The Blacklist Review: “Tom Keen” (Season 2, Episode 16)

The Blacklist

Finally, an episode about everyone’s favorite fake husband secret agent! Of course, you know I’m being sarcastic, right? Holding on to Tom Keen as a regular character on The Blacklist struck me as a move akin to when Alias tried to hold on to characters like Will and Francie even though the point of having them around had long since disappeared and taking time out of the plot to service them seemed more a distraction than anything. The Blacklist has had many chances to eliminate Tom Keen, but for some reason it feels compelled to keep him in play. Now, presented with another opportunity to get rid of him in this episode, they once again passed up on the chance.

In a sense, “Tom Keen” was all about repetition. The whole subplot about Liz being accused of the murder of the harbourmaster, Ames, a murder committed by he ex-husband, ended in almost the exact same way it should have ended a couple of weeks, with it being covered up and with no justice being served. Poor old Detective Wilcox now stands humiliated not just once, but twice, with his dedication and aptitude to solve the murder of a humble public servant thrown back in his face under the necessity of national security secrets. We get it, he’s not a big enough fish!

In the end, the whole thing gets swept under the rug by Smilin’ Tom Connolly, who turns up again to bribe, coerce and threaten to protect the task force, and do it with a big grin on his face. The Blacklist is working overtime to make Connolly seem perfectly Satanic, willing to give you what you want once you sign your name in blood on the contract. His threat to Cooper, “Now I have something to hold over your head,” followed by the less than convincing, “Just kidding, buddy,” shouldn’t be seen as even a half joke. Connolly is going to come collecting, and it wouldn’t at all be surprising if it turned out that he was one of the members of the group that Red wants the info contained in the Fulcrum on.

Speaking of Red, his agenda kind of took a backseat this week in order to save Liz, and despite the episode being named after him, we really get no insight into the man known as Tom Keen. Red outlines Tom’s skills: that he’s so good as a covert operative and that he nearly convinces himself that he’s the character he’s supposed to play. What he don’t understand, or get a clear idea of, is why Red placed Tom with Liz in the first place. Is Red’s subtle confession that he tried to look out for Liz and provide her with the things meant to make her happy some kind of clue? Did he hire Tom to be Liz’s perfect mate, only to see that blow up in his face when Tom and his employer sold out to Berlin?

And for the record, perhaps highlighting Tom’s skills by having him infiltrate the most stereotypical German gang conceived outside of the old Saturday Night Live sketch “Sprockets” wasn’t the best example of his work. Every German encountered over the course of the night’s adventures were either anger management test cases, or overly tattooed and pierced weirdos. The one guy that’s Red’s contact, the gun runner Tom uses to get in with the gang, had enough metal on his face to qualify as more machine than man.