Writing the story lines for professional wrestling presents a difficult challenge. The form has built in peak events. Once a month, there’s a major event in which all of the drama and plot lines that lead up to it are resolved. Within that event however, they need to plant the seeds for the next conflict. The most difficult part to negotiate in the process is to have the next conflict appear to grow organically out of the previous conflict. Introducing a new conflict out of the blue kind of makes the fans, who were all excited for the big event, feel slightly used. Any good drama has to do the same thing. For every question it answers, it must create two going into the next year.
This week, NBC decided to use “Alexander Kirk (No. 14)”, the last episode before the finale, as a backdoor pilot for one of its new fall series. Several sites reported that NBC was planning a spin-off of The Blacklist, centered on the quasi-government agency Halcyon Aegis. The series, apparently, will be kind of The Blacklist‘s version of Suicide Squad, a collection of bad guys working outside the law for the good guys.
The head of the team will be Susan Hargrave (Famke Janssen), who’s done a credible job of being very Red (Raymond “Red” Reddington [James Spader])-like. In this episode, we see her blackmailing kidnappers in Jakarta, Indonesia, and just like Red, she’s prone to introspective discussions during high-stress situations. Also, like Red, she has virtually unlimited assets at her disposal. She’ll be joined by the hunky bad guy turned hunky good guy Tom Keen (Ryan Eggold). This pairing could certainly lead to some exciting and daring television.
There is a scene in which Tom goes looking for Susan because someone has kidnapped his beloved Agnes. Getting angry, he grabs her neck and slams her against the wall. We see the two look deeply into each other’s eyes. Unsurprisingly, there’s some sexual tension between the two überhotties: Tom has the smoldering hurt bad boy thing down, while Susan brings the smoking hot cougar femme-fatale vibe. Like many moments in the series, it’s effective, as long as you forget everything else that happened up to that point.
Later on in the episode, Tom goes to kill Susan who, for an international crime Kingpin, seems to have very little regard for personal security. Right before he’s going to fire the bullet, he gets a call from Red, who tells Tom that Susan is in fact his biological mother. This is pure and classic The Blacklist. It is the narrative aesthetic of being like the band “Disaster Area,” the loudest band ever, according to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It just cranks up the drama so high that it blows away all of its viewer’s ability to make rational decisions.
Nothing about this makes any sense at all, nothing! How does Red know where Tom is and what he’s doing? Why does Tom answer the phone? He wants as little to do with Red as possible. Additionally, Red’s always hated Tom. Red shows scarce affection for Susan, who’s responsible for what we are to believe is his daughter’s death. Also, Susan begins to tell her would-be assassin her life story. In the end, it doesn’t matter, because Susan is Tom’s mother.
The scene ends with a very creepy movement where Susan lovingly touches Tom’s cheek and says, with a slight Mrs. Robinson edge, “We could do incredible things together.” While I doubt that NBC is going to go full-bore The Manchurian Candidate, it looks to be a promising dynamic.
Unfortunately, all of the other characters seem to be standard issue. Matias Solomon (Edi Gathegi), who started out so diabolically menacing, has devolved into the wisecracking lieutenant. He’s paired with Nez Rowan (Tawny Cypress). Nez, is the other female lieutenant that can also kick ass, and that’s pretty much all we know about her. The episode also introduces Dumond (Adrian Martinez), the computer geek with mad hacking skills. Everything about the new series seems pretty cookie cutter, with the exception of the whole incest-themed sexual tension between the two leads.
Personally, I’m not a fan of television shows using one of their episodes solely to promote another show. Hopefully, with the set up for the spin-off out of the way, The Blacklist will deliver in the season three finale.