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Review: 'The Blacklist' Hits the Mark

 

James Spader in The Blacklist

 

NBC's new thriller 'The Blacklist' has been generating a lot of anticipation leading up to tonight's pilot. That is largely due to one name: James Spader. The show has been advertising with Spader's face, allowing the actor's considerable body of work and talent to draw viewers in. After all, Spader has won three Primetime Emmy Awards, was nominated for a Golden Globe, and won Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival in 1989 for 'Sex, Lies and Videotape;' now THAT's a resume.

I admit, Spader is the reason I was so excited to see this pilot; did it live up to the hype? (Minor spoilers are contained below. For a full recap of everything that happened, click here.) 

The premise for 'The Blacklist' is that one of the world's most wanted criminals and terrorists, Raymond "Red" Reddington (played by Spader), turns himself in and wants to assist the FBI in capturing dangerous people like himself. His motivations are unknown, but his intel is good. There is one little catch, however: Reddington will only work with one Agent: Elizabeth Keen (played by Megan Boone), a young profiler who just began her career as an Agent that very morning. 

The concept is strong and simple and, to the episode's credit, the show wastes no time getting to the heart of the matter. The opening scene is Reddington's surrender; we're introduced to a dumbfounded Keen shortly thereafter. Reddington knows everything about Keen despite the fact that she has never met him; the man appears obsessed and we have no idea why. However, Agent Keen is interested once Reddington explains that a dangerous terrorist (who the FBI believed deceased) is in the USA and is planning an attack that afternoon. How does he know this? Well, Reddington is the one who got him into the country. Naturally. 

The stage is set and the pieces are in motion. At first, I worried that 'The Blacklist' would only prove interesting when the talent of Spader was on screen. My fear was that the Agent Keen character would amount to little more than a foil for Reddington, appearing as more of a cut-out than a rounded character. That fear was dashed when Keen's husband is injured as a part of Reddington's game and his flippant reaction to it causes an enraged Keen to take control of the situation... by stabbing a pen Megan Boone as Elizabeth Keeninto Red's carotid artery. This was a shocking and unexpected scene which served to interest me in the Keen character; whoever she is, she refuses to be toyed with the way that Reddington believes he can. Suddenly, the relationship between these to uneasy partners intrigued me enough to keep watching. 

NBC clearly put some money behind this pilot, as we have an action-packed attack scene and some very impressive location shoots wrapped up into the episode. The sets and enclosures for holding Red are ominous and realistic, serving to add further gravitas to the scenes before us. And, perhaps most importantly, a driving force is introduced at the very end of the story: the titular blacklist itself. Reddington has compiled a list of everyone he wants to take down over the past twenty years and he is going to use the FBI as his instrument to achieve his ends--provided they agree to his demands. 

The backstory behind Agent Keen was delivered in somewhat heavy-handed fashion, but this is a pothole that every pilot must face. We know enough about her now to care, even if that information was jammed into the episode awkwardly. Keen's discovery at the very close of the episode is a good one; the added details explain why she would even be willing to go through with this bizarre situational partnership for another episode. It was a clever bit of scripting; Reddington's motivations can be mysterious but it was wise to clarify Keen's from the beginning. 

'The Blacklist' delivered with a compelling opening script, an intriguing female lead (with a good performance from the relatively-unknown Boone), and several excellent Spader scenes, dripping with his syrupy vocal delivery. This was a good hour of television; I'll be tuning in next week. 

