Is it possible to stop the most dangerous terrorists before they destroy the world? Can you trust a very dangerous criminal who had an ulterior motive up their sleeve? That's part of the premise behind NBC's new show "The Blacklist," which followed one agent's mysterious connection to a master criminal that wasn't fully established yet. The results were executed in an engaging way to make a very familiar story all the more interesting.
"The Blacklist" followed Raymond "Red" Reddington (James Spader) who was once a former government agent that turned rogue for reasons only known to him. For decades, Red was a man who had no allegiances and abandoned his family for a solitary lifestyle that he seemed to grow tired of. In a calculated move, he decided to turn himself into the FBI to help stop a major terrorist attack. FBI power player Harold Cooper (Harry Lennix) and Donald Ressler (Diego Klattenhoff) were both intrigued by being able to capture Red, but they were apprehensive about why Red was so eager to give himself up. Luckily, Cooper didn't have to wait too long to find out what Red's plans were. He requested that he would primarily deal with a rookie FBI profiler named Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone) who was eager to start her new job and adopt a baby with her husband Tom (Ryan Eggold). Elizabeth's background was filled with some trials and tribulations that she managed to overcome in her career, but there was seemingly no connection to Red for the time being. As Elizabeth continued to work with Red, she was starting to doubt whether her life was as perfect as it seemed to be. Elizabeth was afraid that she could only trust a criminal mastermind and not her colleagues or her loved ones. Will Elizabeth be able to do her job before she gets completely consumed by Red's plan for better or worse?
In terms of questions, the show's series premiere only asked a few that involved Red's plan and his connection with FBI rookie Elizabeth. The episode managed to drop a few clues here and there that could lead to possible scenarios as to why Red would choose to work with someone completely unfamiliar with his world. The show's premiere seemed to echo bits of "The Silence of the Lambs" and a few other movies, especially in the interplay between Spader's Red and Boone's Elizabeth. It also helped that Spader and Boone managed to bring enough life into their chraracters to make viewers want to root for both of them regardless of which side of the law they resided on at the moment. Okay, the show's regular bad guy of the week premise will provide some of the show's weekly thrills and chills, but it was the performances that made it worth watching. The relationship between Red and Elizabeth was so far the show's ultimate highlight, but it's the supporting cast that could use a little finetuning. Lennix and Klattenhoff have both demonstrated that they could give solid performances on other shows, but the premiere sidelined them to focus on Boone and Spader. Let's hope that they will both get the chance to shine on their own down the line. The biggest storyline casualty was Boone's story with Eggold's Tom because it wasn't fully developed beyond a few scenes together that went from a happy couple to one plagued by secrets. Hopefully, future episodes will help to develop Boone's story with Eggold, because the last few minutes of the premiere showed some potential. If the writers found a way to showcase how the Keen's marriage wasn't as perfect as it seemed by slowly revealing the skeletons in both of their closets.
As for breakout performances, Spader and Boone clearly led the pack from start to finish. On the surface, Spader's Red could've been the typical television villain who plotted his way to the top. Spader helped to flesh out Red and made him a character that viewers could either root for or be scared of what he was capable of. He also provided Red with a sense of dark humor that provided the appropriate amount of levity whenever it was necessary. Spader's most memorable moments came when Red wasn't usually in control. He provided Red with an equal amount of calm and panic when he was at Elizabeth's mercy. Spader's face projected a look of genuine surprise when Boone's Elizabeth told him that a terrorist tried to kill her husband to get to her. He made Red appear like he wasn't as in control of the situation as he thought. Boone, on the other hand, had the challenging task of trying to flesh out the usual routine heroine role by making her appear a little more tarnished than she appeared to be. She provided Elizabeth with the right balance of innocence and grit that allowed her to fight back when it was appropriate. Boone's most memorable scene was after she watched her husband get stabbed by a terrorist. She allowed her character to completely lose control and showed that Elizabeth had a dark side after she tried to kill Red in a moment of anger. Luckily, Spader had a genuine rapport with Boone that was one part amusing and another part paternal as he tried to help her figure out the thought process of a terrorist. Fingers crossed that the show will continue to explore both characters and how they're connected to each other in a way that's not entirely too familiar. Only time will tell if that's the case.
"The Blacklist" premiered on September 23rd and airs Mondays at 10:00 PM on NBC.
Verdict: Despite a somewhat familiar premise, the show has excelled at providing a unique execution helped by Boone and Spader providing entertaining performances in the premiere.
TV Score: 4 out of 5 stars
1 Star (Mediocre)
2 Stars (Averagely Entertaining)
3 Stars (Decent Enough to Pass Muster)
4 Stars (Near Perfect)
5 Stars (Gold Standard)