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OK, The Blacklist is at the peak of its topical episode powers right now. After last week’s magnificent riff on the horrors (/evil benefits) of deep fake technology, this episode went to a much darker place, one where the 1994 comedic film Junior and modern politics intertwine.
That’s right, folks. This hour was all about men who had been impregnated.
The Blacklist utilizes enough heightened pseudo-science that “men with synthetic uteruses” is, frankly, not the most surprising part of the story. No, that would be what the episode did with that admittedly madcap premise. The men who found themselves “with child” were specifically targeted for their anti-abortion rhetoric and policies. And these high-profile men (a religious leader and a conservative politician among them) were kidnapped and inseminated against their will using the sperm of the man who originally raped the perpetrator, Blacklister Hannah Hayes (Stacey Roca).
For a show that operates in moral shades of grey, The Blacklist doesn’t typically “do politics” — characters are typically evil, or justifiably bad — yet it went there with the plot, with a crusading feminist group of medical professionals (or at least skilled amateurs) doing legitimate praxis against men who had expressed desire to control women’s bodies. It was wild just to hear characters talk about the issue, even in extreme terms, on a prime-time show that’s normally about a middle-aged guy with a hat fetish.
That Hayes’ mode of retribution was taken to such an extreme seemed to purposefully muddle the explicit politics of her message. Meaning, the show used the cudgel of the “abortion debate” to make women’s advocates seem like insane, murderous zealots. Still, it’s unproductive to valorize media simply for its political orientation. It was pretty messy, and next-level weird to do on this show specifically. But it wasn’t offensive, and it was certainly bold for Season 7.
The other half of the episode wasn’t nearly as bold but set up another imminent collision between Red (James Spader) and Katarina (Laila Robins). The show has been selective in its deployment of Katarina and all the (frankly incoherent) threads regarding these characters’ pasts and the cabal, but it’s time for something major to happen amid all the special episodes about science, technology, and wedding crashing.
That finally came, seemingly. In the final moments of the episode, Katarina confronted “Frank” (Brett Cullen), who she believes to be Ilya Koslov. We know, however, that the man pretending to be Reddington is the artist formerly known as Koslov. Or do we? Maybe! Soon, Katarina and the audience will learn who Cullen is actually playing, and how that’s connected to Red’s past — or fake past.
Unfortunately, none of those reveals are likely to be as confidently nuts as the last few cases of the week. The Blacklist brain geniuses spoil us.
The Blacklist airs Fridays at 8/7c on NBC.