James Spader, Megan Boone, Television, The Blacklist

The Blacklist Recap: Red Puts Frankie’s Loyalty to the Test

Few things about The Blacklist are more enjoyable than when the show decides to take on the evils of contemporary technology. Rarely is there any kind of Black Mirror-esque “commentary” on society. Instead, the tech is typically incorporated to Red’s (James Spader) criminal enterprise — which is particularly funny given his full philistine (or boomer?) attitude.

This week’s episode spotlighted my favorite form of technological nightmare fuel: the deep fake. Unfortunately, the tech wasn’t being used to turn one celebrity’s face into another, only to frame genius scientists for potential terrorist acts.

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Though the show didn’t have much to say about deep fakes, it did up the ante by revealing a bonkers culprit for the duplicitous YouTube vids: artificial intelligence. Yes, the villain of the episode was not even human but a super A.I. named Clark that sought to kill all the researchers who tried to suppress his maturation. If you’re going to wade into the choppy waters of dangerous tech, you might as well really ride the wave, right?

The plot produced the proper amount of ridiculousness. Only on an American procedural can the “nerd” Aram (Amir Arison) try to talk a completely self-aware and murderous A.I. off the ledge — and only partially succeed in that endeavor. Likewise, only an American procedural can feature an FBI task force stop a completely self-aware and murderous A.I. and then just move onto the next case featuring, like, an evil surgeon.

James Spader, <em>The Blacklist</em>James Spader, The Blacklist

The episode also connected deep fakes to Red’s complicated relationship with technology. Not only did he do a full rant about the “dangers of technology” featuring a celebration of the flip phone, but he subsequently used deep fake tech to test Frankie’s (Natalie Paul) true loyalties. Unfortunately for Frankie, she failed significantly. She opted to reunite with a deep fake Katarina (Laila Robins) and betray Red, ultimately taking a bullet for her actions. Red might hate sophisticated technology, but he doesn’t mind using it to screw with people or get his way. He makes it work for him and no one else.

Somehow, amid the deep fake hysteria, this episode also managed to jam in the introduction of a new task force member, Agent Park (Laura Sohn), who appears completely unstable and full of secrets related to her assignment in Alaska, and another runner with Aram and Elodie (Elizabeth Bogush) committing felonies in the name of spicing it up.

Both plots were enjoyable despite their lack of deep fake shenanigans. Frankly, there’s no reason why Aram and Elodie couldn’t have tried to sneak into the Washington Monument to have sex by using deep fake technology. Perhaps Agent Park’s time up north also involved deep fakes? When there were no deep fakes on screen, all of the characters should have been asking, “Is this a deep fake?”

The Blacklist needs more episodes like this. Screw the cabal storyline. Let’s do a midseason episode about exploding Juul pods. Imagine what Red could do with one of those?

The Blacklist airs Fridays at 8/7c on NBC.

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