It turns out the main character of The Blacklist did not receive the death penalty by lethal injection. Who would have guessed?
With the shadow of Reddington's (James Spader) execution hanging over, last week's episode played like a culmination of sorts -- for individual relationships and for The Blacklist's Season 6 storylines. The moments shared between Red and both Harold (Harry Lennix) and Liz (Megan Boone) gave the show an emotional heft it rarely achieves, to the point where even the newfound attention paid to a corrupt U.S. president couldn't drag the hour down.
But The Blacklist has to move forward from last week's cliffhanger, and from those wrenching conversations between key characters. Although there will surely be continued emotional fallout from Red's time in prison, the conclusion of the two-part "Bastien Moreau" leaned far more on the conspiracies and the cabals than the first part.
Presidential involvement in the show's long-running shadow group gives the show a new antagonist and promises to inch Red closer to heroic territory. The show's challenge is making the moments along the way feel dramatic when it's operating in well-treaded territory for shows like this. If this episode is any indication of what the back half of the season looks like, it might be a long march toward the White House.
It's disappointing but understandable that the show would move past Reddington in jail and/or on death row. That's an untenable situation for a show that was recently renewed for another season. Little moments in this episode -- namely Red's confident declaration that he, in fact, knew nothing about the assassination attempt he claimed to hold secret intel on -- illustrated what The Blacklist gains from having its lead character out of prison and in the mix with everyone else. Bringing the proverbial band back together is great.
What the show gave up to produce those moments, and to move into a new phase of the story, is not great.
The handling of Liz's so-called investigation into Red's identity and her parents has been baffling. There's parsing out pieces of a story to fit the 22-episode season and there's this troubling approach. Liz's motivations have gotten all mixed up, and only so much of that can be attributed to her legitimate connection to her fake father. In fact, her current decision to punt on the investigation would have been more powerful had the show committed to exploring the investigation more in the first place. Given the absolute certainty that the thread returns in some form -- whether through a reveal that Liz was working Red and Ressler all along or a more earnest recommitment -- the show has made Liz look silly yet again.
Meanwhile, the conspiracy angle has been given extra juice with the White House involvement. Yet the president and his aide aren't real characters, but monologuing evil cutouts for Red and the task force to eventually push over. There's no outcome that could hold real weight or impact the characters that the show truly cares about. If the task force takes down the president then, well, there's another season and so the cabal will reconfigure just enough to continue to pester. That evolution has already been established as fundamental to the cabal; why wouldn't it happen again?
Shows like this tend to believe that raising the stakes to the White House creates for more compelling TV. That's almost never the case. Dossiers, lists, jump drives -- all those MacGuffins don't help either. It's simply frustrating to see the capabilities of The Blacklist in part one of "Bastien Moreau." Too often, the show wants to be the version visible in part two.
The Blacklist airs Fridays at 9/8c on NBC.
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Season 1 follows the bizarre true story of Gypsy Rose Blanchard who, with help from her boyfriend Nick Godejohn, murdered her mother Dee Dee Blanchard after years of being manipulated into believing she suffered from muscular dystrophy, leukemia and a slew of other serious ailments. Across eight episodes, the dramatized account lays out just how Dee Dee deceived everyone from medical professionals to her own neighbors and used prescribed medication to make her perfectly healthy daughter ill. It stars The Kissing Booth's Joey King as Gypsy and Emmy winner Patricia Arquette, who wasn't aware of the real-life story until she read the script for the project.
"I'd always been fascinated by Munchausen by proxy but I hadn't heard of this specific story until they sent it to me," she told TV Guide. "And I told my kids I was thinking about doing this and they were like, 'Don't do that!' because they'd seen the documentary."
The story may have been unfamiliar to Arquette, but it caught mainstream attention due in part to a 2016 BuzzFeed exposé which detailed the horrific circumstances surrounding the case. Among those who caught wind of the chilling piece was producer Nick Antosca who hadn't thought about adapting Gypsy's story for the screen until he was approached to do the Hulu anthology.
"I pursued the opportunity because I was still thinking about it. You read that story and you go, how could this possibly happen? But it did happen," he said.
The series isn't only interested in showing what happened with the Blanchards, but also getting to the heart of why. According to Antosca, the series examines what life was like for Gypsy before killing her mother and how it changed dramatically after she was sentenced to prison.
"What we wanted to explore is what she said in that article, which is that she feels more free in prison than she did in that house, and the question of what is she gonna do afterward? What is her life gonna be like? And can she become a person who escapes the shadow of her mother? Because it seemed like she still loves her," he added.
