Remember the rush of The Blacklist pilot? The arrival of a big bad who helps track down other villains using a crack team of agents, with a reluctant hero toeing the line between legality and morality?
Thursday’s episode of The Blacklist follows suit, but with a bit of a twist. That’s because the episode serves as the backdoor pilot for a potential spin-off starring Famke Janssen. In this case, her character, Scottie Hargrave, is the supposed big bad, the head of a mysterious organization called Halcyon Aegis that acts as a contemporary to the FBI’s Post Office, except without the bureaucratic red tape.
The reluctant hero? Tom Keen (Ryan Eggold), who is forced to work alongside those he blames for his wife’s apparent death, including Mr. Solomon (Edi Gathegi) and Nez Rowan (Tawny Cypress). They make up the team who are trying to track down Alexander Kirk (Ulrich Thomsen), who originally hired Halcyon to abduct Liz.
“They’re like us doing good, but they get to break all the rules and do everything against the law,” says Amir Arison, who plays Aram. “They can do whatever they want. It adds some spark, some humor, some conflict, but at least for that episode, we have the same goal, and that is to get Alexander Kirk.”
The group, it turns out, will be somewhat familiar. “They have a computer guy,” Arison says. “I’m already mad at him. He’s already my rival. He gets to go against the rules, and Aram has to follow the rules, even though he’s a tiny bit of a rule-breaker. Mr. Solomon’s like their Ressler [Diego Klattenhoff], and Nez Rowan is like their Samar [Mozhan Marnò].”
Suffice it to say, not everyone from the Post Office is happy about the prospect of working with the group they feel is responsible for Liz’s demise. “It’s all about conflict,” Klattenhoff says. “You find out that one of your friends and colleagues ends up getting killed because of this person, their actions, whatever their motivation is, whether they wanted to kidnap her or kill her, it’s not going to be pretty. It’s all about wrestling with that conflict of wanting to do what’s right, but then also bring whoever it might be to justice.”
“That’s the vagaries of law enforcement,” adds Harry Lennix, who plays Harold Cooper. “Law enforcement, the judicial system, politics in itself means that sometimes your enemies have to become your friend to get a bigger enemy. That’s just the nature of the endeavor. While we don’t like it, we are certainly willing to do it.”
However, the Post Office — and Red (James Spader), for that matter — take somewhat of a backseat during the hour to focus on introducing this new group. “It’s may be the first and only less-Red-heavy show,” Marnò says.
Adds Klattenhoff: “You have to stand back and give these people the floor and let them do their thing… When you look at what [director] Joe Carnahan has brought to the show, I think the bar is set real high, so I don’t think it’s about outdoing as much as it is just introduction — this new territory, these new characters, the landscape, kind of the figuring out what the crux of the story is and motivating people to watch it.”
“It doesn’t feel that much different than a Blacklist episode,” Arison adds. “It feels bigger. It’s literally a turbo-sized episode.”
The Blacklist airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.