" featured Tony Shalhoub as the main villain, Alistair Pitt. Shalhoub won three Emmys and one Golden Globe award for his turn as Adrian Monk in Monk, but he's wasted here playing a variation of the effete and effeminate bad guy trope. Mr. Pitt consults high-end criminal organizations brokering mergers. One of the tools he uses is arranged marriages; he orchestrates the marriage of two members of warring drug families.

Part of the problem with this storyline is the convenience of the plotting. The entire backstory for the character is based on a man whose singular talent is the ability to persuade. We’re to believe that through just his reputation and skill with words, he can convince two warring crime syndicates to merge into one organization, but when inevitably confronted by Raymond "Red" Reddington (James Spader), he’s at a loss for words?

As silly and supercilious as Red sounded in his previous pre-murder monologue, he sounds sincere in this one. The character is at his best as a reinvention of Michael Sullivan (Tom Hanks) from Road to Perdition (2002). Red understands that he’s not now, nor will ever be, absolved.

This episode also included a great many subplots, one of which completely redeemed the episode. The episode starts with a romantic dinner between Red and Josephine Molière (Stephanie Szostak). At one point, he gives her a glass figurine. Only then does the link between Ms. Molière and Mr. Pitt become clear with two quick reveals. The final scene is touching, and shows that when they want, the writers of The Blacklist are very effective.

There was a second subplot involving Liz Keen's (Megan Boone) pregnancy. Again, this is one moment when the show slightly goes off the reels. Keen wants to give up the baby, but wants an open adoption where she can still be in the baby's life. She seems shocked that her allegedly being a Russian spy would be a deal breaker, because of the idea of someone not wanting to adopt the child of someone who may or may not be on Vladimir Putin's payroll. How is that so difficult to understand?

The hyper bad ass Samar Navabi (Mozhan Marnò) embraces her inner bubbe and overenthusiastically plans Keen's baby shower. This was a nice touch that gave a little extra dimension to the character, somewhat undermined by the writers piling on a subplot of Navabi being distraught over a lost love.

Obviously, this episode included several subplots of varying degrees of interest. Tom Keen (Ryan Eggold) is forced into a criminal alliance with one of his exes, Gina Zanetakos (Margarita Levieva). Gina is working for "The Major", whom we are told wants Tom dead. Now, one may ask, why would Tom, who is a conman who can assume almost any identity, go back to the life of a criminal? Why would he choose to do so with an ex when he’s trying to woo his sweetheart back? Even if he did decide he was destined to live a life of crime, why would he pick a crew working for the one man on earth who wants to see him dead? Because it's the The Blacklist, that’s why.

“Alistair Pitt (No. 103)” was rather conventional. It still had some good Red moments, making slightly better than ordinary, and was still a strong rebound from last week’s disappointment.

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