GRADE: A minus



Details
Network:
- NBC
Person:
- Megan Boone
- James Spader
Show:
- The Blacklist

Written by: bad_subject
Sep 23rd, 2013, 1:40 pm

Images courtesy of NBC

Anonymous

Message Posted On Oct 14th, 2013, 5:59 am
The pilot was ok but lets face it, this is an unsustainable premise at the fast pace they chose. After a couple more case driven episodes it will get repetitive. Spader's acting is amazing as usual but the storyline will do this show in one season. Two if they are lucky. And come on, it it was more believable that would add a lot to the show.
Anonymous

Message Posted On Sep 26th, 2013, 5:50 am
i liked it and set my dvr to record all shows megan boone was made for this roll she owns it
Anonymous

Message Posted On Sep 25th, 2013, 11:14 am
From a, was it interesting and somewhat fun to watch, yes. Was it cliched, yes. Was it worthy of an A, no. After awhile I was expecting them to wheel Spader out with with a mask, a la "Silence of the Lambs". These types of shows have to be a bit over the top but they also need to be believable. This wasn't. Putting Spader's character up in the local 5 star hotel and acceding to his demands of only speaking to a rookie was too unbelievable. In the real world, he'd wind up in a deep dark cell somewhere until he traded what he knew for sunlight. I give this show one season, maybe two at the most, if they don't get some better, and more believable, story lines.
Vanaques

Level 1 (91%)
Points: 5.4
Since: 23/Apr/13
Message Posted On Sep 25th, 2013, 6:34 am

I watched it expecting to see a "in what strange way can we catch bad guys" kinda show, with a tasty James Spader side dish. (His acting! Get your mind out of the gutter.)

what i got was about getting the bad guy alright, but that was about as far as the comparrison to most other shows went. They showed enough to keep me watching throughout the episode, while at the same time dropping hints that will open plotlines as the story goes on.

 

I do hope it doesn't turn into a "baddie of the week" show, but even than, I think I'll keep watching... And Spader is just awsome!

Papa Shango

Message Posted On Sep 24th, 2013, 7:34 am
Oh my, get your popcorn ready, I'm ready to get all up in this thanks to this review. Spader's always been my big honky.
Anonymous

Message Posted On Sep 24th, 2013, 3:10 am
Riddle me this, why during the kidnapping was EVERYONE wearing BODY ARMOR disabled or incapacitated? That was believable. Tossed in as a predictable action scene, it failed to work, Constable Bob and NOLO in Justified was far more interesting. There was zero tension and emotional involvement, despite the cliched bracelet act.( The entire setup stank, no one could put two and two together on that bridge despite a heightened sense of urgency on their part, and the kid did virtually nothing to establish a connection with the audience no cute scenes with daddy and the weak pathetic act already mentioned) Still one of the two or three new shows I'll check out for a couple of episodes.Maybe they will fire the hacks writing and hire someone with a little talent and vision.
Anonymous

Message Posted On Sep 24th, 2013, 2:47 am
Sucked ass, all stereotype. But it did maintain a bit of a mystery. c+ or b-. In this day and age of quality writing, Breaking Bad, Walking Dead, Justified, the Americans, American Horror story, something like this barely crosses the mark. Then again the majority are stupefied by talent shows and reality tv. They can't read and have virtually no clue what a plot or character development is. Hell crap like Revolution and the stupid Kevin Bacon thing get renewed. If I could find something half the quality of a Vera or Luther, or the above mentioned, I would be happy.
olgica

Level 1 (51%)
Since: 21/Jul/08
Message Posted On Sep 24th, 2013, 2:31 am

I give it A+++ , I just love Spaders voice and smile , hi is the bomb !!!!

ankjevik

Level 4 (59%)
Points: 0.4
Since: 12/Jul/10
Message Posted On Sep 23rd, 2013, 11:19 pm

this was a wery nice surprise, good actors, good consept and wery exciting storyline!!

but i got a bad feeling this is going to be a 1 or mayby 2 season wonder ending on a huge cliffhanger as o many other new shows i like do...

Smart

Level 2 (26%)
Points: 53
Since: 11/Oct/09
Message Posted On Sep 23rd, 2013, 3:48 pm

Good review.

I had other recordings so I will be recording the show on Saturday. Looks like a good one, which is rare for me to say as I'm pretty loyal to Law & Order and NCIS.

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