The inherent conundrum with a show like The Blacklist, whose basis is the rooting out and eradication of bad guys, is that eventually, something about the Big Bad of the Week resonates with the viewer, or we feel a certain empathy with him (or her) that makes the inevitable catch/capture/killing a less than satisfying outcome.
Such was the case with “The Good Samaritan,” (Frank Whaley: Ray Donovan; Pulp Fiction) the name of this week’s episode, and nom de guerre of the serial torturer/killer being hunted down by Elizabeth (Megan Boone).
Sorry (I’m not sorry), but any guy that is keeping himself occupied by tracking down and torturing people who keep themselves occupied by beating up, physically assaulting or otherwise harming vulnerable women and children to the point multiple trips to the Emergency Room are required, is, in my opinion, doing the Lord’s work.
Yes, kidnapping, forcibly confining and torturing people almost to death (The Samaritan calls 911 before his victims die. He’s a champ. PS: They still die) is wrong. And illegal. And pretty much indicative of any number of psychosis. And don’t get me wrong: This guy is batsh*t crazy and needs to be stopped.
But it was hard for me to feel too bad for the mother who broke her kid’s collar-bone and collapsed his lung, or the husband who hit his wife so hard her retina detached (How does that even happen? Mind: Boggled). My sympathies lay with the family members left bereft at their losses, and suffering grief compounded by the pain of recent attacks by those very same loved ones.
And maybe that’s the point. Up until now, every Blacklister has been decisively bad. There were no shades of gray in their stories; it was pure black and white. Turning bodies into human stew? Pretty bad. Bombing a zoo full of families? That is definitely awful. Human trafficking? You’re the worst. But a vigilante ER nurse avenging the beaten and broken? That, to me, is a little more of a moral quagmire, even with his Norman Bates-esque home life. Yeah, I want him caught, because he’s clearly unhinged and very, very dangerous, but can’t he just break this guy’s collar-bone, just a little, first?
In a show where the bad guys are distinctively, unequivocally bad, it’s easy to fall into a sort of viewer complacency, accepting everything we’re fed without question. When the evil being chased is working towards his idea of the greater good, even as sick and twisted as ‘The Good Samaritan’ is, it’s more difficult to cheer his downfall when a small part of yourself agrees with him, “Yup. I really want to slap that wife-beater, too…”
In Red’s half of the episode, (his only work with Elizabeth on this case is on the phone to tell her to look to the victims’ injuries, and there she will find her answers. Uncle Red knows everything!), he suffers no such qualms when rooting out and finding the mole that almost got him and everyone else killed before the Winter break.
Red will torture and kill anyone, even the paramedic who removed his tracking chip, whose only crime seems to be taking a bribe to do the job. And, of course, doing the job. But Red kills her after he gets his information, as he kills almost everyone else involved. Red is the human embodiment of, ‘Damned if you do; damned if you don’t.’ Don’t tell him what he wants to hear and he will torture you. Tell him the verifiable truth and he kills you anyway. Red is all stick, no carrot. But apparently he likes stroganoff and if there’s a chance you’ll invite him back for dinner he’ll just shove you in a closet and yell at you. That’s the only reason I can see that he left The Banker’s wife alive, considering he’s shown that he’s willing to re-define ‘Collateral Damage’ at the drop of his very stylish hat.
Red’s elimination of the leak in his own organization, Newton Phillips (Breaking Bad‘s Skinny Pete, the brilliant Charles Baker) had its own conflicts (Not for Red. He’ll kill anyone like they’re simply ants at a picnic). Having been in the background for a few episodes, Phillips is revealed as the mole because ‘they’ threatened his family.
While it’s distressing that Newton has to die after betraying Red to protect his family, Red has a point when he says all this killing could have been avoided if Phillips had just come to him in the first place. Having said that, however, you have to wonder if it’s indeed reality, since we’ve already seen exactly what happens when you tell Red Reddington the truth.
The Blacklist airs Mondays at 10/9c on NBC.
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