“Scandal” and “The Blacklist” happen to share a time period these days, but they also share a certain jaundiced view of government – or rather, of the decades-old shadow governments and secret spy organizations that really hold the strings of power. Yet while the NBC drama actually shifted course in an unexpected and invigorating way, the centerpiece of ABC’s “TGIT” lineup flung around absurd plot twists so promiscuously even die-hard fans will likely need the summer to recover.
When NBC Entertainment chief Bob Greenblatt described “The Blacklist” finale as a “game-changer” during this week’s upfront presentation, the temptation was to roll your eyes. After all, the show had kicked the can down the road regarding FBI Agent Elizabeth Keen’s background so many times as to merit skepticism.
The episode, however (and SPOILER ALERT if you haven’t watched), more than delivered on that promise, not just transforming Keen (Megan Boone) into a fugitive after she killed a member of the Cabal, but finally exposing what happened to her father when she was a child, and why Raymond Reddington (James Spader) had gone to such great lengths to conceal it from her.
The finish set up all kinds of possibilities for season three, with Keen on the FBI’s “most wanted” list, former colleagues charged with tracking her down, and her on-and-off again bond with Reddington seemingly solidified, at least for now. Even his description of himself as a “sin eater,” an archaic term, felt especially elegant and appropriate under the circumstances.
NBC dealt the series a tough hand this season, shifting the program to Thursdays from its more comfortable launch behind “The Voice,” and bookending it with new programs almost nobody wanted to see. The Sony Pictures Television production was able to recruit enough viewers to defy gravity, but the network clearly overreached in its goal of leaning on a second-year drama to become instantly competitive on Thursday.
“Heroes Reborn” will lead off the night come fall, which at least brings some name recognition with it. But after a stretch where it looked like “The Blacklist” might be spiraling into a black hole, this finale has put the show back on track – and made the third season, like the now-fugitive Keen, worth searching out.
As for “Scandal,” where to begin? Series creator Shonda Rhimes has turned the series into a hit thanks to its reputation for outlandish turns, but this season produced so many “Oh come on” moments – starting with all the contortions surrounding the Senate run by sitting First Lady Mellie Grant (Bellamy Young) – that any semblance of a vague foundation in reality evaporated ages ago.
That included the protracted cat-and-mouse game between D.C. fixer Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) and her spy daddy (the scene-stealing Joe Morton), which did provide an excuse for plenty of killing and creative use of power tools as torture instruments, but produced a surprisingly hurried and low-key payoff. The finale’s major moment, in fact, came when President Grant (Tony Goldwyn) in one fell swoop kicked out Mellie and fired his Chief of Staff Cyrus (Jeff Perry), ostensibly clearing the way for Fitz and Liv to shack up in the White House.
Because nobody in the press corps would bat an eye if the First Lady was elected to the Senate, split up with her husband and his girlfriend moved in. Maybe in the French version.
So when the President looked meaningfully into Olivia’s eyes at the end and asked, “What happens now?,” she was absolutely right when she answered, “Whatever we want.” When you turn a show into a cartoon where logic doesn’t have to apply, anything becomes possible.