Jodi Walker
January 21, 2014 AT 02:00 PM EST

The Blacklist

TV Show
Current Status
In Season
run date
James Spader

The Blacklist is doing something kind of big in the second half of its first season: It’s earning my trust. As just an episode, last night’s “The Alchemist” wasn’t the most exciting, but in the big picture of the series, it did remind me that I can count on this show to answer the questions that it raises (whenever it sees fit), answer questions I didn’t even know I had, and for every new piece of the puzzle that’s successfully snapped together, reveal a new corner that needs tending to. In the first half of the season, I felt like I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop. Now, even if the plotting of this episode left plenty to be desired, I’m beginning to trust that Jon Bokenkamp has a solid long-term plan for this series.

And it’s good to be able to count on something because we can’t exactly trust any of the characters. Red? Don’t be ridiculous. Lizzie? At this point, everything she does well, she does well as a direct result of Red, so also a no. Tom? Shifty as hell. Ressler? Clearly a wizard judging by his miraculous leg recovery tonight, aka, can’t be trusted. Aram? Computers give people too much power. Well, what about Meera? Oh yeah, Meera seems competent and intelli– damnit, Meera! Why did you have to be the mole, Meera? But we’ll get to that…

This week, we’re back onto the regularly scheduled Blacklist; no more cases that Lizzie has worked on at some point in her illustrious FBI career that just happen to also be Blacklisters. Red made a promise to deliver a fresh project at the end of last week’s episode and this week, after procuring a glass of wine from somewhere in Lizzie’s house, he comes through: The Alchemist, No. 101.

The Alchemist has been hired to protect a mob informant and his wife. Red says he’s a man who protects the guilty by preying on the innocent, “who relies upon science to transform one person into another.” Cut to guest star Ryan O’Nan seducing a girl, roofie-ing her, dyeing her hair and maybe doing some other science-y stuff we don’t see, all to have her wake up on a private plane, dripping with jewels, sitting across from another man who doesn’t know how he got there or why he has the name Pytor Madrczyk inside his passport. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of time to play detective when the man who drugged you is revealing himself to also be the pilot of your plane, ripping the door open and jumping out, plunging you to your fiery death. This…is The Blacklist!

And as The Blacklist, this episode has one overarching question: Who is the mole? Thought we answered that question last week? Well, Newton Phillips was only one half of the mole-iness going on around here and Red is cracking down to find the inside man. He’s rounded up a team of Julian-Assange-associated nerds – they’re all in glasses and plaid shirts, so you know they’re smart – to sift through any communications going into and out of the FBI since his little adjunct arrangement started. When they tell him that they’re coming to a standstill, Red encourages them to piece together the metric ton of shredded documents they’ve acquired. Lead Nerd thinks he might be joking, to which Red replies, “I hate sarcasm and I love puzzles.” Which must mean he both hates and loves himself, and, yes, that sounds exactly right.

NEXT: What’s in a name? (Kind of a lot when you’re on the Blacklist…)

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