Let’s just be upfront about this: The only thing worse than a filler episode… is a bridge episode. Last week’s Blacklist ended with the dramatic unveiling of a name: Isabella Stone, the woman who has been coming after Raymond Reddington’s empire for the last few weeks. Her name and recent actions led the viewer to believe that she is a big deal, maybe even someone we’ve met before. But the pace of this episode squanders those high hopes in favor of spreading out the reveal of who Isabella really is over at least one more week, leaving many a plot hole in its wake.
Technically we do learn who Isabella is, but we never really get a handle on what she’s up to, as clear-cut motivations are in short supply. Who she is? Judith Pruitt, which is to say Jan Levinson Gould, which is to actually say excellent actress Melora Hardin, a perfect fit for The Blacklist — Hardin takes every chilling impulse from “Dinner Party” (“snip snap, snip snap, snip snap!” Is it clear I’ve been rewatching The Office recently?) and pours it into this fearsome woman.
The flaw of tonight’s episode is not in the character of Isabella Stone — a professional character assassin dripping in cubic zirconia, sure, color me interested — but in her slow, muddied unveiling. I believe that Isabella has more in her than just knocking saintlike wheelchair-bound men into indoor pools and busting out mediocre impersonations that rely a little too heavily on sunglasses… I also believe that whatever those deeper levels are, we’re going to have to wait until next week to discover them.
ISABELLA STONE, NO. 34
A problem this week’s episode doesn’t suffer from is focus. Tonight is all Isabella Stone, all the time, with only a few breaks to explore Tom Keen’s past, which I personally always find interesting. Missing boy turned sociopathic teen assassin turned stay-at-home dad… I mean, c’mon! But a sub-50 Blacklister surely deserves the majority of the episode, which is why it’s all the more frustrating coming away from the hour feeling like I still don’t really understand what’s motivating Isabella/Judith to wreak so much havoc.
From the top, we meet Isabella’s two main lackeys, Ms. Kills for Fun and Mr. Ugly Sweater. They’ve just killed a man by running him down in his car and are now taking off his prosthetic leg, where he apparently stored wads of cash and a mysterious envelope. Soon, we find out who this mysterious man is and what his mysterious leg parcels contain, and would you believe it — it all leads back to Raymond Reddington.
After a meeting with his Mediterranean shipping operator, Stratos, Red welcomes Liz in to tell her about the next Blacklister. The guy who was murdered and leg-jacked at the top of the episode was Red’s courier, and he joins his accountant in the ranks of people killed by Isabella Stone to sully Raymond Reddington’s reputation. Red doesn’t know what she’ll do with them yet, but inside the envelope stolen from his courier were bearer bonds that trace back to a shell company he owns. Isabella Stone (an alias, of course) is “quite literally, a character assassin.” She will go to any lengths to scandalize, humiliate, and vanquish her target, “with no regard for the collateral damage,” Red tells Liz.
Previous takedowns include a renowned cardiologist charged with a series of angel-of-death killings that Red says were in fact cause by Isabella Stone hacking his patients’ prescription drug regimens, as well as a high-end fashion designer who was discovered to be employing awful child labor practices when a factory that burned down in a developing country turned out to belong to her. It’s a little muffled by another conversation, but it sounds like Liz reports that Red said, in fact, the factory was torched by Isabella and was likely another setup — hence, the professional character assassin thing. That’s why I’m very confused about the conclusions the Post Office later draws regarding Isabella’s motivation. Or should I say Judith’s motivation.
NEXT: The character assassination of Raymond Reddington by the coward Isabelle Stone…