Top 5 Ways to Improve 'The Blacklist'

A sophomore slump was inevitable after its tremendous freshman season, however the distance the second season of “The Blacklist” fell was more significant than one could’ve anticipated. In light of the third season premiere, it has become clear that NBC’s once near-perfect crime drama is reaching a tipping point. That said, the show still has the ability to get back on track and here are 5 suggestions on how they might be able to do that…

#5 Explore Liz’s Dark Past

In the first season, Liz alluded to a past that might not have always been particularly savory. It was a bit surprising given her introduction as a by-the-book heroine and the revelation stuck out all the more because of that. It’s time to explore what other secrets Liz might be hiding and what better time to uncover them, than when the FBI is hunting her down and exhaustively researching every single move she’s ever made. Something certainly has to come to light under that kind of scrutiny.

#4 Red Needs His Moriarty

The villain of the week angle is growing tired and when Berlin was introduced towards the end of season one it seemed like the show was gearing up to give Red, an arch nemesis worthy of going toe-to-toe with him; a Moriarty to Red’s Sherlock. Well…Berlin didn’t last long and as it turns out his legs as a long-term villain were too weak to support the arc. It’s time for Red to really meet his match and move away from these shoe fly villains he should easily be able to swat away.

#3 Resolve Liz’s Relationship to Red

It is either the most obvious secret in television history or Liz is not Red’s daughter. The former definitely gets my vote. There’s no way a notorious, self-preserving criminal like Red would put himself on the line for anyone other than his own daughter. It makes no sense. Let’s get this storyline out of the way already. There’s no other explanation that will suffice and dealing with the fallout of the paternity revelation will help move the overall story forward, which is a lot better than treading water with red herrings (no pun intended) that will lead nowhere.

#2 Restore Red

Circa 2013, Red was one of the sharpest tools in the TV shed. Ever since the early part of season two, he’s been struggling to reclaim that title. One of the things that initially set the series apart was that viewers could rest assured knowing Red would always triumph in the face of daunting odds. The fun was in trying to figure out how he would do it. Now the series has traded in that essential quality for a nail-biting “realism” that finds Red barely clawing his way to victory. The first rule of “The Blacklist” should be that viewers never see Red sweat it, he’s way too cool for that.

#1 Bring Tom Back in Full Force

When the season one finale attempted to fake viewers out with Tom’s supposed death, they had to wait an agonizing period of time before learning he was among the living and being kept prisoner by his estranged wife. Then the story finally picked up and Liz was dealing with whether Tom ever really loved her and if she should even care. The storyline that would eventually have them finding their way back to each other was one of the few highlights of a rather bland season. Without question, the best part of season two was the emergence of the real Tom Keen.

After playing the soft-spoken, hipster, school teacher throughout season one, actor Ryan Eggold was able to take off the cardigan and get down to business as the cut throat con-man heavy. Eggold’s performance gave the series the adrenalin shot it desperately needed, breathing major life into the slumping sophomore season and helping it rally one of its standout episodes, "Tom Keen (No. 7)". 

The simple truth is that whenever Tom is mixing it up with Liz or Red, the show truly hits its stride. He is a character worth investing in and there are endless possibilities with where to take him. It seems whenever the show is ready to dive in, it pulls back on fully committing to his arc and he gets stuck playing second string, again. Episodes will go by without him in them and the season premiere didn’t even bother to mention him. Why is that?

Besides Red, Tom is the only character truly integral to Liz’s identity. He might not hold the answers to her parentage but he is the only one who really knows the real her, the woman she was before Red came into her life. He is also the only person on the show that Liz loves and clearly loves her in return, all of which should give him major weight in the narrative. This also makes him an enormous threat to Red, as Tom’s the only one Liz might be willing to trust over him. The power struggle between Tom and Red should be the focus, not an evil shadow government that provides zero long-term emotional stakes for the leads.

Photo: "The Blacklist"/NBC