The Blacklist Review: “Vanessa Cruz” (Season 2, Episode 18)

The Blacklist

After what seemed like a pointless diversion to redeem Tom Keen, The Blacklist got somewhat back on track this week, dealing with the Syndicate, and the Fulcrum, and Red’s precarious position as a man with a mark. Sadly, Tom is still around, and sadly the show continues to indulge whatever lingering feelings that Liz is supposed to have for him, but the meat of the show, the compelling part that deals with Red’s mysterious business and his more mysterious motivations, finally came back to the fore. On top of it all, the case of the week, though somewhat contrived, offered an interesting character and interesting result courtesy of the Blacklister of the week: Vanessa Cruz.

Vanessa, basically, launched an elaborate scheme to get revenge on the conspirators in a fraud scheme, a group of powerful men who ripped off millions and then framed her husband, the last honest man, to take the fall. So taking a page out of their book, Vanessa frames these one-percenters for other crimes. She enters their lives, gathers all manner of forensic evidence to make the frame solid, and pulls the trigger. They go to jail, and she gets one step closer to total revenge.

The contrived part is that her latest mark has an assistant named Abby, who Vanessa is manipulating by posing as Abby’s girlfriend. Vanessa intends to frame the banker for Abby’s murder after making it seem like he’s been obsessed with Abby, who Vanessa has been posing as in several racy online conversations. But Abby loves Vanessa, and gosh darnnit, it turns out that Vanessa loves Abby too. Abby lives, but Vanessa doesn’t complete her revenge, which is fine because she gets a better job offer from Mr. Caplan acting on behalf of Red.

All things considered, the episode did tease the fascinating notion of the people stepped on by the unbridled greed of the pre-crash economy, and it was interesting that we get a villain who went to CSI university and learned all it takes to create the perfect frame. But sometimes you fall in love. Ugh. There was such potential, too, as the team has to engage in actual detective work to figure out what Vanessa is doing, who she’s doing it to, and then use crime scene magic to get just enough information to find her. Again, it was all undone because the con-woman fell in love, which is how nine out of ten stories about confidence people always end.

But turning Vanessa is about the only thing that goes well for Red this week. David Strathairn returns as the mysterious Director, who’s had enough of Red’s games and is looking to make his move and get rid of Red permanently. Red is using Roger to try and weasel out enough votes to stay his execution, but as a back-up plan to be on the safe side he pushes Liz again to get the Fulcrum.

First of all, isn’t it strange that all these super-villain leagues seem to hinge on the trappings and lobbying of democracy? And two, I’m still not sure what Liz wants from Red in exchange for finally giving up the Fulcrum?