Aram Mojtabai

7

the blacklist: raymond reddington + task force

Okay, you know what? Fine. I’m proud of the work we do with Mr. Reddington. Yeah, I’m proud of it. You heard me. Yes, his world is absolutely terrifying, but it exists. And the only reason we know that is because Mr. Reddington helps us take down the very worst people in it!

Why I want to stop watching the Blacklist (a.k.a., A Rant by Me)

This used to be my favorite show. Hands down. I would legitimately schedule things around it; I would leave events early to make sure I could watch it live; I would post about it on Tumblr and read other people’s posts the rest of the evening; I would search through multiple review site’s posts the next day.

I loved the dynamic between Red and Liz. I loved the mysteries and the little morsels of answers that we would get. I loved how, in the S1 finale, it felt like no one was safe: Meera got killed; Harold got attacked and nearly killed; Tom was shot and left for dead.

But, over the past few seasons, this show has become the bane of my TV-watching experience.

I would watch it, sure. But that was because I didn’t want the folks on Tumblr spoiling it for me. It was because I thought we were finally getting answers – which is what they teased us with every other week – only to feel so disappointed.

This last year, I made reaction videos for a friend of mine for every single episode. You know what one of the most commonly said things in those videos is? “Well, at least next week’s preview looks good.” Only to be disappointed in that episode, and to say the same thing about next week’s preview, and the cycle repeated itself until we actually got a half-way decent episode (which was usually some kind of finale or premiere, because that’s the only time actual shit can happen – during Sweeps Week).

Over and over again, both online and in person, I compared this to those scenes in cartoons where someone puts a carrot on a fishing pole in front of a donkey, and the donkey runs so hard to reach the carrot, only to never get there.

That’s how this show has felt the past season or two.

It’s only a shadow of what it once was, and I’m tired of it. I wish I could stop watching it.

So many other people I follow on Tumblr have said they’ve either stopped or thought about stopping. By comparison, Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad and the Walking Dead seemingly increase their viewership every season; the Blacklist has been NBC’s lowest-rated show in the demo for the last year, IIRC. The ratings for the Redemption spin-off were so low, the showrunners tried to pass it off as a one-off miniseries, when it was ALWAYS intended to be its own full-length show.

I understand that the show does well in DVR viewership numbers, and it was the most expensive TV show that Netflix had purchased when Season 1 was released.

But, this show continues to disappoint me. There’s hardly anything I like about it anymore. Hell, even James Spader, who’s a master at his craft, seems to be bored with it. His monologues are becoming more and more cliche, and even his amazing performances can’t save this dumpster-fire.

Its protagonist, Liz, is all over the fucking place in terms of characterization. First, she was naive and learned her “husband” had used and abused her. Then, she went to the dark side, chained him up on a boat and said she’d never forgive him for what he’d done. Then, she apparently forgave him, slept with him, had his kid, tried to remarry the guy, and then faked her death to get away with him and is now living her happy dream life with her little girl and her ‘perfect’ husband.

What happened to the dark, morally questionable, grungy Liz? What happened to the Liz who was jaded and afraid after being on the run for several weeks, or months?

She just settled down with a guy who she used to hate and she’s living the dream.

What in the literal fuck?

And, for all the time that has been invested in Liz, she has made little to no progress in her characterization these past few seasons. In fact, she’s done more of a 360. She’s right back where she started, more or less.

Why should the audience give a shit about her journey if she’s not making any progress? Why should we care that, halfway through this show, she has everything she’s ever wanted?

The side characters, like Aram, Samar, Ressler, Cooper and others are there just to serve the plot. Any time there’s a semblance of some character development or plot progression, the showrunners regress everyone back to Stage One so we can do it all over again. Aram and Samar look like they’re making progress in their possible romantic relationship? Fuck that, we’ve got to make sure Aram runs back to his abusive girlfriend and string this thing along another season! Remember when Ressler got shot, had prescription drug problems, and was in Narcotics Anonymous? Yeah, me neither.

Mr. Kaplan, who was best when she was on-screen to sass and help Reddington once every few episodes, gets pushed into the spotlight for some made-up bullshit reason that had never been discussed or hinted at previous to the “Mr. Kaplan used to work for Katarina Rostova” storyline. And while Susan Bloomaert is a fantastic and underrated actress and did her absolute best to make those scenes between her and Liz feel emotional, I didn’t really care about their dynamic at all because it felt so forced, underdeveloped, and out-of-nowhere.

Whereas the relationship that I care the MOST about – that between Red and Liz – that has been the most built-up and developed over the course of the show keeps getting thrown under the bus as Liz does the whole “love Red, hate Red, forgive Red” song-and-dance routine. She claims she agrees with Red when he tells her not to go back to Tom in Season 2… only to go back to Tom later in Season 2. She’s totally down with asking Red to help her whenever she’s a criminal on the run… but the minute her wedding gets shot up, she yells at him and says it’s his fault.

And now, as far as the Lizzington fans go, which I count myself as one of them, the show has written itself into a corner. Because all the amazing chemistry and romantic tropes throughout the show feel incredibly creepy now that Liz believes Red is her dad, regardless of whether he actually is or not. I don’t care how they try to pull themselves out of the ginormous hole they’ve dug for themselves on that one – why the hell would a woman ever end up with a guy that she once thought was her dad, even if it turned out he actually wasn’t?

