'The Blacklist' Recap: Ep 2, 'The Freelancer'

The FBI begins to understand that giving Red what he wants gives them a lot more in return.
Will Hart/NBC

Episode Synopsis: Reddington continues to outsmart everyone with his intricately laid plots, carried out with the smoothest of demeanors. The connection between him and Elizabeth is still in question, but she is currently more concerned about the potential treachery of her husband. Meanwhile, Cooper fights with superiors and other agencies when it comes to convincing them Red is no ordinary criminal and that acquiescing to his demands does not mean submission.

Episode Highlights: Watching The Blacklist is like drifting along a lazy river. There's a strong trajectory that moves in a linear fashion (the show is very brief on flashbacks), and the events -- and their many twists -- just wash over you. Even if you had guessed that Floriana Compo (Isabella Rossellini) may not have been entirely on the up and up, the way it unfolded was exceptionally fun to watch.

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Who's Your Daddy: The biggest mystery right now is the connection between Elizabeth and Red. The father/daughter idea seems too heavy-handed for a show that likes to trade on surprises, but maybe the surprise is how obvious it would be. Regardless, there's still plenty to unpack when it comes to Elizabeth's past and her father's criminal background. Interesting, though, that the bureau didn't press her on that -- or the scar -- in her lie detector test. Seems like information they could use. 

Current Events: The FBI doesn't have funds for surveillance or investigation during a government shutdown. 

Department of Arrogance: There had to come a point where Cooper would start standing up for Red against the wishes of his superiors. I like that The Blacklist made it about departmental and agency posturing rather than about personalities. Yes, it's a question of doing it by the books versus not, which is a trope. But it was nice to see the other departments get snippy with each other over territory and glory. It felt real. 

Best Cameo: Isabella Rossellini brings so much vitality and class to everything she does (even those "Green Porno" videos about bugs having sex). The show did a nice job of tying her story in with Elizabeth's (Compo as someone she long admired) and also with Red's bodyguard, Dembe, who bears the scar of being one of the sex slaves. It showed that Red's motivations are personal despite Elizabeth's profile of him, and he does seem out for some kind of specific retribution. 

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White Hats Asleep at the Wheel: The FBI profiled the face of every person in that restaurant except the all-important host.

Next Stop, Denial: The walls between Elizabeth and Red are breaking down slowly -- one great example was how she consulted him privately, twice, about her husband. Red tells her there are two ways this could go: She could turn him in, or confront him -- or just deny she saw anything. But that's surely not the last of the issue. Were her tears watching the video because she believed in her husband's love, or because she was horrified at the depths of his treachery? 

Quote of the Night: "What is it with you and hotel rooms and pens in people's necks?" -- Red 

Bottom Line: A great second week for the show, which is settling into a "Villain of the Week" formula that somehow doesn't feel tired. The fun of Compo being found out was nothing compared to that acrobatic chase scene with the Freelancer. James Spader also continues to excel in smarminess, while allowing for a touch of weariness to Red as well.