The Blacklister of the Week – and, if all goes to plan, for at least a season elsewhere – is Susan “Scottie” Hargrave, played confidently and with brio by Famke Janssen. (It’s worth noting in passing that one of the benefits of the Golden Age is that actresses aged over 40 get proper, and recurring, roles, at a time in their life when the film industry remains less interested in them than it should be.) Scottie is, with her unseen husband, the ruthless guiding spirit behind Halcyon Aegis, a sort of private black-ops contractor hired, from time to time, by the US government to do the sort of thing it can’t do. I would have thought that to be a very short list, judging by the number of governmental in-house rough-stuff artists we’ve seen on TV over the years.
Anyway, Red believes Scottie to be behind the attack on Liz’s wedding – and thus, indirectly, her death – and he is in no mood for effing around. Scottie gets word that one of her operations has gone south, and she gets there to find Halcyon Aegis redshirts lying all over the place and a typed note from Red inviting her to have a chat. She ignores this, but knowing that sooner or later Red will catch up with her she sets a trap for him, which of course he evades with the usual suavity.
Meantime, back at the task force there’s a surprising development: Aram, who as recently as last week I described as one of The Blacklist’s MVPs, has pushed his luck and become annoying. Dude. You are not the keeper of the Liz flame, and presuming to censure Tom for honeytrapping someone is going too far, as is your workplace crush on Samar. Might be time to grow up, and part of that would involve ignoring Tom’s romantic advice. Although he won’t, and because this is TV it’s entirely possible that Samar will reciprocate rather than raise a grievance for sexual harassment, in which case Aram halting the defusing of a bomb so he can trip over his petted lip might just come up again.
But the point of the episode is to get Red and Scottie into the same space, in order – from a plot standpoint – that Red can find out who hired her to capture Liz; and – from a value-for-money standpoint – we can see James Spader and Famke Janssen squaring off. It’s worth the wait, even if the key piece of information it yields is that the man with the plan is one Alexander Kirk, so far (I believe) unknown to us, if not to Red. Which sets us up for the season-concluding two-parter.
Judged as a standalone I thought this was excellent. How much of that is attributable to Janssen’s presence we can debate; this would, I think, have been a strong episode anyway, with Red killing people all over the place, and a snappy, witty script (I preferred Red’s “God, that door is slow. I was hoping for a more dramatic entrance, but what the hell”, to Ressler’s sardonic “Oh, the new Agent Keen” directed at Tom, but there was plenty of that sort of thing). The big question is whether Janssen can carry the spinoff, and for that we’ll need to wait and see.
It does occur to me once again, though, that The Blacklist is in danger of spreading itself too thin. I know that it’s basically The Spader Show, but it suffers from time to time because his superlative acting overshadows everyone else in the cast. Would it not be better to bring Janssen onto The Blacklist itself as a full-time cast member, occasional adversary, and possible age-appropriate will-they-won’t-they for Red?