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 TV Show Reviews

The Blacklist

"The Blacklist" review by Sundi 9/22/13
Mondays 9/10c on NBC

Somehow, someway, NBC has managed to surprise me. In a good way. The Blacklist is one of those shows that seemed like it was going to be one thing, then turned out being something so much better; better than you could have ever imagined. This is in no small part thanks to the remarkable and timeless James Spader, who plays Raymond “Red” Reddington, former Naval officer turned super criminal. Why can’t he be in every show ever? The Blacklist has so much going for it in terms of an hour long drama, that I am not even sure where to begin.

 

The Blacklist has been marketed to look like other adventure dramas, heavily dependent on its own apparatus. The ads hinted at the weight of its own contrived premise, suggesting that it might sag under the weight of its own gimmick. But I decided, just a few minutes in, that was not the case, that this show is about characters, and the criminal-spy-FBI storylines are going to serve at that altar.

 

The episode opens with Reddington surrendering, coolly and with sinister grace, to the FBI in Washington, D.C. amidst a din of sirens and heavy security measures. Meanwhile,  Agent Lizzie Keen, played by Megan Boone, is late to her first day as an FBI profiler. We meet her handsome and lovable husband, her shaggy dog and we learn they are planning to adopt a baby soon (all of that is foreshadowing, we learn later). Since Reddington has inexplicably requested to only speak with her, she is met by a hoard of unmarked black SUVs and is swept away via helicopter to a detention center for prisoners of the highest value. It is here she comes face-to-face with Reddington, Silence of the Lambs style, and this ignites the profound onscreen chemistry between the two.

 

The show escalates from there with Reddington offering the FBI information about another criminal from the ten most wanted list and offers details about his plot to kidnap a highly ranked officer’s daughter and ultimately blow up the zoo. The action is intense and this show is not pulling any punches or shying away from any of the hard stuff. There is some surprisingly grisly violence, and the characters don’t seem bound by any unwritten rules about how leads should behave -- at one particularly passionate moment, Keen stabs Reddington in the neck, nicking his carotid artery and leaving him for dead. Spoiler-alert: he survives.

 

The show zigs and zags from there, and we are let in, bit by bit, on Keen’s past and Reddington's reputation. Spader’s performance is immaculate. He is so captivating, so ingratiating, yet his onscreen presence is so threatening, you can’t tell how to receive him. There are hints throughout the episode that he is responsible for Keen’s husband’s torture and capture, yet he keeps us guessing as he goes out of his way to form a partnership with Keen, to nurture her, and to guide her through the steps to end the chase. I couldn’t find my footing with him through the episode and I find that thrilling in my antiheros. Boone, on the other hand, is having a hard time holding her own when she shares the scene with Spader, but that says more about Spader’s chops than it does about hers. He is just such a force, that the viewer has a hard time reckoning with anything else while he is on screen. So, I imagine he’ll be enough to keep the show afloat while all the others catch up to him.

 

The show ends with a few surprises for the audience, that serve to set up the season-long plot arc between Keen and Reddington: Keen’s husband has a secret box filled with money and passports, and there is much more to learn about her father’s criminal past. All the while, Red is making demands and asserting terms for what he will receive in exchange for helping the FBI capture all the names on “The Blacklist,” a list of “all the criminals that matter.” This anticipates at least one season- long adventure, and I am happy to go along for the ride. Even though I started out skeptical, I am a true believer now.  :)

 

MORE INFORMATION:

 

PRIMETIME SCHEDULE - Sunday September 22, 2013 - Saturday September 28, 2013
"THE BLACKLIST" "PILOT"
09/23/2013 (10:01PM - 11:00PM) (Monday) : WHO IS "RED REDDINGTON?" – SEASON PREMIERE – Ex-government agent and one of the FBI’s Most Wanted fugitives, Raymond "Red" Reddington (James Spader) mysteriously turns himself in to the FBI and offers to give up everyone he has ever worked with including a long-thought-dead terrorist but under one condition – he’ll only talk to newly-minted female FBI profiler, Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone) with whom he seemingly has no connection. For Liz, it’s going to be one hell of a first day on the job and what follows is a twisting series of events as the race to stop a terrorist begins. Also starring are Diego Klattenhoff, Harry Lennix, and Ryan Eggold.
The Blacklist Hologlass at Comic-Con 2013 -Megan Boone and Diego Klattenhoff introduce virtual Red Reddington at Comic-Con 2013. Video
Premieres September 23 at 10/9c after The Voice. Video

 

Our Interview with star Megan Boone
 


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