One of the purest pleasures of watching a long-running procedural is the episode that gives the spotlight to a supporting character. In the crime and espionage genres, this maneuver typically throws the tech experts — the nerds — into the field, where they’re fundamentally out of their element. Until they’re not, of course.
Now seven seasons in, The Blacklist has gotten very good at these kinds of episodes due to the evolving charms of Aram (Amir Arison). In fact, at this point in the run, the show relies on Aram for emotional depth as much as it does the light comedy of watching him squirm in a deadly field scenario. “Les Fleurs Du Mal” offered the best of both of those worlds, with Aram struggling through a particularly wild mission while also managing the traumas of his past field experiences and relationship with Samar. The resulting episode was the comfortable kind of solid a show can only execute with all these years of history powering it.
The aforementioned mission wildness? Rich people parties. You simply can’t trust them to be normal. Inspired by the Charles Baudelaire book of poetry by the same name, the Les Fleurs Du Mal crew celebrated decadence and eroticism via the live, real-time torture and death of one of the guests. In the teaser, a man was locked in a glass case and forced to disarm a bomb before it explodes. He failed. All his fellow guests loved it.
Naturally, Aram had to go undercover to another one of these parties, and naturally he was tasked with protecting a woman with some prior experience related to the group. After a couple of flirtatious moments, the woman was chosen for the next party game: the glass case slowly filling up to drown her. That event was horrible enough in its own right, but it was also eerily similar to when Samar was kidnapped, tortured, and nearly drowned in a sinking van. Though that wasn’t the only reason Samar ultimately elected to leave the task force and Aram, it has certainly been seared into his brain. And here was another woman in his orbit drowning. Maybe a little on the nose, but it was effective in creating some real stakes beyond just Aram being out of his element professionally.
Aram eventually saved the day through some advanced improvising. Turns out, simply throwing a handgun at the glass case destroyed it easily! One stolen kiss in the hallway later and the dude turned full super-spy with a potential new love interest to help him begin to move on.
Other things happened this week, of course, things involving Reddington (James Spader) plotting against Katarina (Laila Robins) and Katarina getting into character as Liz’s (Megan Boone) new extra-friendly neighbor. But those were small, if fine, developments in an Aram-centric episode.
This kind of episode is a requisite for survival when you need 22 episodes of criminal masterminds and villainous weirdos. But utilizing Aram’s past to tell a sturdy, clear story about how he’s gotten better at this job is a great way to spend an hour, especially early in the season when the heavy hitters are just beginning to build their cunning plans.
The Blacklist airs Fridays at 8/7c on NBC.