And the only real way out of it is the Impostor Theory – a well-written and well-researched theory, but one that makes people have to do fucking mental gymnastics for it to work. You have to assume a lot of people like Naomi and Reddington’s former roommate from the Naval Academy who’s now an admiral, are in on it. Whereas dudes like Finch or the Director aren’t…

Don’t get me wrong; I think it’s a wonderful theory and it explains a lot. But, if it ends up being true, it means one of two things:

1) The writers didn’t plan this from the beginning and lucked their way into it

OR

2) The writers DID plan this from the beginning, which means they have the ability to be really good writers, but then they fell into all this other bullshit – like Liz’s weird arc and other things – which really means that they’re not that good of writers; they just had the one good idea.

And if the Impostor Theory DOESN’T end up being true, in some form or fashion, that means that Red really IS Liz’s dad, and this whole fucking show – Red’s entire characterization, his relationship and dynamic with her – has been a lie. Canon can be throw out the window to rot in the sewer and fuck itself in the interim, because the writers don’t even care any more.

Which, I realize is unfair, because I know there are hundreds of people who work really hard to make this show happen, and while it’s not, like, the worst show of all time, the fact that it had such potential and has fallen so far, almost makes it seem worse than a show that was so bad from the beginning I never invested time in it.

And what makes it even WORSE is that the showrunners continue to act like this is the most groundbreaking show on television, and put it on a pedestal On High, along with the likes of Game of Thrones, The Americans, and The Sopranos… you know, actually good shows.

That would be the equivalent of the Taken director demanding that his movie should’ve gotten an Oscar. It’s like, you know it was a fine movie, and I had a good time watching it, but like, bring yourself back down to earth. Taken is okay, but it is NOT Oscar-worthy material, so get off your high horse, dude.

I guess, if nothing else, it shows that the showrunners, writers and actors are so talented that they got me to invest in the show to the point where I can’t not watch it, even though it’s fallen so far and I feel like it’s nowhere near as good as it used to be. They hooked me and got me to care about these characters and their dynamics so much that, even though it frustrates me week in and week out, I will still keep watching it.

It’s just that, now, I might be doing it with a bottle of vodka, taking shots every time:

  • Red has a monologue that proves James Spader is too damn good for this show;
  • Liz is bitchy to Red for little to no reason, while continuing to be lovey-dovey with Tom;
  • Ressler survives a fight or car accident or some other action sequence with no injuries whatsoever;
  • Harry Lennix is completely underused as Harold Cooper in an episode, because he only tells his employees to do the obvious… and literally nothing else;
  • Samar and/or Aram take a step back from getting together, despite hints that they’ve liked each other since Season 2.

So, bottoms up, Blacklist fans!

5

Samar and Aram -The Blacklist 5x08

tag urself I’m nerd

Predictions for TBL 5x09

When the show comes back in January, here are some things I imagine will have happened during the 10-month time skip or will happen in the first few episodes back:

  • Red is raising Agnes. He is Liz’s “dad” and has the time and resources to raise her, with the help of the Task Force and Dembe. (Scottie would also have a pretty good claim as Agnes’ paternal grandmother, but I imagine that the Task Force doesn’t have her contact info, and while Red does, he probably wants to be involved in Agnes’ life without having to share her with Scottie.) I imagine the whole Task Force crew, especially Cooper and Aram, have been making regular visits to check in on Agnes.
  • Everyone has been checking in on Liz, but none more so than Red. He’s been there at least once a day for a few hours, reading and talking to her.
  • Red, in addition to raising Agnes and checking in on Liz, has also been rebuilding his empire. While he hasn’t succeeded in tracking down Ian Garvey yet, he has done well in building his capital, resources and contacts back up, to the point where he’s wearing one of his regular suits again when Liz wakes up at the end of 5x08.
  • Since Liz has been in a coma, Aram has been Red’s go-between for the Task Force. Aram, in S5a, expressed his desire to become a field agent, and he and Red have worked well together in the past. In Liz’s absence, he has a chance to step up and serve as the Task Force’s third field agent. I could also see Red giving cases to Samar or Ressler, since he’s worked with both of them before as well, but Aram seems to be the logical choice.
  • Aram and Samar are either engaged, married or living together. Seeing Tom die and Liz in a coma has motivated them to cherish each other even more so and they realize now that life is short, so they’ve decided to spend the rest of it together.
  • Ressler is either off the Task Force or under review or demoted… something like that. It’s been a few episodes since we saw anything about his weird side-plot involving that cleaner guy who was blackmailing him after Laurel Hitchen’s death, so I imagine there’s been some kind of fall-out on that front since Liz has been in a coma. Liz won’t feel comfortable coming back to the Task Force without him, forcing him to rejoin the team and/or get his act together.
  • Cooper is still Cooper, but, he’s obviously been seriously affected by Liz’s coma and Tom’s death. Like I said above, if Red’s been raising Agnes, Cooper will definitely have been checking on Agnes and make sure Red was doing right by her and not having her around a bunch of criminal stuff, that she’s safe, etc.
  • Liz is going to have some ridiculous PT and rehab to do before she can come back to the Task Force even part-time, let alone full-time. She might have some brain damage, and her muscles have atrophied severely. I bet that the whole first episode back – which is reportedly a “Cape May”-type episode for Liz – will be focused on her recovery efforts. (If any of you have ever seen “Avatar: The Legend of Korra,” I imagine this will be similar to 4x02 “Korra Alone.”) We might see a time lapse of a few weeks or months over the course of the episode, so that way, the TBL timeline can be caught up to January 2018. (Because, realistically, it should’ve been about February 2017 when Liz and Tom were taken to the hospital.) I also wouldn’t be surprised if she had PTSD, and her recovery takes longer than that first episode back (5x09). I just think that the first episode back will focus almost completely on her recovery, and she’ll slowly integrate back into the Task Force as S5b progresses.

Those are my predictions. Thoughts? Critiques? Predictions of your own?