In real life, Gypsy pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was given the minimum sentence of 10 years. She'll be eligible for parole in 2023, when she is 32 years old. Meanwhile, Godejohn was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The Act premiered Wednesday, Mar. 20 on Hulu with two episodes. New episodes of The Act drop Wednesdays.
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There are very few shows on television, even in the age of "Peak TV," that are designed purely to make you feel good. That's part of what makes Netflix's Queer Eye so special. Each and every makeover is to make someone, and the audience, feel better about themselves.
The streaming service recently introduced us to the newest set of "heroes" made over during their third season by the Fab 5 -- grooming expert Jonathan Van Ness, design expert Bobby Berk, fashion expert Tan France, food & wine expert Antoni Porowski and culture expert Karamo Brown. The new crew included a set of sisters trying to take their barbecue restaurant to the next level, a young black lesbian trying to find her place in the world, and a man trying to create the best life for his sons after losing his wife to cancer, among others.
While the Fab 5 and the show's producers work together to create these life-changing makeovers, it's often Brown who is tasked with finding out how that episode's hero became stuck in the first place. A lot of the emotional heft of the series comes from the one-on-one discussions Brown has with these people to try and help them live their best lives. According to Brown, the beginning of that process is about observation and listening.
"I don't really have as quick a process as the other guys... As you see on the show, we get the dossier, where we get the information and then we walk inside the house. But for me, it's more the discovery. So on the show, I listen more than I'm talking, because I have to figure out what is the core issue of why this person hasn't changed in 20 years or 10 years," Brown told TV Guide over the phone.
While Brown is labeled the culture expert, his background is much more aligned with psychology and social work, which is what allows him to connect with each of the heroes on such a deep level right before the audience's eyes. The connection he makes and the activity he uses to help them break out of whatever rut they are in varies based on who the person is and what Brown determines they need in that moment.
"You listen to someone's issues and then you figure it out. It depends on the person. So for instance, Jody [Season 3, Episode 1], she said, 'When my brother died and I worked in a beauty salon, that was the last time I was around people I trusted and I believed. And since then, I've only been around men.' And I was like, 'Oh, so you're battling with all of these things that happened to you then and so you need a group of women,'" Brown explained.
The mission for Jody's episode was to help her connect with her femininity. Brown's portion of that objective meant taking her to a support group with other women who shared similar struggles of finding female friends when constantly finding themselves in male-dominated environments. He used a similar technique for Jess in Episode 5, "Black Girl Magic," by introducing her to black dancers to talk about how they've embraced themselves as beautiful black women. However, for Robert in Episode 4 and Thomas in Episode 7, Brown created emotional exercises they did one on one together to help break down their self-esteem issues and defense mechanisms that were preventing them from growing.
"It depends on the person. There's not like some strategic, like, 'You get a group. You don't. You get a mirror. You don't,'' Brown said. "It just depends on what the person needs in that moment, and then I figure out what's the best way to give some type of visual for them, so that way, the audience and them can figure it out and use it in their own lives."
Over the course of the series, Brown's work has blended more and more with that of his cast mates. It was not uncommon in Season 3 to see Berk, Porowski, or Van Ness accompany Brown on his emotional missions with the heroes or vice versa. However, when the crossover in talents does happen, it's not without careful planning by the Fab 5 and the producers.
"[The Fab 5] have a lot of control, but we also are on a television show where there's producers, and they will tell us, 'Hey, we think that it would be great if you two came together or you two worked together today.' We then have a conversation about how we're gonna go forward and whose specialty would help this person more in the moment, and we kind of let that person lead," Brown explained. "I love doing field trips with the guys. It's just fun. The thing is that it's great for me when I'm doing one-on-ones, because I really help somebody have a cathartic emotional breakthrough, but it's also a lot of fun when I'm with my brothers and we are joking around and playing. I think it makes for a better show."
The show is not the complete picture of what goes into these internal and external makeovers, though. While Queer Eye wants to give a complete story for each of these heroes, many of them have issues that prolong after the week they spend with the Fab 5. Behind the scenes, Brown, the rest of the guys, and the producers have worked out a system of following up and securing resources to ensure the heroes have a way to keep productively working some of the deeper issues explored on the show.
"One of the things that our producers are so amazing with, that I didn't even have to suggest, was the after-care. They keep up with our heroes in a way that is exceptional, in making sure that they have support afterwards. I think all of our heroes are followed by our executive producers, who send updates, who speak to them on a regular, just to check in on them," Brown elaborated. "On top of the amazing work the producers do, I follow up. Jonathan's also big on following up. We always make sure that they have resources and support, so that way, they can continuously get what they need."
Queer Eye Season 3 is now streaming on Netflix.
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